Christmas is Announced


12.12.02

We have this plant.  Some call it the Schlumbergera, but we call it a Christmas Cactus.  We’ve had this particular plant for more than a decade and initially bought it from that well known horticultural centre, IKEA, because it looked like something we might actually be able to keep alive.  We arrived home with this little bit of green tucked in a three inch pot and sat it in front of a window.  It sat around year after year growing a few more prickly leaves, but it didn’t die.  About four years ago it presented us with a few flowers, two to be exact, and they were exquisite.  We were amazed and truly flattered that it decided to bless us with a look at its display.  Since that time it has become more prolific with every year.  It seems to love its new home, because in the last two years in Cochrane it has exploded with flowers not only near Christmas, but also around Easter.  It starts flowering around the last week in November and continues well into December.  Now that I’ve read a bit about it, I think ours is from the Truncata Group of Schlumbergera.  This group flowers early and is often called the Thanksgiving Cactus (by the Americans of course).  Evidently, if it was from the Buckleyl Group, and I don’t have a clue how to pronounce that, it would flower later and closer to Christmas.  Regardless, it works well as a Christmas Cactus for us, so that is what we call it.  Naturally, because it choses to flower again around Easter we easily adapt and call it an Easter Cactus at that time.  That became a bit complicated when I found out that the most commonly grown form is called the Easter or Whitsun Cactus and it is now placed in the Hatiora genus, which all helps to explain why I never studied biology, let alone botany.  Having this green thumb ignorance is, I guess, why I find it very easy to kill plants whilst believing I’m providing them the food and water they need.

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Yesterday, Les and I joined around 500 other volunteers at Our Lady Queen of Peace Ranch in support of an annual Christmas party that the Our Lady Queen of Peace Foundation puts on for needy families in Calgary.  I had no idea about this place or this service and was gobsmacked for the whole day when I saw what went on.  It is an incredibly enthusiastic thing those people do and we were thrilled to be part of it.

This ranch is a huge facility near Bragg Creek and a wonderful setting for kids, but what goes on at the Christmas Party is special.  Around 3000 people, parents and children, arrive by bus at about 11 am and for the next four hours have the opportunity to eat, ride ponies, go to the petting zoo, and take a hay wagon ride.  In addition to a meal, there is a never ending supply of candyfloss and popcorn as well as pop and juice.  Santa pays a visit and stays until he has seen all the children that want to talk to him.  All the children get a winter hat and a pair of gloves, an age-appropriate and significant gift, and there was other winter garb for those in need.

Les and I were floaters and roved around, helping out where we could.  By the end of the day we were tired, but were completely happy with how we had spent the day.

What a great start to Christmas.


Addendum:

This is the day after our day at Our Lady Queen of Peace Ranch.  We had a wonderful afternoon at the annual Calgary Girls Choir Christmas Concert at the Jack Singer Concert Hall.  There are several choirs grouped by age.  Two of our grand daughters sing in the choirs.

As I was listening to the wonderful, trained harmony I couldn't help cast my mind back to yesterday and think about the young girls I saw and talked to at the ranch.  It occurred to me that probably none of those girls will ever have the opportunity to be in something like the Calgary Girls Choir.  I felt sad thinking about it.  Sad for those girls at the ranch who will not have the opportunity to sing in a choir and sad for the rest of us who will not benefit from hearing some latent talent that no doubt exists in a few of those many kids we saw yesterday.  Unfortunately I don't see a way to change anything.