Fast-forward to today, and you will find that compared to 1912, there are many new traditions such as Festival of Lights and Old Time Christmas, while different, the spirit of Christmas is just as strong. We asked our readers what some of their customs were.
Getting the tree
Fir trees were used to celebrate winter festivals for thousands of years.
“Our family tradition is for us hunting for the perfect tree at Gogo’s Christmas tree farm. The whole family comes up snow, rain, or sun to search for the perfect tree and have hot chocolate and drinks at the tail gate.” – Rosemary & George Bowater
Christmas time is a special time for new CVRD Area G Director Lynne Smith and her family. “We started the tradition of making homemade gingerbread houses with our youngest grandchildren. Our Christmas presents must be homemade or bought at a craft fair. When it comes to decorating the Christmas tree it is an all-day event with baking traditional family cookie recipes and lots of Christmas music to dance and sing our hearts out to. Our Christmas tree is a bit of a Charlie Brown tree as it was passed down to me from my Mom and is 30 years old. Bits of duct tape keep it going. I love to put a string of angel lights that my Mom had on the top part of the tree. Many of the decorations on the tree come from earlier times when our children were young and brought home their school crafts to hang on the tree. Other tree decorations come from travels, friends and family. Each item has special meaning. Two years ago we started letting our grandchildren pick an ornament off the tree to take home and put on their own tree.”
For Steph Hart, it’s the Christmas Pickle. This is a green ornament shaped like a pickle. Her tradition started in Germany as a young child..“My Opa said the first child who found it on the tree gets an extra little gift. So now, to the first guest who points it out on my tree, I have a box of chocolates or a little something standing by.
Back in 1912, a typical Christmas dinner would include mincemeat pies dating back to the 12th century, and plum pudding, made weeks in advance. A goose or turkey would be the star of the evening.
Today, there are many traditional and non-traditional dishes served up from hamburgers to Auntie Rose’s red gelatine salad.
“My mom would always cook a turkey with stuffing on Christmas Eve so that we could have toasted turkey sandwiches on Christmas morning. After my dad passed, I continued the tradition in my own home, and now my mom comes to my house for Christmas morning turkey sandwiches.” – Murray Salmon
“Family coming together, sharing stories, feasting, presents and then sitting being too full.” – Cindy Damphousse
“On New Year’s my father would make this dip. One apple peeled and diced, green onion sliced, picked herring diced and sour cream salt and pepper.” – Juhli Shauer
And along with good food and family recipes shared, memories are made.
“My Mom including Nana’s risotto dish with the turkey dinner. My father-in-law yelling answers to Trivial Pursuit from the couch. Walking the dogs with my brothers, coming back with red eyes.”- John Haslam
Some of Ladysmith’s new Town Councillor Amanda Jacobson’s favourite traditions are attending the Ladysmith Light Up Parade and fireworks, decorating the tree and watching The Polar Express. And no holiday is complete without their favourite Whipped Shortbread cookies.
Here is Ladysmith Councillor Amanda Jacobson’s recipe for Whipped Shortbread
1 cup real butter, softened
1 ½ cup flour
¼ cup cornstarch
½ cup powdered sugar
Vanilla (sorry I don’t measure!)
Whip together the butter and sugar; add vanilla and whip again; add flour and cornstarch and whip the batter on high for about 10 minutes – until it looks like buttercream icing! I usually add a pinch of salt too!
Bake 12-15 minutes on a parchment lined cookie sheet, in a 325 degree oven!
Before you bake them you can add maraschino cherry bits, sprinkles, crushed candy canes. Or if you’d like, after they are cooled, drizzle (or dip) melted chocolate!
“Instead of a traditional turkey dinner on Christmas day, we each choose our favourite things for a special dinner – some years that’s mussels, homemade pizzas, ice cream – really it’s whatever the kids want! We fill the days between Christmas and New Year’s with skating, crafts, visiting with friends and relaxing.
It wasn’t until the late 1800s that people began to see Christmas Day as a time to give gifts to children and each other. Traditionally the gifts were small, homemade and low-keyed.
While much of the presents under our trees in 2018 will be store-bought, home-made is still a part of the holiday charm.
“Our tradition is Blatant Santa. We draw names for a $50 present. It’s different from Secret Santa as we know who’s buying your gifts.” – Nels Neilson
“Everyone gets a stocking full of small but, cool gifts.” – Leigh Pedley-Thiessen
With so many wonderful events such as Festival of Lights, and Old Time Christmas it’s easy to make your own traditions.
“Other than having family over for dinner we didn’t have any traditions. I started my own when I grew up. Every year on Christmas Eve, Bill and I watch the original Scrooge with Alastair Sims. I make snacks and we have friends over. It was my dad’s favourite Christmas movie.” – Theresa Picco Pinion
“One of my favourite traditions has been reading The Polar Express on Christmas Eve. Each child gets to read one page.” – John de Leeuw
Regardless of what your traditions are or are not, the best present is the gift of generosity.
“Christmas is a time when we gather together special foods to take to the food banks. We have our grandchildren pick out gifts for other children and then we take them to be distributed during the holiday season. For quite a few years we participated in a community Christmas dinner that my Mom organized in her home for all those in her church that did not have a family to spend Christmas Dinner with.” – Lynne Smith.
Giving is a joyful event. Make giving a part of your traditions by donating your time or money to a good cause. This will bring a smile to our friends and neighbours. And that feeling of goodwill remains timeless regardless of how many years go by.