Arts & Life
Canstar Community News
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This article was published 25/12/2011 (3149 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The snow was slight, the sky was sunny -- but on one of the balmiest Dec. 25 in recent memory, Christmas traditions old and new were alive and well in Winnipeg. Here are a few snapshots of how we spent the holiday:
GARBAGE HILL -- 11:02 am.
As the sun warmed Winnipeg to a balmy 2 C, the south face of Winnipeg's favourite sledding spot stayed bare of snow. But on the north side of Garbage Hill, there was just enough of the slippery stuff for the Gomez family to get their first taste of winter holidays in their new home.
The family moved to Winnipeg from the Philippines earlier this year. "We came for my children's future," said mom, Nila Gomez, as she watched daughter Micaela, 10, and son Brian cavort along the steep hill.
Gomez's uncle, Dom Toralba, chuckled as he watched the kids play. Toralba, who came to Canada almost four decades ago, noted that adjusting to chilly Canadian winters can be a big shock for families from the tropical Philippines -- but that didn't dampen the kids' enthusiasm.
"They said, 'Come on, let's go! Let's go tobogganing!' I said, 'but there's no snow!' " Toralba said, as he watched his niece and her family careen down the hill on their bright green sled. "They are so excited."
THE ASSINIBOINE RIVER -- 12:30 p.m.
At The Forks, patches of open water glistened where the Assiniboine River's skating trail will -- hopefully -- soon stand.
But near Polo Park, the Assiniboine's ice was nearly a foot thick and the sound of slapping pucks rang between the riverbanks, as Rob Finlay took sons Matt, 16, and Chris, 11, out to play some shinny on a spacious river rink.
It was a natural activity for a hockey-themed Christmas: Santa had gifted the family with new Winnipeg Jets swag, including Jets jackets, Jets pucks and brand-new hockey sticks.
"The Jets Gear store did well by us this year," Finlay chuckled. "All of us who didn't get tickets live vicariously through (merchandise)."
The Finlays weren't the only ones who had a very merry Jetsmas: On Twitter and on hockey forums, fans far and wide eagerly showed off the Jets loot they found underneath the tree, from jerseys and hoodies to mugs and key chains.
WIN GARDNER PLACE -- 1:30 p.m.
While thousands of Winnipeggers were unwrapping their Jets loot, some families in Winnipeg's North End got a more personal gift -- a surprise visit from half of the Winnipeg Jets' defence corps.
Jets blue-liners Mark Stuart, Johnny Oduya and Tobias Enstrom made a low-key appearance at a special Christmas luncheon at Win Gardner Place on McGregor Street, signing autographs and posing for pictures with families who feasted on turkey and fixings.
"We had no idea until we got here," chuckled volunteer Jennefer Nepinak, whose 10-year-old son, Brennan, proudly showed off a trio of autographs on his shirt.
"He had his dress shirt on, but I just said 'Go ahead, go to town and get it all signed up.' "
For many at the lunch, the visit was just the icing on what is becoming a favourite community activity. For three years, local businessman and former MLA John Loewen and his family have hosted the Christmas feast at the centre, which is named after Loewen's mother.
Thanks to donations of turkeys and volunteers from across the community, the centre is able to feed 175 fixed-income families every year, and even sends many on their way with a take-home meal.
On this Christmas, many of those who have been helped by the centre's services returned to pass it forward. "I moved to Winnipeg three years ago with my three kids and absolutely nothing," said Amanda Courchene, who credits the daycare and support services at Win Gardner Place with helping her get back on her feet.
On Sunday, as she helped clean up at the end of the luncheon, Courchene said she was happy to spend her Christmas working at the place where she began. "It means a whole lot that I have been able to give back," she said. "Everyone starts from somewhere, and this is the perfect place."
KUM KOON GARDEN -- 2:30 p.m.
While many Winnipeggers enjoyed a day of rest, staff at Kum Koon Garden in Chinatown were buckling in for one of the busiest days of the year. Indeed, almost 2,600 people passed through Kum Koon on Christmas morning, ready to pluck steaming platters of dumplings, spring rolls and sticky rice from dim sum carts.
"With Chinese people, it's all families and big families," said Kum Koon owner Geoffrey Young, noting the restaurant was packed with tables of 16 people or more throughout the day. "It's similar to Mother's Day for us."
But it wasn't just ethnic Chinese families that flocked to the restaurant. For many families in Winnipeg's Jewish community, spending Dec. 25 at a Chinese restaurant is a time-honoured tradition. Meanwhile, some diners searched for something a little different than turkey-time.
Some web-savvy attendees even set up a BlackBerry Playbook on the tables to live-stream NBA games while they noshed.
Melissa Martin reports and opines for the Winnipeg Free Press.
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