There is something special about a campfire on a cold December day. The good folks at Township 7 Winery invited the Christmas Bureau people to put up a toy collection box at their open house last weekend. The day was spectacular and the scene was enhanced by a large open fire in their fire pit. The snapping and crackling of the dry fir logs attracted folks with their wine glasses outside into the sun.
There are no strangers around a camp fire. It is almost impossible to stand there quietly without a conversation breaking out. It starts innocently enough. “We should have some spuds wrapped in foil to stick in those coals,” says one person. Then a Maritimer adds, “And a lobster pot over the flames would be a nice touch.” Another lady chimes in, “We had fires at Grandpa’s farm that burned all day and well into the night when we were kids.”
The lowly wiener becomes a feast fit for a king if it’s cooked properly over the coals, turning slowly and blistering evenly. Slathering the finished product with ketchup, mustard and relish provides the finishing touch that makes enduring the smoke all worthwhile.
Dancing with the campfire smoke is an art in itself. Some will say the smoke follows them no matter where they stand. Others will swear that if you repeat, “I hate white rabbits,” three times, the smoke will shift. It doesn’t really matter because at the end of day, your jeans, your jacket and your hair will smell of smoke, a nice reminder of the day.
As the Christmas carols drift across the field, conversation turns to our favourite Christmas song. The debate pits old crooners like Sinatra and Crosby against newcomers like Bieber and Buble. Which is better, the original Christmas Song by Mel Torme or the Nat King Cole version? Is Anne Murray’s Christmas special still the best or have newcomers replaced her?
The younger people are looking at each other, trying to be polite and not mention that they’ve never heard of any of these folks. One of them pulls out a device that looks like Captain Kirk’s communicator, pushes some buttons and starts playing some of the old favourites we’ve been discussing.
The fireside conversation moves on to Christmas movies and TV shows. Is Alistair Simms’ Scrooge better than Bill Murray’s? Is Tom Hanks in The Polar Express better than Burl Ives in Rudolph? Is Chevy Chase better in Christmas Vacation than Jimmy Stewart in It’s a Wonderful Life?
The afternoon lingers in the sun and new people come out as others wander away. The conversations pour out like smooth Chardonnay and in the smoke we see ghosts of Christmas past and spirits of Christmas yet to come.
As the community grows we lose the ability to gather around the fire. I recall the conflicts in the City as the old houses came down and the apartments went up. Instead of neighbours coming out to talk around the fire in a homeowner’s back yard, the second-floor tenants next door would phone the fire department and complain about the smoke. Eventually the complaints won out and the fires were banned, and the neighbours never met.
Now a whole generation will never know the meaning of the song, ‘Chestnuts roasting on an open fire.’ But, when Jack Frost is nipping at your nose, you can’t beat a good fire. At least that’s what McGregor says.