So cottage trips for our family around the Christmas season are not possible, at least not for a long time. We have a lot of boys in hockey and there is ALWAYS a hockey tournament during the holidays. Historically we’ve always rented the cottage out, and the last few years we’ve hosted the same family over and over again. When they first started renting our cottage, the father of the family was new to Canada and had never seen snow in his entire life. He comes from the South Pacific and his island is in the tropics, so no snow. The grandmother of the family was very concerned about weather and local hospitals. She was not a well woman and needed to have very ideal environmental conditions. The younger couple had really small kids and they were always tired and … so painting a picture for you about a more than average family, experiencing the cottage style Christmas for the first time ever in a cottage rental; I wanted to make it memorable, but at the same time, I needed to stay within a budget.
I went through my old and new decorations. I have so much of them and like any décor; we get bored with the old and sometimes like the change. So I started my holiday pack for the cottage rental with a tree, skirt, table linens, napkins, lights and wreaths, small decorations, enough to make an impression, but still not so much to need a lot of invested time.
Next, I wanted to do something unique, as this family is Christian but not so superfluous that they do the whole big commercial spend. Everyone contributed to the rental as their gift to each other. So I purchased a special treat for each person that I felt would be applicable and not too costly: a nice package of tea for grandma, a pair of inexpensive gloves for the dad, the younger couple got a nice deep rich dark cocoa bar, and their two young kids each got a colouring book with a pack a crayons. All of the gifts combined cost me under $20.00 and were wrapped and waiting for them under the tree, which was dressed and in the centre of the room.
The table had a nice fresh bowl of fruit. There were home baked goodies in the fridge. I had some Christmas scented candles in each bedroom and in the main living room. I also made certain they had the directions for the nearest hospital for Grandma. And I had some Tylenol in the medicine cabinet in the bathroom. I had some extra TP and Paper Towels in the vanity in the bathroom. There were fresh linens with Charismas themes in the bathroom. And on the table of my main dining area I wrote a letter to the family in a Christmas card and it said,
“Welcome to our humble abode. Santa has paid you each a visit and requested that we make this Christmas your best Christmas ever. You are helping our family keep the Christmas dream alive and sharing our cottage home with your family during a very special time. Enjoy the snow, enjoy the goodies and the time away, but most of all, and enjoy each other. God Bless and Merry Christmas.”
Their grandmother passed away about 4 months’ later from her illness. I spoke to my contact with that family about a week after she passed. He told me that all she talked about when she was in the hospital was the week they spent up at our cottage in the winter for Christmas. She loved it. A woman who had once complained non-stop about her illness and her sickly being, took one look at the cottage rental dwelling, with all the decoration, all the care and thought, the meagre little gifts, and just lit up like the tree. My gift of a nice pack of tea was something she thought was beyond thoughtful. I was overcome with tears when my contact told me about it. They had truly loved the time, but it made the biggest impression on Grandma. She wanted the true Christmas experience, and she wanted to spend it with her family, all together. And they did. And they started a tradition with my cottage rental that is now on its 4th year. And they try to give me a few extra dollars each year to be their Secret Santa. (Still won’t take the money. Payment for the rental is all that I expect.) It’s not about spending a ton of money, but picking out some little but useful items that bring the joy of giving to the faces of those around you.