53: Christmas at the Spit

53: Christmas at the Spit

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Christmas in Canada

Christmas at the Spit

There are some secret elves who decorate a standalone Sitka spruce on Whiffin Spit each December (and mysteriously undress the tree again in January).

~Editor, Sooke Voice News

Sunday morning was the start of another cool, breezy day with bits of sunshine lighting the hills surrounding the water near our home. The trails crisscrossing the woods would still be damp and muddy from the overnight rain. This is a winter on Vancouver Island. It rains a lot and it hardly ever snows.

“Where to this morning?” I asked my husband as I glanced over at Huey, our Cocker Spaniel.

“Well, Whiffin Spit, of course,” Donny answered. “It’s time for our Christmas pilgrimage.”

“You’re right. How could I forget?” I said as I attached Huey’s leash.

Our twenty-minute drive to the trail took us on a series of circuitous, hilly roads around the Basin and through the town of Sooke before turning left onto Whiffin Spit Road. At that point Huey stood up, each of his front paws on an armrest while his back legs perched precariously on the back seat. He knew exactly where we were headed.

There on the water the wind was strong. The clouds moved quickly over the mountains in the distance. The air was filled with the briny smell of the ocean. We stopped occasionally on the winding trail to chat with familiar people and for the dogs to mingle and sniff. As we neared the breakwater, some water crashed onto the pathway in front of us.

We began walking more quickly, no longer ambling. We tugged on Huey’s leash to keep him moving. As we rounded a deep bend in the trail we finally saw the small Christmas tree. It was fully dressed for the holidays and looked beautiful. This tree was the reason we’d gone to Whiffin Spit.

Seeing the tree in all its Christmas glory makes it easy to forget that this is normally a scruffy, under-sized Sitka spruce that has been beaten down by the winds over its lifetime. Each year, for about two weeks, it takes on an entirely different life, elevated to a new status by the people who frequent Whiffin Spit. We, along with the rest of the community, make this a destination at least once over the holiday season.

Every year, the tree stands before us laden with handmade decorations that include glittery pinecones, colour plastic prisms, old beach sandals, painted ping pong balls, stuffed animals wearing Santa hats plus a variety of store-bought ornaments. Some of the pieces have been crafted by schoolchildren. The tree has been transformed and is a testament to the people who live here. The little tree has been decorated with just what was available, nothing more. It is basic: not overdone, not fancy. It is a work of art, crafted by a community.

The metamorphosis of the pint-sized tree takes place literally overnight. I’m not certain who magically performs this feat. Long-time residents may know who secretly decorates it, but we don’t. We just stand in admiration for a few minutes with several other people. The little tree wears its holiday plumage through New Year’s Day, when other annual events such as the Polar Bear Swim take place. And with Whiffin Spit being a haven for dogs, it is no surprise that they are included on that day by way of a parade in which the requisite canine apparel is a Santa hat and a collar festooned with red bows and jingle bells.

After admiring the tree that Sunday, we moved up the trail toward the lighthouse at the end, turned around and made our way back to the car. We’d managed to catch whatever sun peeked through the clouds that morning — an added bonus on our annual Christmas pilgrimage to Whiffin Spit.

~Janet Caplan

Sooke, British Columbia

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