Sunday, December 18, 2011

Why do trains and Christmas go together?

This Christmas I finished my shopping early, I plan on doing that from now on. I started early (Christmas shopping in July? Really?) in order to find the best prices and hopefully get gifts that show how much the receiver is loved. So instead of thinking about shopping and gifts, I have been able to focus on celebrating the Christmas Season with my family. For the first time in 8 years we decorated the outside of the house, we participated in Christmas Programs, we baked, we've made lots of Hot cocoa, watched lots of Christmas movies, and enjoyed roaring fires in the living room, and last night we went to the Holidazzle Parade!

If you've been reading my blog for a while, you know that I do my best to enjoy life without overspending. Yesterday MetroTransit opened up the trains and buses for free so that people could 'easily' get to and from the Holidazzle Parade. So we decided it would be fun. I got online and checked the train times, picked a time and we were ready to go. Instead of fighting the crowds on Nicollet for supper, we stay local and enjoyed a nice dinner at Steven's. Then jumped in the car and headed to Elk River to grab the Northstar. It was pretty full, but we were able to find 4 seats together on the upper level and had an enjoyable ride in. Once we reached Target Center, we realized just how many people where on the train. A sea of people headed up the stairs and to the light rail and Nicollet Ave.

Upon reaching Nicollet Ave, I was thankful that God had blessed my husband and I with height. We were able to look over the crowd and find a great spot that was slightly elevated, and not far from the train station, to watch the parade. It was chilly, but we had on our snow pants, boots, hats, gloves, and winter coats. The street was lined with lit trees, and many in the crowd wore there own strings of blinking lights. The parade was as festive as I remembered from a few years ago, but it did seem shorter. (Maybe I am just older.) As the crowd got bigger, we started to wonder about being able to catch a train home. :-). So as soon as we saw Santa, we hustled to the train platform.

If I thought the train seem crowded on the way there, I had NO IDEA how crowded it could be. We squeezed onto a train and hoped that they wouldn't make us all wait like that until the scheduled departure time in 20 minutes.  The first stop 4 people got off our car, so we kept standing. The next stop 8 people got off, 4 kids squeezed through the crowd to get to the bathroom, and we kept standing. Finally on the next stop close to 20 people got off and we were able to get off our feet. The 4th stop was ours, and probably half the train debarked. It was a long hour trip. My husband made sure I knew not to plan on riding during a free weekend EVER again. :-) Which was probably a good thing. Because yeah I was tired and REALLY wanted to sit, after lifting the kids all the way through the parade so they could see. But I really enjoyed chatting with the people around me on the train, and was able to completely distract myself from the discomfort.

Our little adventure got me thinking though. What is it about Christmas and trains? A few years back we went to Old Town St. Charles, MO during the Christmas season and enjoyed all the Dickens's Characters and others wandering around posing for pictures and passing out trading cards, but in the midst of it all was a trailer where you could pay to view model trains. My only thought was huh? Then there is the Polar Express, but I always thought the 'magic' of the North Pole could only be found if you were riding on Santa's Sleigh. (Or had a magic snow globe) There are the snow village's with trains running through them, and trees with trains running around the base. Heck even last year I set my own kids train set up right under the tree. Yet the attraction to the 2 together, continued to allude me. In an attempt to figure it out I started thinking of all the Christmas/ train themed things. Then I remembered the train scene in one of my favorite holiday classics, White Christmas. In the movie they are on a train heading from their last show to a short vacation in New York, when they decide to ride all the way to Vermont to spend time with some new friends and enjoy a snowy Christmas.

Eureka! The connection had been right in front of me the entire time. Trains and Christmas bring loved ones together. Now a days we are more likely to drive a car or hop a plane, but the nostalgia of a train reminds us of Christmas's past and all the love and joy our parents tried so hard to give us. So when you see a train running through a miniature village or around a tree, stop and thank God for the gift of Christmas and for families, and friends who bring us joy.

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