Christmas Long Ago – Written by Maureen Alexander with thanks to Adelaide Ellis
Nowadays people like to go to Disneyland or Hawaii for Christmas but in the old days traveling any distance in winter was difficult, so Grandma or an aunt would usually invite all the family for a big turkey or goose dinner. It would be a lively bunch numbering over a dozen, with aunts, uncles, and cousins of all ages.
A large fir tree stood in the ‘parlor’ all glittering with tinsel, paper chains and in the early days wax candles, ready to be lit. (Paper and fire, what a combination, what could possibly go wrong!) A giant ‘yule log’ burned in the fireplace often cut and saved for just this occasion.
If it snowed some people came by sleigh with jingling bells. By 6:00 dinner was served with cauliflower being considered a real treat. When dinner was finished, all had to be silent to listen to the radio as Bing Crosby sang ‘Silent Night’ and then it was time to gather around the tree.
Just then Uncle Jim or Dad would get a phone call and have to leave for a few minutes. “Hurry back,” the children would shriek, “or you’ll miss Santa!” But suddenly the sound of sleigh bells would be heard, a rap at the door and Santa would quietly enter. The round-eyed children watched as he handed out parcels, shook hands and waved “Goodbye”.
Uncle soon reappeared, regretting he’d missed the thrilling visit. The gifts were opened and admired. The children felt very lucky if they received two or three presents each. Candy, tea and fruit cake were served and enjoyed even after the sumptuous meal.
Finally, coats and mittens were sorted out and sleepy children dressed, often without waking up. As silence settled over the house everyone was already looking forward to the next Christmas.
Best Wishes from the Mill Bay / Malahat Historical Society