Secret Santa: Community Edition # 1

For many, the focus from everyday life turns towards the spirit of giving during the holiday season. This year River Market invited ten citizens from New Westminster to shop for gifts on River Market’s dollar. Many would say these citizens are actively engaged in making this wonderful city better each day. These individuals were tasked to hand pick each item which they thought would make a great gift and their only parameter was that they had $50 to spend. Once they were done their shopping, they would wrap the gift and deliver it to an organization of their choice in New West.

First up was me! Jen Arbo, co-owner of Tenth to the Fraser, perpetual volunteer, and 2016 Citizen of the Year.

Shopping for my Secret Santa recipient!
Shopping for my Secret Santa recipients!


I chose to shop for the staff at the Seniors Services Society. I really admire the hard work they do with our community’s elders and wanted them to have a few nice treats to share as a team.


What did I end up buying?


  1. Tortas – Canteen & Supply – Laura tells me they are by far her favourites, and they are hand made. Sound amazing.
  2. Nice Soap – Jolene’s Natural Soap Works – I’ve bought Jolene’s products before and really enjoyed them.
  3. Hand Lotion – Jolene’s Natural Soap Works – I thought this hand lotion might be a nice pick me up with the lemon verbena scent.
  4. Cheez Poofs – Donalds Market – because who doesn’t love a good cheezie poof?
  5. Prosecco – Paddlewheeler Liquor Store – I chose this rosé prosecco because it was such a great colour
  6. Shortbread – Pamola Bakery – this is one of my fave treats at River Market – loves these little checkerboard shortbreads
  7. Scratch and Wins – Paddlewheeler Liquor Store – you never know, right?
  8. Toffees – Canteen & Supply – love these toffees. So buttery!
  9. Mink – Mermaids Choice Chocolate Bar – Canteen & Supply – These bars are small but packed with so much decadence! I love them.
  10. Gummi Bears – Donalds Market – because no good time is complete without some Gold Bears!

River Market also asked me what I’d ask for if someone was shopping for me and I’d like some BC Ferries gift cards so I could visit my family on Vancouver Island more often, and I’d love it more if people felt compelled to donate the money to their own favourite charities.

The Seniors Services Society team getting their gift!
The Seniors Services Society team getting their gift!


Santa Parade Needs a Makeover

Today it smelled like cold, and I found myself thinking about the upcoming holiday season. I recalled recently reading a piece in the Royal City Record that the folks at the Hyack Festival Association are proposing to change up the Santa Claus Parade of Lights to a event that focuses on Hyack Square and a giant Christmas tree, with some sort of light display along the wall of the Salvation Army.

Thank goodness, I say. Why did this take so long?

Just look at how happy they all are!
Christmas Parade Past – Photo by Dennis Sylvester Hurd

The three times I have attended the Parade of Lights since my son was born, I have had to leave early when he got fussy or bored or cold, and the watery hot chocolate isn’t enough to keep him occupied. We see the same floats and groups march on by for more than an hour that we see in the (much warmer) Hyack Parade in May. The one time we were there long enough to move to Hyack Square, we clustered around to watch the spectacularly miniature tree get lit while a number of politicians talked about how the Christmas spirit was alive and well (which it is – I’m not being a Grinch here). There were no bleachers, no seating, not even organized areas to stand – no way for the short folks such as myself or my child to even see what was going on as we stood in the scrum of people with hardly a way to even get out of the crowd mid way through. My son didn’t care one tiny bit for the speechifying and was bored bored bored. We left, and went home and watched Miracle on 34th Street, drank eggnog, and ate mandarin oranges.

A number of the councillors are quoted in the Record’s article as being concerned about the change, and while they don’t necessarily oppose it, they mostly seem underwhelmed and even somewhat resistant to the idea. All of their comments centre around their own opinions of the parade. One comments that “he always liked the parade”, and cites concern that it won’t attract families if it is presented in another format. Another says “Personally, I like the parade,” and worries that a transition to another format will be too quick. I’m not trying to single out anyone out, here, but only one of our current councillors is currently raising a young family in our city.

In the article, Mayor Wright is quoted as saying “Change does not come easily to anybody. We welcome your new ideas. We have to work into them.” His comment is absolutely spot on. The Santa Claus Parade of Lights in its current format is  boring and outdated, and while I want to support the parade and the many community groups that volunteer their time and effort, I can only placate my son for so long while we passively watch it stream by. I wonder how many people continue to come to the parade year after year to watch the same thing over and over because there is no other free community holiday festival?

Dear Hyack Festival Association,

You have my wholehearted support to change the Parade into something that actually feels like a holiday celebration in the city. You can’t do it soon enough.