Wednesday, December 13, 2006

What Christmas Means to Me - circa 1946 - Part Two

Here is the last half of Mom's description of Christmas celebrations in their small Ontario town.

Christmas Eve, the stepping stone to the great day, has its usual program. At supper the Christmas beef is cut into for the first time. The twenty-one days of seasoning and turning in the crock have left it a deep red, and as Dad’s knife penetrates its spicy surface the fragrance of spices fills the room. Immediately after supper, extra leaves are inserted in the table to support the great dinner and to make room for the fifteen people who will be present the next day.

At nine, all the last minute jobs are completed and the family is sitting around the tree reading. In Dad’s hand is “The Other Wiseman” by Van Dyke. Mother is reading “Why the Chimes Rang”, and Bill is reviewing the immortal “Christmas Carol”. I am saying from memory the well known lines,

“Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house
Not a creature was stirring not even a mouse…”

The silence is broken only by the occasional visits of carolers until Christmas Eve visitors arrive to view our tree and decorations. Everyone who enters must have a piece of Christmas cake for good luck, some shortbread and then some coffee. From ten to midnight there is a continual flow of visitors in and out of the house. Everyone is in bed by twelve in order to be asleep when Santa comes.

At last, the long awaited day is here. Sharp at eight, everyone goes downstairs to look on while my brother and I open our stockings. Although we are both past the infant stage, Santa Claus has never ceased to exist. The only change is that we now know him as the spirit of Christmas, not as one particular person who sits in Eaton’s toy land.

After spending considerable time looking at our things, the family scurries around to their particular tasks. Mother and Grandmother rush to the kitchen to put the finishing touches on the enormous turkey. Bill and I tidy up and make the beds, and Dad and Uncle Perc try as much as possible to keep out of the general confusion. By ten we are all seated at the radio listening to the King give his Christmas message to his people all over the world. As the final notes of “God Save the King” are resounding through the room, a general rush is made to the tree where Bill takes up his usual occupation of giving out the gifts. There are exclamations of surprise as someone receives a beautiful or unexpected gift and the floor is soon covered with papers of all shapes and sizes. The gifts are then neatly arranged on the beds upstairs in preparation for the day’s visitors. New ski jackets are donned and Uncle Perc and I take the dog for a walk to try out a new collar or leash.

Returning home, we are greeted by the fragrance of roasting turkey and plum pudding and we hasten upstairs to change into our best clothes for dinner. About four o’clock, the Knowles arrive and dinner is usually started after odd skirmishes under the mistletoe. After dinner we drag our stuffed guests upstairs to see the gifts, but the quietness is usually broken by the teenagers who start a wild game of touch tag or hide and seek, threatening the lives of innocent on-lookers. By and by, people wander downstairs where they break off into groups to play crokinole, Chinese checkers, or to listen to new records.
Finally, the tired but happy visitors return to their homes and we go to bed. Upstairs, we are all saying “Good night” and remarking “this has been the best Christmas yet”.

To me, Christmas is a season when it is impossible to be angry at anyone, a time when everyone is joining with the angels saying, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, goodwill toward men.”

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

2 comments:

  1. I really enjoyed reading this post - your mom writes wonderfully!

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  2. Yes she does. I would love for her to write more of her life experiences for us.

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