Day 9: Christmas Eve traditions

Today, well, earlier today, when today still meant Friday, my cousin M took me to Vernon to have my photo taken and to do some errands. On the way there and back I mostly knitted on one side of my sister’s scarf, working up from the darker pocket. I chose to use moss stitch for a nicer finish to both front and back. This is K2, P2 for 2 rows, then P2, K2 for 2 rows. It went fairly smoothly; until I noticed a section where I had .that I had just done six rows without changing the beginning. Oh, well, it has now become a ‘design element’ in the best tradition of knitters everywhere. There is no way I am frogging anymore unless I really make a mess of it!

And while I was knitting, I was thinking about a few things, including some of my own family’s traditions, especially for Christmas Eve.

In 1975 I learned of an old house that was being torn down soon and that people were welcome to salvage whatever they could. I was lucky enough to gIt was oveet a complete built-in dining room buffet, complete with drawers, glass doors, and more. Friends helped me take it apart. But the big score was an old Chesterfield, likely from the 1920s or 1930s. It was over  six feet between the arms and on Christmas Eve it was perfect for all of us to sit on; sometimes up to four adults and four children.

I have a pretty old-fashioned approach to some things: food and holidays are two of them. So on Christmas Eve I tried to make something special for dinner; after that, any last-minute preparations for the big day were taken care of; then we sat on the big couch with hot chocolate and some of the Christmas baking and admired our tree, full of hand-made ornaments. No tv and only rarely did we have batteries for the little transistor radio. When we did, Christmas music was lovely in the background. But the best part was when it began to get late. We would all hang our woolen work sock stockings near the fireplace (in Victoria) or the old Franklin stove (in the old log house) and then we would read the original Christmas story from the Bible, followed by The Night Before Christmas poem. Last of all, the boys put out a plate of Christmas baking and a glass of milk for Santa. One year they left carrots for the reindeer, too. In the morning, there would be only crumbs on the plate and a milky glass next to it.

Finally the boys were tucked up in their beds and our fun began! Into each stocking went a Christmas orange, a handful of nuts in the shell (therefore stretching out the fun of eating them), another handful of hard candy and licorice (one of my favourites) Some years there was chocolate, too. But the part I liked best was taking the small gifts out from their hiding place and wrapping each individually. I am a savouring sort of person myself, so I like to extend enjoyment for others, too. In the basement floor of two of our department stores was a section much like the dime stores of old and the dollar stores of today. I would have bought several small items there, things like Silly Putty and crayons, balsa wood airplane kits, perhaps a small top or other toy. I usually bought a magazine like Owl for each of them, too, rolling the book and then wrapping it. Small rubber balls were always a favourite, too. One year there were wooden recorders; another year it was friction cars; do you remember them? You would roll them back and forth to wind them up, then let them sail across the linoleum, often making a siren noise as they went. Very popular with small boys!

Often last-minute wrapping followed, especially of the gifts that were from Santa. I remember the first Christmas with my husband; he bought a ride-on horse with springs suspending it from the frame for the youngest, who was three at the time.  That was hard to hide! We kept it in the studio and one day the wee boy got in and we heard him bouncing away on the horse. He was soon removed and the door kept locked until Christmas Eve.

The last of Christmas Eve we spent quietly on that old Chesterfield, talking and making plans for the future. My husband would get out his guitar and sing, I grew up with home-made music and it was so nice to have it in our own home. This is when I liked to have the first of the eggnog with a little rum or brandy to spike it and the shortbread I made with oat flour. So good!

Simple traditions, really, but I loved them. I hope one day to be able to repeat some with my grandchildren.

Did you have a tradition that you loved on Christmas Eve? Was it from the family you grew up in or did you make your own?

Well, it’s late and I’m ready for bed, so no pictures today, either, sorry. But there must be music:

My Favourite Time of Year by The Florin Street Band This is a group new to me. I like their voices very much.

I wish you some time for reflection and remembrance today. Love to you all. ~ Linne

Day 6: Little Christmas

Back when my youngest son was about three and a half, we had a rather epic Christmas and not in a good way. His brother, then eight and a half, had been so excited at the thought of Christmas and Santa coming that the wee one got all excited, too. That Christmas morning they emptied their stockings and played with the toys they found there, eating their orange and nuts and candy all the while. We had breakfast and then I got the turkey stuffed and into the oven, after which we opened our gifts. There wasn’t a huge pile that year, so it was all over rather quickly. The poor baby, already tired from staying up late, too excited to sleep, suddenly had a meltdown. He cried off and on for the rest of the day, it seemed. It was our first Christmas with my husband, the boys’ stepfather and he was concerned, as was I. We sat up late after the boys had finally gone to sleep and thought about what might have caused the reaction and what we could do to make things better the next year.

I had read about Little Christmas, which is celebrated by many Christians as the anniversary of the coming of the Magi, with their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. At the time I wasn’t aware that many Mennonites and Lutherans (my family heritage by way of my parents, you may recall) mark that day, some with church-going, all with a special time with family and friends.

Christmas gifts of the Magi 01

Gold, Frankincense & Myrrh

We decided to make that a part of our own family tradition and it worked out very well. In fact, my older son and his wife and six children still celebrate Little Christmas yearly. Not sure if the younger son and his family do or not.

What we did was to hold back one gift for each of us, plus all the gifts for family and friends who lived close enough to join us. The boys’ Dad, his wife and their two children always came, and my sister J when she was still in training to be an RN and several other friends as well. Sometimes we invited friends who had no family or not much budget for holidays. We didn’t have much, but always made sure there was a gift under the tree for everyone we expected and sometimes a couple of extra gifts for the unexpected, too.Once I began making Christmas cakes from my own recipe, the gift was often a small cake, as I baked a variety of sizes. More on the cakes another day . . .

A note on those cakes, though: Mine were dark like the one at the bottom above and as full of fruits and nuts as the two on the right, even a little bit fuller. I added the top left photo because I saw it and immediately thought what fun it would be to make a few of these and put the names of my =Virtual Village friends on each little house front. One thing . . . I never iced my cakes or added marzipan. They were plenty rich all on their own . . .

Back to Little Christmas . . .

Each year I would make a complete traditional Christmas turkey dinner again (we loved leftovers and with two growing boys those never lasted long. Also it let us send home small care packages with those of our friends who didn’t make their own dinners, and so had no leftovers to enjoy.

People came in the early afternoon and we had oranges, nuts, candies, and all the Christmas baking I could manage and I somehow managed a lot.That will be another post, too. There was always eggnog (my own recipe, of course) and sometimes mulled wine (glogg in Norway, I know now and sorry, I don’t know how to insert the special letter o with the line through it)

We opened gifts one at a time, passing each from hand to hand to be admired. When it had returned to the recipient, one of the smaller children fetched the next package and my husband read out the To and From information and it  was then duly delivered to the next person. The boys’ other parents and their children always brought gifts and so did others who came, so this took a while.

Then the women (it was the olden days, ok? and I love this tradition in any case) would get the last of the dinner preparations underway and the men usually took all the excited kids for a long walk. In Beacon Hill park when we lived in James Bay, Victoria and down our country road once we had moved to the rented house in the country further north of the city. The Caleb Pike House was built in 1883 by hand.

Caleb Pike house 01

This is how the house looked a few years ago; it is now a community heritage site. It looked a bit different in our time there. The front door was red, for one thing and there were trees and huge lilacs around it. I was married in this house and I have many good memories of our years on this property.

After dinner we sat around visiting and sometimes my husband would play his guitar. Later, once dinner had settled a bit, there would be more cookies and cake and, of course, more eggnog.

The advantage, we found, to celebrating Little Christmas was that by the time it had come and gone, the boys had had nearly three weeks of Christmas activities and excitement and were ready to move on. Never another meltdown! And it gave us a special tradition with the other parents, as they were very busy on Christmas Day, visiting each of their own parents separately (all were divorced), not to mention other relatives. And on Christmas night, the fun was not over; there was much to look forward to still. Also for gifts I was making, there was time to finish the ones that needed more work.

I will resume this Christmas tradition once I am settled again, even if only for friends.  I forgot to mention that we always celebrated Little Christmas on the 6th of January, which is why I chose today to write about it. It’s only a month away!

Music for today:

Some Jazz Christmas instrumentals

Some Classical Instrumentals

and The Pogues’ classic from their days with Kirsty MacColl:

Fairytale of New York for Jon of WritingHouse  🙂 (by the way, did you know that Shane McGowan turns 60 this Christmas Day?) Terry Woods was a favourite of mine long before he joined The Pogues (that’s him playing the cithern, I think it is)

IMG_5616Are you ready for Christmas yet? I’m not, but today I did make progress on the second end for my sister’s pocket scarf (that’s it on the left):

Oh, look! Guess what I bought today? At the dollar store and it’s for an upcoming project. More on that once we’re done with the holiday postings. IMG_5617 And I forgot to share with you what I baked yesterday: Cinnamon Rolls with my own special tweaking, of course. I used half whole wheat flour, half white, then added a cup of wheat germ. Turned out we were out of raisins except for a measly 20 or so, so I scattered them evenly along the inner edge of the dough to be ‘surprises’ for the lucky ones who bit into them. Nothing like planning ahead, is there? Here’s a before baking and after icing (I made runny lemon icing this time)  pair of pictures:

Wish I could share the with you; they are scrumptious! It helps to let the dough rise twice before turning it out to form the rolls, I find, at least with whole wheat flour in.

IMG_5613Our lovely Mount Ida as seen around noon today:

I hope you all had a most productive day today, assuming that’s what you would like, of course. I’ll see you tomorrow. If you weren’t around yesterday, do pop back to the Day 5 post and enter the giveaway!

Much love to each of you  ~ Linne

 

Day 4: A new twist on a scarf

Well, this one won’t be finished on the 4th of December, but at least I’m starting it on that day. It’s five minutes to midnight already. I spent two hours or more on the phone with my friend in Tacoma, had supper, then another hour and more on the phone with my Auntie. It’s been a bit busy ’round here today, well, in a way.

Anyway,, here I am and I have something cool (I think) to share with you.

First, though, you may remember these:

They are the tuques I have been knitting for my RN sister J’s two wee grandsons. They are one and nearly four years old. J bought me yarn last summer when we were still in Edmonton so that I could make a tuque for the older boy (the little one had not yet been born). Anyway, I started it, then we both moved back to bC and my things went into the storage where they have languished since. I felt badly about the tuque, though, so when I saw this yarn on sale, I bought two skeins, one in a light grey-blue and one in a medium grey-blue. The pattern is a traditional NOrwegian one; the original was of a boy and girl holding hands and I adapted it to be two boys; then I ended up making a dozen boys all around the tuque.

IMG_5311This is what the pattern looks like.  I like the simplicity of it. And then I decided to make one tuque dark with a light pattern and on the other to reverse the colours.That way, I would end up with similar amounts of leftover yarn. You see, I already had an idea . . .

I decided to make a sort-of-matching scarf for my sister to wear when she takes the boys on outings. She doesn’t know about this blog so I am safe in sharing this here. lol

But first I have to finish telling you about the tuque adventures, if you can call them that.

ON the left is the crown of the smaller tuque and on the right the larger one. You an see how ‘ruffled’ the lighter one is. I wasn’t really happy with that, and we both thought it would look too ‘girly’ for the parents. So I frogged it back to this: IMG_5595

 

 

 

Not my favourite thing, frogging . . .  But I did manage to make the darker tuque’s crown look much better so I have hope that I can do a better job on the lighter one, too. Anyway, I then began using the leftover yarn to make this:

On the left is the back, on the right is the front and the top centre picture shows how I finished the back. The other photo shows the top as you look down on it. Any idea what that is? No? Well, I’ll tell you . . .

This is going to be a ‘pocket scarf for my sister. They are quite easy to do.

I cast on 44 stitches, knitted a few rows of garter stitch and then joined them into a circle. This is an easy way, I’ve found, to begin a piece that will be knitted in the round. Otherwise there is a strong chance of the initial stitches becoming twisted on the wire of the circular needle. Later, I will stitch up the small gap in the first rows. I then knitted the pattern in the round. You can see that I made the back different. This was just me ‘winging it’; you will be familiar with my happy-go-lucky approach by now, I think. Of course I didn’t write down what I did (too busy knitting!) so I’ll have a bit of work to make the back of the other end match. And that’s what’s neat about this scarf, I think. This half has a dark background with a light pattern to match the older boy;s tuque. The other side will have a light background with a dark pattern to match the younger boy’s tuque. You may be able to see that I knitted the top part of the back in ribbing and then cast off the same way. I hope that will keep the opening from gaping. I will knit the other pocket, then resume knitting a simple flat piece on both pockets to form the scarf body. When I am nearly out of yarn I will graft the pieces together and that will determine the length of the scarf. The pockets can be used to hold a wee one’s mitts, extra tissues, or whatever she likes. I plan to put a pack of tissues in one pocket and  a $5 bill in the other so she can take the older boy out for hot chocolate or something else. Maybe to buy a small book or toy.

Did you notice the patterns on the pockets? I put a small boy on each side, holding the hand of his ‘Dancing Granny’. That pattern I got from a library book on Norwegian style knitting. These boys make my  sister so happy that I feel this symbolizes the relationship very well. (the coloured yarn is my stitch marker for the centre of the pattern) IMG_5602.

I do hope she likes it, but one never knows. She will definitely appreciate the intention, anyway.

I am keeping this post short. Don’t faint!

But I do have to leave you with a couple of pieces of music:

First, in Gaelic, “In The Bleak Mid-Winter” Such a lovely voice and arrangement!

And here is Enya, singing “The Spirit of Christmas Past” . . . and . . .

Sissel singing “I am Singing a Christmas Song” with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. A wonderful Norwegian soprano with a beautiful voice.

I became rather sidetracked by some of the music I found and now it’s nearly 3 am. So I’m off to my bed now, friends. Have a lovely day, wherever you are and do take at least a few minutes to relax and enjoy the coming of the Christmas season.  ~ Linne

 

 

 

Day 2: Christmas Gifts

I do have to apologize for not having photos to include in most of these posts. My printed pictures are somewhere in the storage units and I have nothing of my own traditions on the laptop or iphone.  I do have some family photos and have found a few historic ones as well and that will have to do for now..

Old Traditions:

When I was young, we usually received one gift from our parents and one from Santa Claus. They were always wrapped in brightly coloured Christmas paper, with stick-on bows and sometimes ribbon, too. Our names and the name of the giver would be on a tag; Mum bought them in large packages. Two each doesn’t sound like much, but with nine children, there was a good-sized pile, even in the years when there were no parcels from Uncles and Aunts or from Mum’s Dad and his wife and second family of four boys. But some years there were those extra parcels and how exciting that was!

 

Some of the most memorable gifts were a pair of skis for my two oldest brothers; That was when we lived in Chase, in the old house that had been a hospital once (see Day 1 for the photo). that house was at the top of a hill that went down toward the Shuswap Lake and the road that passed by the front of oour house was perfect for ‘skiing’ down. Pretty much what happened was that we strapped the skis on over our winter boots, stood up and slid as far down the hill as possible without falling down. The ski poles helped, of course. Skiing was a family tradition for Mum, although I didn’t know, or else just didn’t appreciate, that at the time. But now I know that her Dad skied to school every day and pretty much everywhere he went in the long Norwegian winters. My Auntie told me recently that he brought his skis with him to the States when he emigrated at nineteen and still had them when she was growing up in south-western Saskatchewan on a wheat farm near the small town of Tompkins. All the kids learned to ski on those skis and they are now in a museum in another town near there. I have the name written down, but can’t find it at the moment.

Above is a picture of a Norwegian woman in a bunad (traditional clothing) on skis; to the right are two pictures of King Haakon and Queen Maud; the top taken in 1906, the bottom one, which includes Prince Olav,  in 1907. My grandfather would have been 16 and 17 when these were taken. I couldn’t find any photos of a young man on skis from that time.

IMG_4428

Above are my Mum’s parents; the picture was taken either for their engagement or wedding, most likely in 1911 or 1912. He would have been 21 or 22; she was 20 or 21. I love the hand-stitched clothes my Grandmother wore in those days. And my mother looked just like her; it’s one of my favourite photos.

Other gifts I remember: that Christmas in Chase I opened my gift from Santa and watched as the others opened their gifts. But there was nothing for me from my parents. In vain I looked under the tree, on the tree branches, behind the tree. Nothing. I feared that I had been forgotten (certainly possible when there are so many children, I thought). I didn’t want to call attention to the fact in case my parents really had forgotten me, as I knew it would upset them. Imagine my relief when I was told to go into the dining room and look on the shelf of thwe pass-through (the window through the built-in buffet where food was passed to the dining room). And there I found a wee terrapin in a glass bowl. How happy I was! We had taken a trip to the coast to see relatives the summer before and I had been quite enamoured of a terrapin I saw in a store window. Somehow my Mum and Dad had managed to buy it, smuggle it home in the trunk of the car and then care for it for the months until Christmas. He survived for several years and I enjoyed feeding him every day.

Another gift I remember, but with some shame, was a kit to make my own perfmes. There was an instruction book and several small vials of scent. I was to mix the various ingredients as instructed; one drop of A, three drops of B and so on. But this is where I first encountered the perils of ‘winging it’. I mixed several things together by ‘instinct’ and the result was awful. Not something I could undo, either. This gift was from my Mum’s next older sister, my cousin M;s mother. She loved me as much as Mum did and I have always felt badly that I didn’t properly appreciate the gift she had chosen with such care.

 

New Traditions:

The biggest change I made during my sons’ growing up years was the way I wrapped presents. Instead of buying Christmas wrap, I chose to use brown paper, which at that time I could buy in a roll. I would tie the present with red, white or green yarn, sometimes with two colours. Then I would tuck a small bunch of greenery and berries into the bow. Usually I used bits of the bottom branches of the tree itself;

 

IMG_4634

Auntie A., cleaning the catch.

New Traditions:

The biggest change I made during my sons’ growing up years was the way I wrapped presents. Instead of buying Christmas wrap, I chose to use brown paper, which at that time I could buy in a roll. I would tie the present with red, white or green yarn, sometimes with two colours. Then I would tuck a small bunch of greenery and berries into the bow. Usually I used bits of the bottom branches of the tree itself; we always cut a very large tree, then cut off the bottom foot or so, so that I could use the trimmings to decorate the mantel of the fireplace, tops of bookshelves, sometimes even making a wreath for the front door. I would add a sprig of holly when I could get it, and when we lived in the big log house north of Victoria, we had two large holly trees by the front gate that gave us not only leaves, but lovely berries, too.

Some years I bought white tissue paper for the wrapping, but still tied with yarn and added the greenery and berries. That sort of simple wrapping, done at so little cost, gave me a deep joy. And the piles of gifts under the tree looked so lovely. I wrapped all the gifts we were giving in the  same way and those stayed under the tree until the recipients had come to visit or we had paid them a visit.

I never was a fan of plastic toys or ‘collectibles” with a tiny budget, I wanted to make every penny count. Toys that would be played with for a few hours and then discarded just didn’t fit the bill.

My choice for my sons and other children has always been books and something creative. Some years it was Tinker Toy and Meccano or Lincoln Logs; other years a kit to make something. Star Wars spaceships and other models. were popular. A silk screening kit one year, too. Books were given every year and I still have all of them. Once I start going through the things in my storage I may pass them on to my sons. Or I may keep them for the grandchildren to read when they visit. We’ll see. Some of the books I remember are the Dr. Seuss classics and Hope For the Flowers, Also Pat the Bunny and Goodnight Moon. I had read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy to the boys several times before they wee old enough to read for themselves. The first time I read those, the eldest boy was 4 and a half and the youngest yet to be born. I have several sets of those, so they will each receive copies one day.

AS to gifts I received, the two that stand out the most both came from my husband. ONe year it was a portable sewing machine that he traded for. It had belonged to my friend who now lives in Tacoma and it still works perfectly, although it must be going on 40 years old or more. The other was a silver flute in a case. I had mentioned casually one spring that I’d always wanted to play the flute and so he saved enough to buy me one and arranged with my RN sister to give me a set of lessons to get me started. I still have it (in the storage of course) and even though I never  progressed very far, I still enjoy playing it when possible. Anther thing on my long list of “things I will do once I am settled”  🙂

One of the funnier gifts I received from my older son was a whiteboard with a marker, meant to hang in the kitchen and hold notes about groceries to buy and the like. We always tried to guess what was in our parcels, so he took a very large bos, managed to stick pieces of string to the inside corners so that the whiteboard hung suspended in the centre, then wrapped the entire box beautifully. It was so light I simply could not guess the contents.

The best gifts I think I ever gave anyone? Well, I bought a silver serving spoon with a gold-plated bowl for my Mother one Christmas while I was working at the little antique store. I never dared tell her how much I paid for it, though.I bought it because she had the lovely china bowl that her mother had called her ‘berry bowl’ In it the spring strawberries would be  put, half of them mashed well with sugar to produce a syrup and then the rest added whole. They were often served over a slice of sponge cake with whipped cream from their own cows on top. But Mum never had a special spoon for that  bowl and I wanted her to have one. She gave the spoon back to me a couple of years ago, when we were no longer making desserts like that. (She gave all of us back the things we had given her over the years and we all treasure those items). My RN sister J has the bowl now and I plan to give her the spoon once it surfaces.The bowl had floral decals around the sides and te edges were trimmed with real gold. The spoon looks perfect with it.

The other gift I gave was something I made myself. It was a Cowichan style sweater for my husband. The best part was that I designed it myself, using symbols that had meaning for him. I wish I had a photo to show you. Mum gave me one that she had taken, but I don’t have it here with me. I worked hard on that, knitting during the day when he was at work and hiding it before he arrived home. Still he was able to guess that he was getting a sweater. My joy was in the fact that he had no idea that it would be designed especially for him. He still wears it, too. He and his wife live on a concrete sailboat and are spending the winter toward the north end of Vancouver Island, so I’m sure the sweater is put to good use.

Our family never had a lot of money, but we made up for it with thoughtfulness and creativity. If you have stories like that to tell, please feel free to do so in the comments. If you are posting about them yourself, do leave a link in the comments for others to see.

What was the best gift you ever received?

What was the best gift you ever gave?

I am writing this in the evening of the first of December. (Well, I see now that it’s actually past one am on the second). May you find peace, joy and inspiration today, wherever you are and no matter what your circumstances.

By the way, I didn’t add a music link yesterday, although I’d meant to. So I shall add two for today.

I watch this video whenever I’m feeling low or discouraged. Do let me know if you like it!  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f4CG18FPCj0

The next is a song written and sung by Bruce Guthro, who hails from cape Breton Island but now lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He has been the lead singer for Runrig since 1998 and still pursues his solo career as a singer/songwriter at home in Canada.

And I found this again; a Christmas song by another great Canadian group, the Barra MacNeils. They are also from Cape Breton Island. So here’s a bonus song to get you in the spirit . . .

Day 1: Happy December, everyone!

Today is the first day of December and so begins the wonderful lead-up to Christmas. Inspired by my friend Selma of Eclectic Home & Life in the UK, I am going to try and post every day until the 24th. As life sometimes serves up a few curve-balls, though, I am not making a solemn promise, except to try this. I have no pictures yet of Christmases when I was still at home with my parents and siblings, so this post is photo-light.

Traditions

I know that there is a lot of commercial push to get rid of our traditions and do new things all the time, but I choose to honour the past and also to add some new twists from time to time. After all, every tradition was new at one time, I expect.

Today I am going to write about some of the traditions that I grew up with and some of the changes that came along.

The tree:

We always had a real tree. My Dad worked in the bush as a logger for most of my early years and he would cut a tree and bring it home shortly before Christmas. Once the tree was securely fastened into the tree stand, the strings of coloured lights were placed. This was after we began renting houses with electricity, so I was likely about ten or eleven years old. The bulbs were the large ones some of you will e familiar with. I don’t recall ever seeing the tiny twinkling faery lights on our home trees. But my last Christmas at home for many years was the year I left for university when I was only nineteen.

My parents bought ornaments in their first years together and those went on the tree every year: fragile birds with spun glass tails that perched upon a spring with a clothespin-like clip to hold it to the branch, lovely balls and teardrop shapes with conical bits that thrust inward, formed of crinkles that caught the light. some plain glass balls of bright colours, some globes, some bells; of these, some had stripes around their middles. There were garlands of tinsel draped around the tree, criss-crossing back and forth. The last thing to go on were the silver icicles, We children, at least the older ones, were allowed to help with the decorating once we were old enough to be careful. When we helped drape the icicles on the tinsel strands, we had very different styles. I always (and still) liked to place them one by one, savouring the moment and making it last as long as possible. I’m like that in nearly everything. Others liked to sort of toss the icicles, sometimes in bunches. and get the job done.

Every year there was at least one or toddlers and nearly always a cat ad a dog, too. AS you likely know, this is perilous for Christmas trees. We had a couple of trees fall over after someone tried to climb them or simply grabbed at the branches for balance.But Dad was resourceful. One year the tree was stood firmly in the middle of the playpen and all the breakable ornaments hung out of reach. After that, dad alway used fishing line to tie the top of the tree to a hook in each wall (the tree stood in a corner of the living room from then on). The tree sometimes was pulled a bit, but it never fell down again.

The Stockings:

As far as I can remember, we always hung stockings on Christmas Eve. Not the fancy stitched or quilted or knitted ones seen today. We used our Dad’s grey woolen work socks clipped to a string across the fireplace with some of Mum’s wooden clothespins. Our names were printed on the pins so that we would get the correct stocking in the morning.

The year I was eleven we had moved to Chase and lived in a house that had been the original hospital. It was three stories tall and had a basement that none of us ever saw. I suppose the stairs were a bit unsafe.

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How it looked in Sept of 2016; not much as I remember it, of course.

That Christmas my two oldest brothers woke up in the middle of the night, went down and collected their filled stockings and then emptied them on the ends of their iron frame beds. I never heard them, but our parents did. I gather that they had to put the contents back into the stockings and were told, no doubt in very stern tones, to wait until our parents were up in the morning before venturing downstairs again.

A few years later, in out last house in Salmon Arm, one child decided to maximize their haul. They asked, and were given permission, to hang two stockings. In the morning, we all were eager to see how the ploy had worked. How exciting to see that both stockings bulged with packages! Disappointment followed swiftly: one held the traditional items; the other had brown-paper wrapped bits of coal, rusty nails and the like. It was full, though!

The next year the same child tried a different tactic. Figuring that two stockings might have been seen by Santa as rather greedy, they asked to hang a different stocking. Again permission was granted (to much private amusement for our parents, I’m sure) and one of Mum’s nylon stockings was borrowed. Again, in the morning, we were filled with anticipation. And, again, the stocking was full to the top! In the bottom were the traditional items and above them was a very long balloon blown up and tied and even sticking out a bit above the top. After that, there were no more attempts to get more than a proper share of the Christmas bounty.

The traditional items in each stocking never varied: a Christmas orange in the toe, still wrapped in that green paper, some nuts in the shell, a good handful of hard candy, striped, solid, twisted, even some licorice. And then there would be a coupleof toys or maybe coloured pencils, sometimes, as we grew older, cologne for me and maybe a tube of Brylcreem or a small bottle of Old Spice aftershave for the two oldest boys. Thai was in the days of the Elvis-like ducktail hairdos, slicked back and held in place by a good layer of Brylcreem.

 

Christmas and family:

I was the oldest of nine children and my parents took in foster babies once the youngest child was four. So that last year I was at home we had ten children under our roof from summer on. I went home for Christmas that year after the mid-term exams were done. It was the last Christmas ever shared by our whole family.

Because I moved to Vancouver Island to attend university and stayed on after I dropped out, and my parents moved from Salmon Arm where I am living now, to Kamloops a year later, then a few years after that to 70 Mile House a bit further north, because I didn’t have much money and mostly because I chose a life much like my parents had lived in their early years (but which they had worked hard to leave behind), I didn’t get home very often. Travel in winter was difficult and my sons’ Dad and I didn’t drive.  I never shared another Christmas with my family until I moved to Thorhild, an hour’s drive north of Edmonton in 1999 to help when my Dad became ill. He passed away that September,but Mum and I put up their small tree (an artificial one by then) and we went to Edmonton for a few days and had Christmas dinner with my youngest sister. her husband and my second-youngest sister. We had Christmas at the house of the youngest sister for most of the years to come, although Mum and I always baked up a storm for the holidays.

I had hoped to cover a few more topics, but my laptop is acting up (Windows wants to do some ‘update’ or other and won’t let me pick a convenient time), so I will leave the rest for tomorrow and maybe a few other days, too. Perhaps shorter posts will be best.

 

Feel free to share any of your own memories, traditions, thoughts, etc., below. And don’t worry about length. Heaven knows I’ve posted far more than my share of over-long comments on some of your blogs!

I hope some of you will post frequently this month, if not every day. The world can use a great outpouring of good and happy thoughts these days. Advent begins on the third this year. Do you have any favourite Advent traditions?

Have a wonderful day today. (it’s technically the first, but it’s only 2 am here; I haven’t gotten to bed yet). Love and Light to each of you.