Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Happy Winterfest

I know the first thing you are going to say to me. "But Christine, Winterfest was Saturday - you're late!" Yes yes, you are correct. Forgive me my oversight please - I've been a little busy what with the festivities and all. Add to that I'm the only one who travels over 100 miles to participate. (Annie, there should be a prize for that next year. Just something to think about.)

I have wanted to record for posterity here the true meaning of Winterfest. I did post about it last year, but of course I did not do it justice. This year as I sat at the closing ceremonies (stifle your giggles please) and listened to my sister-in-law's brother (that makes him my brother-in-law once removed?) talk about the first winterfest and what this holiday has become to our families it hit me that he said it better than I ever could. And so because he is a very generous soul he agreed to let me reprint it here for all of you (and more importantly for Ella and Alex). It may look a little lengthy, but I haven't posted many long posts lately, so indulge me and please give it a read.


My sister asked me to contribute. However, as her big brother my contributions usually involve mockery and skepticism, so this time I figured - why mess with a good formula.

I want to take this opportunity to say a few words about the origins of
winterfest, and to comment on the success the holiday has become. Then I
would like to mention some concerns I have about its future.

By now, we are all familiar with the story of the first winterfest. Jeff
and Annie had just moved back to (their hometown). It was a short while after
Christmas. Annie was blue. Rather than let what I saw as the obvious symptoms of an undiagnosed Seasonal Affective Disorder 'bring her down', so to speak - she used
this grand funk as a source of inspiration.

The problem, Annie felt, was the gap, the downtime, following the
christmas season and before the next group of major holidays. Combine
this with the knowledge that we are still in for a few months of snow
and dreary weather, and you have what Annie saw was a clear need.
We needed a holiday to fill the gap.

Naysayers did mention Groundhog's Day, Valentine's Day, President's Day,
the Chinese New Year... but none of these fit the bill. This new holiday
should not hide from winter - it should embrace it. It should be a
celebration of family, a time of togetherness, and the entire day should
be blocked out and meticulously scheduled from sun up until sun down.

In the end, my sister had the nerve and the audacity to take it upon
herself to create a new day of celebration. This is an act that rarely
takes place without a 'great cause', such as the remembrance of a
significant cultural, religious, or historic event, eventually followed
by the endorsement of a major gift card company - but she pulled it off.

And as simple as that, winterfest was born. The very word 'winterfest' showcases the dramatic potential of this holiday. Fest, short for festival, which, from the American Heritage Dictionary, means: "an occasion for feasting and celebration, an often regularly recurring program of cultural performances, exhibitions, or
competitions". Winter, the season we are embracing with this holiday, from the same source: " A period of time characterized by coldness, misery, barrenness, or death."

This new holiday would fill an entire day with gifts and games, and it would involve competitions and exhibitions. A central event was needed, preferably revolving around a winter sport - sledding was suggested, ice skating came up as an option... Eventually and inexplicably, we opted for bowling. Simple, handmade gifts were exchanged. A winterfest theme was created, and molded into our very first winterfest song. Winterfest, the product of a flash of inspiration followed by an act of determination, became itself about artistic creation and the sharing of ideas.

Fast forward to the present. Look around you - the humble roots of the
first winterfest have taken root. They have sprung up, branched out, and
borne the fruits we have tasted today. A record number of participants,
an insane level of preparation, RSVP's, itineraries, treasure hunts, Bowling...
The budget for this tour de force easily matched the weekly income from
a small paper route. The amount of preparation involved rivaled that needed for the ongoing Olympics in Torino. I met the most interesting woman today after the treasure hunt, and I later found out from Aunt Edette that she was my wife.

More importantly, we have a room full of very young people who do not know a world without winterfest. At the time of the first event, Jonah and Gabriella were toddlers. Ethan was just a baby. My absolute favorite picture of him, hanging on my wall at work, was taken by Jeff while Ethan looked on from his car seat as we all played our first annual game of winterfest 10-pin at the sunrise lanes.

When this all began, there was no Alex, no Matthew, no Megan, no Hannah... To the children there is no difference between winterfest and thanksgiving, other than the fact that one is a noticeably more obsessive-compulsive holiday, and their classmates look at them blankly when they mention it during recess.

My children bowl about as often as they eat cranberries - once a year,
on their respective holidays.

At this point in my life I measure success and failure with three
yardsticks - one is six, one is four, the other is nearly two. From
their viewpoint, this has been a day to remember. They see this day as a
tradition we keep.

Last, I want to provide a warning. That may be ending on a sour note,
but I cannot remain quiet in the face of something that could potentially be so devastating. One recent random evening I went to Target to shop for my 'spectacular
super swap gift exchange extravaganza' gift, as has become the tradition (starting this year) and I ran into 5 other people also shopping for their gifts. Retailers will not ignore this ramp up in sales the week or so preceding February 11th. Soon, we will see countdown-till-the-holiday sales and 'May your winterfest be fantastic' cards from Hallmark. Mind you, I am not lamenting the loss of our innocence. It was touching, in the olden days, to receive a handmade gift. I also really like my
springy clock.

I do fear that we may someday see the slickness and unnatural sheen that
accompanies a holiday that has hit the big time. I also fear that this
will happen and none of us will profit from it. I am also a little nervous because I recently read of fresh initiatives for the inclusion of bowling in the Olympics, starting in the 2008 Beijing Games. I say only 'a little nervous' because they have made a tactical error. They are attempting to have the sport added to the
roster for the 2008 Summer games.

Thank you for listening to my ramblings, Please heed my warnings, and
We'll see you next year.

Thank you Steven for letting me borrow your words. To the rest of you I'll also mention here that Steven confided in me when I revealed the existence of my blog to him that he has thought of doing a blog-of-sorts himself. Join me in encouraging him to do so! I would certainly read it!
Name: Christine
Location: Wyoming, United States
I'm the Mom of two. They drive me crazy. I love them dearly. I want one more. I'm not insane, yet. My hubby says I'm a snob with an inferiority complex. There is more to me than being a mother. I just don't remember any of it.

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