The jolly old Norseman symbolizes spirits of giving in our northern hemisphere as shared by those who spend much time hunting, fishing, gathering or gardening in the outdoors. It is without secular bias and we hope you will accept him as symbolic of the spirits of giving and sharing across all cultures at this special season.
They cover all ages, are asexual, and the gifts – whether large or small – come from the heart of the giver to the recipient. Gifting at any time is a two-sided affair in that the giver and the recipient both gain from the exchange.
In Cold Lake where I grew up as a child the jolly old Norseman was Pa Lackey. He came quietly and left gifts under the tree. One of the special treats I remember was our stocking filled with Japanese oranges, nuts and hard candy. It is one of those timeless traditions that is still alive and well in many homes today.
As fishers and hunters we may have the fish and game from a successful season to share with those who no longer venture outdoors or may have had bad luck. It is especially nice when you can share a roast of Vancouver Island elk with buddies who were not lucky enough to get a draw.
Anglers who spend much time on the salt water frequently have salmon, halibut or lingcod that make make unique seasonal gifts during this festive season. In some cultures seafood at Christmas fills the same niche as turkey in our Canadian tradition.
Many outdoor people specialize in making treats from their catches in the form of smoked, lox, pickled, or other methods of prepared fish for the holiday season. Smoked fish are in a class of their own depending on the species and the methods used to cure them. Chum salmon from the Puntledge River, cured by a variety of methods will grace many valley tables during this Christmas celebration.
Seasonal treats of meat from game animals reach their full potential during this traditional period. A variety of sausage, cured hams, jerky and pepperoni make a partial list.
There is a tendency to think of the jolly old elf in isolation of his partner – Mrs. Elf as in Grandma. While Grandma doesn’t travel around the country in a sleigh, she creates much of the pleasures of this season in her kitchen, usually based on long family traditions that are passed from generation to generation. Think about the delicious treats of nut and bolts that add so much to the dishes of other special foods. When you pause and reflect on the contribution Grandma makes in the form of Christmas cake, shortbread, mincemeat tarts and pies, fudge, and an endless supply of cookies you realize that the partnership of the old Norseman and Grandma are super important during our celebrations we call the Christmas season in our culture.
As anglers and hunters age there comes a time when they must step back from the actual participation in the sport. Most outdoor people have an impressive range of tackle, guns, boats, camping gear, special clothes and so forth that can be gifted to children or close friends. There is no finer tradition than passing guns or fishing tackle from one generation to another.
We have in our family a special rifle that Elaine gave to me on our first anniversary with the hope that I could use it to get our annual supply of meat. Over the years, two of our daughters have used the rifle to get annual meat for their family. Two of our grandsons have used the same rifle for their first deer. This rifle will stay in the family.
Have a happy, sharing holiday season.
Ralph Shaw is a master fly fisherman who was awarded the Order of Canada in 1984 for his conservation efforts. In 20 years of writing a column in the Record it has won several awards.