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When is the last time you headed out to the slopes (or the closest man-made hill) with your family for an afternoon of tobogganing?  Tobogganing is one of the oldest forms of transportation and so it stands to reason that along the journey it also became a source of fun, especially among children.  I remember often heading out to the “local hill” as a child with a toboggan and spending hours sliding down and then dragging the (seemingly ever increasingly heavy) toboggan back up the hill again and again.

The history of the toboggan dates back to nearly 3000 BC where pp-tob3-315849211794_95a535a46b_sthe Sumerian pictography shows sleds or toboggans being used to transport materials from one location to another. It appears quite possible that sleds were used in 2000 BC in Egypt to transport stones to build the pyramids.  These sleds were constructed of curved runners of wood or bone and carved wood or stretched leather seats.

The toboggan that we are familiar with today and use as a fun pastime, originated with the early subarctic Aboriginals in Canada and USA.  The sled was constructed of poles tied together by leather straps and its initial use was to haul goods and people across the deep snow.  The sleds or toboggans became to be made of boards of hickory, birch or oak held together with crossbars.  The front of the toboggan was curved up at the front to create less resistance in the snow.  Typically these toboggans were seven to 10 feet long and quite narrow at only one foot wide.  They were most often pulled by a person wearing a harness or, if you were privileged enough, a team of sled of dogs.

It is thought that the popularity of toboggans as a sport and leisurely pastime originated in Mont Royal, Montreal, Canada in the 1880s where the Montreal Tobogganing Club was founded and began sponsoring tobogganing competitions. From there the sport spread across North America and soon meets and competitions were being held on snow packed hills across North America.  From these origins the Olympic sports of bobsledding, luging and skeleton grew.  As the 1930s drew to a close, the popularity of tobogganing waned in favour of the more enticing downhill skiing which was gaining traction across the North America.


In time the traditional toboggan constructed of birch or oak was modified to include metals and plastics.  Modern inventions such as Crazy Carpets, Spinning Discs and GTs have nearly replaced the heavy and cumbersome toboggan on sledding hills.  There is still nothing quite like sliding down a hill with two, three, four or even five people sitting on a toboggan in wild abandon!

Being a country with little snow, I am pretty confident that Mary and Joseph would not have thought to use a toboggan for their journey to Bethlehem and likely opted for the more conventional donkey, if anything, as transportation.  Perhaps their journey from one location to another was foretelling of the travelling done today when families join together to celebrate the season.

Whether you are traveling this season or staying close to home take a moment to reflect upon the One who came “to give light to those who sit in darkness . . to guide their feet to the way of peace.” (Lk 1.79)




History of Toboggans, CDNIcons (www.canadianicons.ca/toboggan.php?page=1) (2015 12 19)(Web)
“tobogganing”. Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online.
Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2015. Web. 19 Dec. 2015
History of Tobagganing.  Gaser (gasserrodel.at/en/history-of-tobogganing/) 2015 12 19 )(Web)
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/48358932@N00/6407090215″>5 Boys on a 1930’s Toboggan</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/8593553@N05/4231968088″>IMG_1175</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/7511213@N02/15849211794″>Faulhorn Toboggan Run</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/66232109@N00/396946482″>IMG_1988</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;