CHRISTMAS 21 - Giving plays crucial role for McGregor holidays
BY DENNY SCOTT
Blyth’s Duncan and Lynda McGregor have a unique view on Christmas, with the former naming himself a pagan and the latter deeply involved with local Anglican churches, but the two make it work both in their home and outside every year.
Duncan, who spoke to The Citizen the week before Christmas, explained that, before he came to Blyth in his mid-40s, Christmas was always a family tradition for him, somewhat separate from the religious celebration many other families enjoy.
“I always had Christmas with my parents, who lived in Toronto,” he said, noting he lived in St. Catharines before he and Lynda moved to Blyth. “That was one of the traditions I always kept.”
Duncan said his siblings went off to various parts of the country, but, being close enough to make the trip, he would always see his parents at Christmas, even after he moved to Blyth.
“When I came up here, Lynda and I continued that tradition, even during snowstorms,” he said. “I enjoyed seeing my parents and I was close enough.”
He said the tradition continued as his parents aged, and faced the difficulties that accompany that, which made the connection the event provided even stronger.
He said helping to take care of them was a full-circle experience for him, as they had taken care of him.
“It’s sort of a mutual thing, and a good thing to do to make sure I gave my parents [care and love] as good as they gave me,” he said.
He said his parents weren’t very religious, but Christmas was always a very important event that everyone enjoyed until his brother and sister moved to other parts of the country.
Now, visiting his grandchildren is the highlight of Christmas, though COVID-19 has had an impact on that.
“We’ve been seeing family a lot,” he said, noting there was a definitive bubble for his family. “The kids come up for the weekends and we keep a good connection with them otherwise, especially over the last two years.”
He said, prior to COVID, there would be large family gatherings to mark the holiday season. However, now, to best follow the local public health recommendations, the families are meeting in smaller groups.
Like the groups, the family Christmas tree has also shrunk, Duncan said, due to COVID-19.
“Usually we pick up a big tree… south of Wingham,” he said. “It’s huge, because we have high ceilings. Putting one of those things up can feel like it takes a month.”
The tree was a centre-point for celebrations with friends and family, and while McGregor said he’s confident in the steps taken to control the virus, those gatherings won’t likely happen this year due to the pandemic.
Outside the family, McGregor’s Christmas activities vary year to year recently. This year, for example, he donned the mantle of St. Nicholas at St. Paul’s Anglican Church in Wingham when the church’s traditional stand-in wasn’t available.
He was able to share stories about the two Saints (Nicholas and Paul) with the congregation in a way that kept the children interested, he said. It was an exciting opportunity.
Next year, McGregor will be putting on a Christmas play in Goderich at The Livery for families including children aged four and up. It will be a pair of plays that McGregor performed when he was in St. Catharines, he said, and he’s looking forward to being a part of the celebration.
For Lynda, Christmas can’t be celebrated until she, and, by extension, her friends, have turned their efforts to helping the less fortunate.
While she is kept very busy at Christmas, being the organist/pianist for Trinity Anglican Church in Blyth and St. Paul’s in Wingham, her first focus is on helping the less fortunate.
Over the years she has been involved with several organizations and for the last two years she and her friends have been focusing on the Huron Women’s Shelter in Goderich.
“She was crucial in developing a practice for a group of women who make kits for the women who are in the shelter,” Duncan said. “Alongside a number of women from Blyth, and one from Wingham, they packaged up all these kits.”
Lynda explained that, while it is important to focus on giving children in the shelter a good Christmas, the mothers and other women there can’t be forgotten. She said there is a child inside everyone who likes to receive gifts and surprises at Christmas and the women at the shelter especially need to be remembered when they are facing such a difficult time.
Lynda and her friends also “adopt” a family every year to help along with Christmas. She said they focus on families that have been through the shelter and make sure that family is able to celebrate the holiday.
Duncan also said that, with Lynda’s birthday being on Dec. 21, the family has plenty to celebrate over the holidays to mark both occasions.