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Last updateThu, 30 Nov 2023 8am

Mazereeuw takes up the torch


    While a smile is never far off her face, some may have noticed Melanie Mazereeuw beaming even more so recently since she learned she would be an Olympic Torch Bearer.
    Mazereeuw will be carrying the torch on Sunday, January 17 through Bow Island on the stretch just days after the Drumheller Torch Relay Celebration.
    Mazereeuw’s consistent entries on the iCoke web site got her foot in the door. It was her community spirit and involvement that put her over the top.
    She entered in the area of 40 times to win a spot on the Torch Relay Team. Shortly thereafter she received an e-mail telling her she needed to write an essay.
    “The theme was living active or community spirit,” she said.
    She wrote about some of her community involvement. She and a friend participate in the Enerflex Walk MS walk and raise a sizable contribution to the MS Society each year. She has set up a recycling program at the Drumheller Co-op store and offices where she works, and spearheads the Greentree Mall initiative Town of Toys each year, collecting donations for The Salvation Army Christmas Hamper program.
    “It’s the small stuff really, but it is community oriented,” she said.
    Her inspiration to get involved with the Torch Relay comes from her experience in school when Calgary hosted the Winter Olympic Games in 1988. A girl from her school in Lethbridge was selected as an Olympic Torch Bearer, and she won a spot on a trip to Calgary to take in the part of the games.
    “I got to see three events in one day in ‘88, and I thought man, what an opportunity. It is a once in a lifetime experience” she said.
    When asked where Mazereeuw would like to run, she selected the Red Deer to Drumheller, the Drumheller to Lethbridge Leg and the Lethbridge to Medicine Hat legs as possibilities. She will be running near Bow Island, which coincidentally is where her husband grew up.
    Her family and extended family are excited to see Mazereeuw run the torch. Her son Braden, 7, says he has his own digital camera ready to take pictures. Her grandmother and great aunt, who just turned 88 have already booked a spot in her parent’s van to come up and watch her on the route.
    This no surprise, she says her family has always been proud Canadians, and even have some Olympic blood.
    “My mother’s cousin is Toller Cranston, and my family has always been very Olympic oriented and patriotic. My aunt was one of the first women to enlist, so when it comes to things like Olympics, they are big Canada supporters,” she says.

Watch Santa on Christmas Eve


    As Santa gets ready for his whirlwind one night annual world tour, youngsters have even more ways to track his progress before he arrives at their chimney.
    Since 1958 North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and its predecessor the Continental Air Defense Command, have been tracking the moves of Ol’ St. Nick as he flies from house to house spreading Christmas cheer.
    It is quite an undertaking for NORAD and it employs the most sophisticated equipment to follow Santa.
    Tracking the man in the red suit starts with the Northern Warning System. This is a network of 47 installations  strung across the northern border of North America. When Santa leaves the North Pole, the radar will catch  it.
    Immediately after he lifts off they go to their satellite. It uses infrared technology, and is able to pick up Rudolph’s nose.
    This gives  NORAD an up to the minute view of Santa.
    In 1998, they added the SantaCam Network. This is the same year they made it possible to track Santa’s progress online. Children of all ages  are able to track his route at These cameras are only active on Christmas Eve.
    The fourth line of Santa spotters are the fleet of Canadian and US jet fighters that take to the sky and are able to fly along with  Santa and his reindeer.
    This year there is one more way to track Santa Claus on his route. Computers equipped with Google Earth can watch him on his route.
    While this is a lot of fun on Christmas Eve, youngsters wanting their daily fix of the latest news from the North Pole can go to and  see what kind of progress is being made, and play all sorts of fun games.
    Now happy tracking, but remember when you are watching Santa, he is watching you, and he will not touch down on your roof top unless reindeer dust is spread, and he knows you are snuggled safely asleep in your bed.

Days of Christmas past


    Christmas was a very traditional affair for Lilo Rolf, 73, who lived in Germany as a child. Before Christmas Day, one room in the house was closed off to the children, and Lilo recalls being told by her mother that angels were busy decorating the Christmas tree in the locked room.
 The children eagerly waited for Christmas Eve when their father would ring a bell to let them know the festivities could start.  Lilo remembers fondly the excitement she felt when the french doors were finally opened to reveal a tall decorated Christmas tree with red candles and unwrapped presents placed beneath it, and Christmas music was playing in the background.
    Red candles played a big part during this season. A month before Christmas, four red candles were placed on a wreath and one candle was lit each four Sundays before Christmas Day.  The candles on the tree also provided great fun to the children as they would place bets on which candle would last the longest.
    Before presents were opened on Christmas day, the family sung traditional songs, Silent Night being a favourite, and Christmas stories would be told before sitting down to eat a goose served with red cabbage and potatoes.
    The presents of choice in those days were dolls and carriages for the girls, pewter soldiers for the boys and under the tree, each child would also find their very own plate of goodies containing chocolate, cookies, nuts and oranges.  Lilo recalls her favorite gift very fondly: “During the war, you couldn’t get any dolls, and right after the war  I wished for a doll and I got it!”
    Resident of Sunshine Lodge Hilda Hutter, 97, remembers a very similar Christmas to Lilo’s as she too lived in Germany as a child. As per the German tradition, Christmas started on the 6th December, St. Nicholas Day.  When the tree was being decorated by their mother, the children were asked to retire to their room.
    “Seeing the Christmas tree all lit up was my favorite moment”, smiles Hilda. She and her brothers and sisters were lucky enough to occasionally be allowed to open their presents on Christmas Eve after midnight mass.
    “We didn’t have many presents… but what we wanted for Christmas, we mostly got” explains Hilda, “and my favourite present was a Knirps umbrella, that you could fold and put it in your handbag”.
    Under the Christmas tree, she too would find her very own plate filled with chocolate, an orange, a nice red apple and a handful of nuts.
    “We didn’t have turkey, we had good roast beef and vegetables, and gravy and mostly we had really good vanilla pudding”.
    She remembers the story her mother used to tell when the sky was red: “oh look, they are cooking the cookies, that’s why the sky is red.”
    Oliva Rovere, resident of Sunshine Lodge, whose childhood Christmases were spent on a farm in Italy remembers a very different Christmas.  La Befana, a good witch dressed in black, the Italian version of Santa Claus, was the one distributing the presents in wooden shoes children would place at the window.
    “We were excited to find our shoe full of fruits, candies… and popcorn!” laughs Oliva.  They were very poor, but there was a lot of excitement. “We waited and we were excited to see what we were going to get”, recalls Oliva.
    It was also a busy time as altogether, there were 24 family members celebrating Natale, Italian name for Christmas, and they all  enjoyed a festive lunch of turkey or chicken.
     Another resident of the Sunshine Lodge, Claudia Lefferson spent most of her Christmases on a farm in Saskatchewan so enjoyed a white Christmas.  She remembers fondly playing in the snow with her brothers and sisters, waiting to be called in when it was time to open the presents.
    Her favorite memory was when her dad came back from Prince Albert one day before Christmas, with a little house they were not allowed to touch until Christmas. When the time came to open it, they discovered the house, made of chocolate, also turned out to be filled with chocolate.
    Claudia remembers her best present very well: “a little camera, a Brownie 127.” Their gifts consisted of an item of clothing and a toy.  Early afternoon, they would enjoy a festive meal of turkey, cooked in the wood stove, with potatoes and all the trimmings.
    They spent the day playing with their toys. “We didn’t have any music though as we didn’t have electricity in those days”.
    Eventually, her family moved away from the farm into a small town called Viscount, and closer to her great uncles and aunts. “This is my best memory, we were all together, I really enjoyed those Christmases,  who knew if they were going to be here next Christmas? What was important was to be together, as a family”, she said.
    All said they found Christmas a bit too big and too commercial nowadays…but it seems the excitement a child feels on Christmas Eve remains the most memorable moment of Christmas, were you a child then or now.    


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