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Local queers share their holiday traditions

Credit: Nicola Betts

Joe Sholtes

Christmas has always been a big deal for Joe Sholtes (right) and his partner Colin Green, but now that they have four-year-old son Jason it’s taken on new meaning.

“It’s a big holiday for us from a secular standpoint but… now the traditions seem to be a lot stronger,” says Sholtes.

“We have traditions with Jason that we had when we were kids. They’ve changed a little bit, morphed a bit. For example in my family every year we would go downtown to the old Simpsons. We would go and buy one ornament for the tree and then go see The Nutcracker.

“Well we tried when he was two and a half and he had huge tantrum in the Bay, so we’ve put that on hiatus.”

Another of the family’s traditions — which dictates there be four essential components to any Christmas stocking — came to them by way of Green’s aunt.

“The stocking has to include something to be eaten, something to be read, something to be worn and a toy that needs to be played with,” says Sholtes. “Because I never grew up with stockings I think I get more enjoyment out of them than he does so when he wakes up there’s stocking next to his bed.”

Sholtes says his son only recently discovered the religious aspect of Christmas after spotting a float depicting the nativity scene at Barrie’s Santa Claus parade in November. “He turned to us and asked, ‘Who is this Jesus guy?’”

Winnie Luk

Winnie Luk was only three years old when she left Hong Kong for Canada and doesn’t remember much about life there. But she still has a photograph of her crying on Santa’s Lap at a mall in Hong Kong when she was three years old.

Luk, manager of operations at the Inside Out film fest, looks forward to the traditional family get together. “We always do hot pot instead of turkey. It’s a Chinese-type cuisine. There is soup boiling in front of us, there are raw vegetables sitting on the table, seafood, veggies, meat, dumplings and you take out the food you want and cook it in the soup base. There’s also a sauce mixed of many things — soy sauce, peanut sauce, oyster sauce, a raw egg, hot sauces. It’s a crazy mix of dips and hot sauces, garlic and chives cooked together.

“It’s a very interactive type of meal,” says Luk. “It’s very boisterous, the family all around, cooking and eating together.”

For the second year Luk’s girlfriend Erica will be joining in on the Luk family traditions and vice versa. “Planning for Christmas this year has been really easy. My girlfriend’s family celebrates on Christmas Eve and we will spend Christmas Day with my family.”

She’s also looking forward to the romantic four-day holiday they’ll be taking just beforehand. “We’re taking the train to Montreal. My girlfriend is a cook so we’re going to go to great res-taurants, eat really well, go dancing and lay around a nice hotel.”

Rojae Melwood

For man about town and would-be bartender Rojae Melwood, December is a time for taking stock.

“I don’t know if it counts as a tradition, but I do start to, I guess, reflect on the year,” he says. “What I did, what I should have done, what I want to do.

“To me, the closer I get to the New Year the more I think about what I want that new year to be like. Not just New Year’s resolutions but full-out change — almost like spring cleaning, before spring. A winter whirlwind of life-planning.”

Melwood, who is currently finishing up a Smart Serve course, hopes to be coming to you live from behind a neighbourhood bar soon. If that happens before the holidays then he’ll be bumping up his gift-giving budget and moving downtown from his current place in Scarborough. But even if a drinks-slinging gig doesn’t come through until the new year he’ll definitely be hitting the shops.

“I’m totally waiting for the holiday excuse to go shop around with friends, even though money is tight right now.”

Otherwise Melwood is happy to go along with other people’s seasonal schedules. “As for traditional holiday things I just go with the flow — holiday parties, family events, the usual ray-tay-tay — or blah blah blah, to you. That’s all I do. I’m pretty simple. Happy and humble.”