Friday, December 28, 2012


Well dear readers, it seems we are approaching the end of the year, bringing with it to our homes the wonderful days of the Christmas Festival.  I expect many of you have decorated your houses with swags of greenery, red bows and gold stars, all very traditional.

 The stores, of course, barely let Halloween pass, and they were stocking the shelves, with an amazing variety of goodies, both edible and decorative.

I love Christmas.  As a child of the 40's and 50's, which was a time of shortages, rationing and 'make do and mend', my mum and dad probably spent several weeks acquiring or making goodies for our stockings, ( actually dad's woollen sock,), or to put in the pillowcases as our main presents. Our socks were at the end of the bed, and our pillowcases for when we took up positions at the end of mum and dad's big bed.
Dad's woolly socks had a second good use, that of being smeared with Vick, and wrapped around our throats for calming a cough! But as a Christmas Stocking, the sock was filled with a clementine in the toe, small toys, a little book and maybe chocolate money.
After that opening, dad had arrive with morning tea, and we dashed into their bedroom, into their bed, and opened up our pillowcases! There was always an annual, of our favourite characters, mine was probably The Famous Five! A game or jigsaw, clothes, something smelly, more sweeties; a satisfying pile of 'stuff!'

One year a dolls house was passed on to me, my sister had outgrown its fascination.  It might have been made by Italian prisoners of war, from camps near where we lived  during the war.  Inside the rooms, the wooden walls had print on them; it was made from packing cases, and very well too.

After the war, two children in tow, mum and dad went to live with grandpa and grandma, in their fairly large house on the northern outskirts of London. Mum and grandma shared the preparation of the festive feast.  I still cut my brussels sprouts as my mum did; I don’t chase the flaming, escapee from the oven - turkey, flapping at it with a tea towel though, as grandma did one year!

So how did the first settlers in Canada celebrate? They will have brought their own customs with them, from Europe maybe, or the Mormons and Amish will have added to the mix. Supplies would have been ordered months before the  Christmas period, to arrive before the snow blocked roads, and made delivery difficult.

The log cabins were decorated with swags of greenery, red berries and sumac buds. The Christmas Tree didn’t arrive in Canada, until Queen Victoria had married her dearest  Albert, a German prince, who introduced us to the Christmas Tree. The tree as decoration came up from America, with the Pennsylvania Dutch, who moved north in the mid 1800's. Decorated with swags of dried cranberries, and - popcorn! introduced to the settlers by the Native Indians!  They also showed us how to make syrup from the Maple trees, but more of that  in February time!

Gifts were made. Mama, when she had any spare moments from the neverending tasks of daily life, would have knitted - mittens, scarves, hoods, socks. Papa could whittle in the last hours of the day, before the fire, to make bows and arrows, a sledge (see modern example below), tiny toys. Grandma probably contributed lengths of cloth, woven as she sat, spinning, before the massive fireplace.

A modern toboggan for Christmas, but still a grandpa's labour of love
The women and girls would have endless daily tasks, but they always managed to quilt. An ancient craft actually, Crusaders wore a layered. Quilted 'tabard' under their armour - extra layers for extra protection. In summer months, the women  gathered together to sew, called a 'quilting bee'  but in the winter season, family members gathered around the fire to quilt together.


Quilts were essential for warmth, on the beds and hung on the walls over the window openings, no glass yet, and simply to relieve the 'cabin fever'.  A very old, popular pattern is 'Log Cabin'.  Made of strips, the central block, an inch square, is always red, to represent the heart, or the hearth, of the home.

My painting of a log cabin quilt design
 Coming back to modern times, is it so very different?  Greenery, celebratory feasts, visits to church.  Our churches here have messages on outside signboards ' Jesus is the Reason for the Season'

If it is a normal Canadian winter, we shall have snow, lots of snow.

A daily battle, we dress in layers, carry emergency packs in our vehicles in case we are trapped by snow, plan visits to friends and grocery stores according to the weather reports. Strangely, last winter, it was the season of no snow. This winter was shaping up the same way but we are now promised a huge dump!,

Now, the County is bedded down for the winter. 

The vine stock in the ground is heaped over with soil, protecting the roots . Hay bales are left along the rows, ready to light and leave to smoulder, providing subtle warmth if the temperature dips harmfully low.  But some grapes are left on the vine, to deliberately freeze, eventually harvested to become Ice Wine, a thick, syrupy concoction.

 Fields are ploughed, some already sown with winter wheat. Hopefully snow will cover the tender seedlings, until melting time in spring.  Gardens are cleared, perennials cut down, climbing roses buried. It is always a gamble what will reappear next spring. If not the cold, critters make a feast of bulbs and rhizomes. Chipmunks are very partial to red tulips!

Snow tyres fitted, lots of chocolate in the emergency pack, flashlight and blanket, more chocolate, candles and matches, kitty litter to throw under the slipping grip of the tyres on ice.

Our homes are decorated - garlands and bows, nativity figures on the lawn, The Grinch hiding in the shrubbery!  So we await the jingle bells in the sky on Christmas Eve.  And remember the reason for the season.  Merry Christmas!!

Cutting your own tree is a family event -

Someof our beautiful local (BLOOMFIELD) Victorian houses in the snow.

Here's the cat who didn't get the Christmas bird he wanted!

Ang here's the perfect winter holiday present - pretty and practical!




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