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Christmas at the Vinyl Cafe

Most families who celebrate Christmas have traditions at this time of year. Traditions that bring warmth and light to the cold, dark days of December.

The smell of the fir tree when you walk into the house.

The crackle of the fire.

Eggnog and mulled wine.

A mountain of presents under the tree.

Or that moment on Christmas Eve, just before bed, when everyone is asleep except you. The house is dark, but for the glow of the lights on the tree. And you sit there, in the halo, and finish your cup of tea (or, okay, your Scotch) and enjoy one peaceful moment before the madness of the morning ahead.

Even families that don’t celebrate Christmas often have Christmas traditions: Chinese food on Christmas Eve, going to the movies on Christmas Day, or heading south to avoid the entire thing altogether.

Most of us mark the season in some fashion or another.

It was no different for Stuart and our little Vinyl Cafe family. For years, for decades, we celebrated the season inour own merry way. But it wasn’t always like that.

It started the year Dave cooked the family turkey. Or,more to the point, when he didn’t.

That was the very first Vinyl Cafe Christmas story,and the story that turned Christmas into a deal for ushere at the Vinyl Cafe.

After that first performance of “Dave Cooks the Turkey” in 1996, we realized that Butch, in his quirky Grade B way, had changed the Vinyl Cafe landscape. The reaction was so intense it had to be followed with another Christmas story. So, every year, around October, Stuart would begin to imagine how Dave and his family might tackle the holidays, always mindful that every scenario would be measured against the turkey.

Over the years, the turkey story became like a snowball rolling down a snow-covered hill. It just kept getting. . . bigger. People wrote to tell us that the story had become one of their Christmas traditions. Some spent Christmas Eve sitting together as a family, listening to the turkey story on CD. Some read it out loud as part of their holiday celebration. Others felt the season didn’t start until they heard Stuart read it on the radio.

As the turkey story became one of your traditions, you became one of our Christmas traditions. Slowly, over the next twenty-one years, our annual Christmas concert grew from just one Christmas show at Glenn Gould Studio at the CBC in Toronto to a thirty-six-show national tour.

We loved that tour. The Christmas concerts felt like a family reunion. Stuart used to say it was more like sitting around a living room than an auditorium.

We would spend five weeks chugging around the country, crammed into a tour bus with a wonderful extended family: musicians, lighting and sound engineers, editors, producers, tour managers, and bus drivers. Then, in every city and town, we’d gather with not only the people on the bus and the people who worked on the radio show but also their families. And the audience. Over the years, many of you made our Christmas concert one of your family traditions. We started to recognize your faces out in the lobby. We got to know you, and you got to know us.

Like so many things at this time of year, the Christmas tour had a magical quality. We’d often walk back to the hotel after the concert, the celebratory feeling of the show hanging around like our warm breath in the cold air.

At the hotel, we’d gather at the bar and rehash our favourite moments from the show: the hambone kid who joined Stuart on stage, the singalong finale, the surprising laugh in the story that we hadn’t been expecting. Each show felt familiar, but also exciting and new. Kind of like Christmas: a mix of tradition and surprise.

More than once, as we were leaving town, we’d snake our forty-foot tour bus through a residential neighbourhood because we’d heard they had “good lights.” One night, outside of Owen Sound, we came across a stretch of highway where the houses were so beautifully lit upwe asked Brad, our driver, to wrestle the tour bus to theside of the road so we could sit there, in the quiet glow.

There is something about this season that brings people together. We were lucky that it brought us together with each other, and with you, for so many happy years.

It has been over two decades since that first year that Dave cooked the turkey. When we look back now, it’s clear that our entire year revolved around Christmas.

Like Morley’s locomotive, the VC express was always headed straight to Christmas. That is why we are so pleased to have a little book entirely dedicated to the yuletide adventures of Dave, Morley, Stephanie, and Sam.

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My Favorite Things

My Favorite Things

A Christmas Collection
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Sundial, The

Sundial, The

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illustrated by Seth
tagged : ghost, holidays
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Mistletoe Twins

Mistletoe Twins

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