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Christmas Time in Canada

Growing up, I loved being with my grandparents. They were wonderful people who know how to have fun. However, I could never understand their taste in music. Country, Western, and Bluegrass – that is all they ever listened to. Stompin’ Tom Connors, Humphrey and the Dumptrucks, and The Yodeling Cowboy Wilf Carter were some of their favourites.

It wasn’t until years later, and after they were gone, that I began to appreciate and then love these genres. Then began my search for the Holy Grail of Christmas albums in my family: “Christmas in Canada” by Wilf Carter.

Canadian Christmas album by Wilf Carter
Album cover of Christmas in Canada by Wilf Carter

This album features some wonderful Christmas songs that are funny (Ting-A-Ling-A Jingle), touching (An Old Christmas Card), and just plain Canadian (Christmas Time in Canada) with lyrics like:

It’s Christmas time in Canada / Be merry while we can / It’s Christmas time in Canada / God bless our native land

This album, which was released in 1965, seems to be a rare one. Most record store clerks have barely heard of Wilf Carter, let alone his Canadian Christmas album.

This past October, after years of flipping through vinyl at every thrift store, yard sale and record swap I’ve come across, I decided to go into a consignment store that is one block away from my house. I have walked by it almost every day for the past three years but had never gone inside.

The store had a mess of records piled all over the floor, but they were not organized in any fashion. After a few minutes, I asked if there was a country section. He pointed to a cardboard box under a bunch of old dishes. “Christmas in Canada” was the sixth record I flipped to, and I felt like Ralphie, when he finally got his official Red Ryder, carbine action, two-hundred shot range model air rifle, with a compass in the stock.


Dismembered! A Halloween Leg Lamp

Our favourite Christmas decoration of all time is the trusty leg lamp from A Christmas Story! It goes up in our home on November 1st and stays up til New Years Day. Cars slow down and people even get out to take pictures next to the “electric sex” glowing in our front window.

Last Halloween, I wondered if there might be a way to extend the leg lamp love into the haunting season.  I invented the dismembered leg lamp! It made it’s debut at our annual Haunted House!

Halloween Leg Lamp
The perfect Halloween Leg Lamp!

Here’s how you can make your own Halloween Leg Lamp!

  1. A variety of leg lamps are available for purchase from websites such as RetroFestive.ca. We chose to use the biggest one: the 50″ Major Award!
  2. Carefully cut or rip strategically placed holes in the stocking and the lamp shade. We started with small, conservative holes, but then had more fun with it and made the holes bigger so they can be easily seen from the road.
  3. Grab a can of red spray paint and go to town! We used Fusion by Krylon, it’s the kind made for use on plastic.  Spray it on very heavy, so it drips like real blood. Let dry overnight.
  4. We also soaked the lamp shade with strong tea to give it a more aged, weathered look.
  5. Replace the top bulb with a red lightbulb (or green) to give it an eerie glow.

We used a flash in this photo, so you can see the details better.

Dimembered Leg Lamp
Optional: Add a femur bone using a few strokes of white spray paint.

And there you have it! Your very own Halloween Leg Lamp!  Extra points if you build a FRA-GEE-LAY crate to display it on, like we did!

OR, if you’re really adventurous, you can create a REAL dismembered leg lamp like Leo Bonten did. He’s a 53-year-old from the Netherlands who had his leg amputated after a bad infection. When doctors told him the leg had to go, he fought for the right to keep it. But, what to do with it? He decided to make his very own, genuine leg lamp!

Amputated Leg Lamp

Bonten hired a lighting designer to create the one-of-a-kind lamp. The designer fixed the amputated leg in a large vase full of formaldehyde and rigged up a unique bulb and shade. He even later tried to sell it on eBay for $125,000, but eBay removed the listing since it does not allow the sale of body parts. Now he’s trying to sell in privately.

amputated leg lamp
A Dutch man created his own Dismembered Leg Lamp!

Of course, if you really want your own Halloween leg lamp, you could always choose an easier route.  RetroFestive.ca sells this awesome Wizard of Oz Wicked Witch Leg Lamp.

Wicked Witch Leg Lamp with Box
Wizard of Oz Wicked Witch Leg Lamp


Christmas Vacation: 25 Years Young

Growing up in the eighties, I was completely enamoured with the Griswolds.  I remember my parents and brothers guffawing through repeated viewings of the original National Lampoons Vacation on VHS (or was it Betamax?)

Walley World or Bust!
Walley World or Bust!

Then there was the time mom took us to see the sequel European Vacation and  ten-year-old me was mortified to be sitting next to my mother while a busty German girl bared it all to Rusty. Even though the second installment of the franchise hasn’t held up as well as the others have, we loved European Vacation in its time. I can still sing the Pig in a Poke theme song, if that counts for anything!

The Griswolds appear on Pig in a Poke
Pig in a Poke, it pays to be a glutton! Pig in a Poke, you could win all or nothin’!

So it was like icing on the proverbial fruitcake when National Lampoons Christmas Vacation came bouncing into our lives, back in 1989.  Now, twenty-five years later, it’s regarded as one of the best Christmas movies of all time… and I can truly say I’ve been a fan since the beginning! It was movie fandom that prompted me to source and sell Clark Griswold-style eggnog moose mugs online, which ultimately led to the creation of our pop culture Christmas website RetroFestive.ca.

Egg Nog Moose Cups
Got Nog? This kid models the Cousin Eddie look, complete with glass moose mug!

But back on Boxing Day 1989, no one could have forseen all of that.  My family was simply looking for a light holiday diversion when we trekked out to the local cinema, complete with crazy aunts and uncles in tow. What we discovered in National Lampoons Christmas Vacation was a pop culture treasure that would continue to make us laugh every Christmas for the next 25 years.

I was in grade nine that year, and I remember making a holiday mix tape with the Christmas Vacation theme song as its lead track. I taped the song off the radio (as we did back then) so whenever I hear it today, I can still hear Casey Kasem doing the lead in. I didn’t realize then that the Christmas Vacation theme song is sung by Mavis Staples of the storied Staple Singers. Her powerhouse vocals are also featured in the concert documentary The Last Waltz, in which she sings The Weight, backed by The Band.

Griswold Family Portrait. Vacation '59.
Griswold Family Portrait as it appears in John Hughes’ original short story, Vacation ’59 (which inspired the movie Christmas Vacation). Published in National Lampoon Magazine.

But back to The Griswolds. What is it that makes National Lampoons Christmas Vacation and the Griswold family so endearing, even after 25 years? It must have something to do with the zany cast of characters that reminds us of our own families. We all know a Clark Griswold, someone who’ll stop at nothing to make Christmas perfect for their family. And we all have that one relative who has shades of Cousin Eddie. “Save the neck for me Clark!” We can relate to Aunt Bethany wrapping up her cat just like we can relate to Audrey’s disdain for sharing a bed with her brother. “Do you sleep with your brother? Do you know how sick and twisted that is?”

Christmas Vacation is a perfect modern day Christmas movie because it doesn’t force sentimentality, it earns it. It’s packed with edgy humour, silly sight gags and hilarious one liners. “Grace? She passed away 30 years ago!” It traipses out every holiday trope, but lampoons them better than any movie has before or since.

Griswold Christmas Vacation Family Portrait

In the end, Christmas Vacation is about family. Beyond the mayhem, beyond the 25,000 imported Italian twinkle lights, Clark Griswold knew that Family is what it’s all about.  I’m thankful I got to see Christmas Vacation in theatres with my family 25 years ago and I look forward to watching it with them again this year as we relive all the memories of the crazy holidays we’ve spent together.

Here’s wishing you the hap-hap-happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby danced with Danny f***ing Kaye!


Grumpy Cat Films Christmas Movie in Canada

Internet sensation Grumpy Cat, aka Tardar Sauce will star in her own Lifetime Movie this Christmas, entitled Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever. The film shot in Vancouver Aug. 16 through Sept. 9 and will receive its World Premiere on Lifetime Network, November 29 at 8/7c.

Worst Christmas Ever Grumpy Cat Canada
I don’t always make Christmas movies, but when I do, I film them in Canada.

Andrea Ford is a Grumpy Cat superfan from Vancouver who was excited about the feline filming in her city.

“She is a beautiful cat. She’s also imperfect. I think that’s what’s really nice about her. Everybody has stresses and negativity, and when you see this cat, you can’t help but be happy. Everybody needs to lighten up a little bit. And when you poke fun at the negativity, you’re just going to smile.”

The frowning feline has been immortalized in hundreds of consumer products, from Grumpy Cat puzzles to Grumpy Cat Christmas ornaments.

Grumpy Cat Christmas Mug
Oh Ho the MistleNO! Grumpy Cat Mug, available at RetroFestive.ca

In the movie, the curmudgeonly cat (voiced by Parks and Recreation star Aubrey Plaza) plays a lonely pet shop captive who is never adopted because of her sourpuss face. One day, 12-year-old Chyrstal discovers she can communicate with Grumpy Cat and falls in love with the disgruntled feline. Together, they may or may not discover the true meaning of Christmas.

Pet Shop Reject
Grumpy Cat (aka Tardar Sauce) plays a pet shop inmate nobody wants due to her forlorn face.

The film has been described as a little bit Home Alone and a little bit Die Hard, and also features cameos from other famous Internet memes.

Grumpy Cat is a busy cat. In the past year she has released her first album, visited Disneyland to meet Grumpy the Dwarf, and signed with Friskies to be their ‘spokescat’.

Grumpy Cat meets Grumpy dwarf
Grumpy Cat meets Grumpy dwarf

She also wrote a book, The Grumpy Guide to Life: Observations by Grumpy Cat, which she promoted on a book tour this past summer, making a stop in Toronto.

Grumpy Cat Toronto
The Toronto Star caught Grumpy Cat posing with fans at Indigo Eaton Centre in Toronto.

Grumpy rose to Internet stardom in September 2012 when her photo was posted on social media website Reddit. According to her owner, her grumpy-looking face is likely due to the cat being born with feline dwarfism. Her signature phrase? “I had fun once…it was awful”.

Grumpy Cats Worst Christmas Ever
Grumpy Cat, the action star?!

“In the middle of the holiday rush, Grumpy reluctantly thwarts the kidnapping of an expensive exotic dog she can’t stand and rescues Chyrstal after the mall closes on Christmas Eve. Will Grumpy Cat learn the true meaning of Christmas, or will it be in Grumpy’s words, ‘Worst. Christmas. Ever?’”


Leg Lamp Trivia: 7 Things You Don’t Know

1. The leg lamp did not exist before the movie’s author (and narrator) Jean Shepherd  dreamt it up for his short story My Old Man and the Lascivious Special Award That Heralded the Birth of Pop Art (First published in 1966).

Jean Shepherd, Leg Lamp inventor.
Jean Shepherd invented the leg lamp and narrates A Christmas Story. (He has a cameo in the movie, too!)

2. The author imagined a soda pop company had unwittingly given birth to the “pop art” movement. He came up with the idea of a leg-shaped lamp after seeing a Nehi Cola ad featuring a woman’s stocking-clad leg.

Soda Pop Art
What if “pop art” was invented by a soda pop company? Would it be soda pop art?

3. The leg lamp has Canadian roots! The original was fabricated by Toronto prop-master Henry Piersig and rigged by special effects guru Martin Malivoire.

Peter Mansbridge is a leg man!
Revered Canadian broadcaster Peter Mansbridge is a leg man! (Click to watch CBC story)

4. Several versions of the leg lamp were made for use on-set.  Despite what has been reported elsewhere, at least one did survive the shoot and sat for years in the window of Martin Malivoire’s special effects shop in Toronto. It became dirty and dusty over the years, so he disposed of the forlorn lamp in the early 1990s, just a few years before A Christmas Story leg lamps became “a thing.”

Break a leg lamp!

5. Memorabilia company NECA was the first to license and mass produce A Christmas Story leg lamps as a novelty, starting in 2003. They were inspired by reports from around the country of people making their own leg lamp to display at Christmas time. Now leg lamps come in all shapes and sizes, including this nifty leg lamp light string!

Lots of Leg Lamps
Leg Lamps come in all shapes and sizes.

6. According to A Christmas Story Treasury, the leg lamp in the movie was created by casting  a mould of an actual woman’s leg. “The studio sent over a chubby model,” said effects wiz Martin Malivoire, who helped fabricate the lamp for the movie.

A Christmas Story Treasury
Great book about A Christmas Story

7. Although Jean Shepherd came up with the idea of the leg lamp itself, production designer Reuben Freed created its look. He based the lampshade on the “classic bell shape” of a lamp in his mother’s living room window.

Dying to put a leg lamp in your front window? RetroFestive.ca has lots of leg lamp options, from tall to tiny!