Growing up in the country we had many Christmas traditions. As a little girl I remember many happy occasions at Christmas time. Here are some of my fondest memories leading up to Christmas.
AND CHRISTMAS CARDS
Mother always spent a lot of time picking out her Christmas Cards. She liked a card with a pretty picture on the front and a nice verse inside. She often selected religious cards with a Bible Verse.
I can remember Mother sitting up at night to get her Christmas Cards written and mailed. She had quite the Christmas card list and it took her a few hours to get them all done. She spread out the writing of her cards over several nights. She sent a card to all our relatives, the neighbours, people at Church, her ladies groups and friends. Mother never just signed her cards she always tried to write a little message in each one of them.
We loved to make our own Christmas Cards to hand out. In Sunday School we always got to make a special card for someone. Mine was usually made for my parents. Here are some button cards that would be fun to make.
We always looked forward to receiving Christmas Cards. I remember running to the mailbox to get the mail and how excited I was to sit down at the table and go through all the cards with Mother. The odd Christmas Card came with a Christmas Letter from a relative. I enjoyed reading these letters and catching up on what was going on in their life.
Mother would string the cards around the living room using string or coloured cord. She was so proud of her cards and loved to display them. However, we got so many that the extras always got put in a large bowl on the table. It seemed like we received dozens of cards.
Read this article about “The History of Christmas Cards.”
The Christmas Tradition of writing Christmas Cards is not the same anymore. Working in retail we always sold out of boxes of Christmas Cards but now I see them sitting unwanted on the shelves. It seems that the tradition of writing and sending Christmas Cards is quickly disappearing.
I haven’t written Christmas Cards in years. It just got too expensive with the postage rates and of course the computer took over so now it is just easier to send off a quick email.
CHRISTMAS TRADITIONS INCLUDES
LOTS AND LOTS OF BAKING
Mother was always baking throughout the year but at Christmas she baked and baked and baked. She literally spent hours baking preparing for Christmas.
I remember Mother buying her flour in 50 pound bags so she wouldn’t run out. When we lived on the farm she kept her flour in the kitchen. When we moved to our house in the country Mother had a flour bin on wheels that the bag fit into perfectly. When the bag was full it was harder to pull out the bin even with wheels. We had a walk-in pantry and Mother kept all her baking supplies in the pantry, never in the cupboard. Eggs, cream, butter and milk of course came from our chickens and cows.
I never found Christmas Baking anything but fun and helping my Mother prepare all those Christmas goodies was a real treat for me. I can still smell all those wonderful goodies baking.
Mother always got an early start on her Christmas Baking. She would start baking her Christmas Cake a couple of months before Christmas. She always made a Dark Christmas Cake. There didn’t seem to be any end of fruit in that cake and I remember helping her cut it all up. Although it wasn’t soaked in rum Mother still claimed that the longer it sat the better it got. I love Christmas Cake but I have never attempted making one instead I go for a store bought one which just doesn’t taste like hers.
This interesting article titled “A History of Christmas Cakes” tells how the tradition of Christmas Cake came about.
Mother was always nominated to take the Christmas Pudding every year for Christmas Dinner. I can totally understand why as her pudding was moist and delicious. Mother usually made her pudding in late November or early December. There are many types of Christmas pudding but Mother made her pudding with suet, fruit and grated carrots. Lucky me, I got to grate the carrots but I didn’t mind anything to be helping my Mother.
In the early years I remember her serving it with a lemon sauce but then she got a recipe for a cream sauce from my Aunt and she would make it as well. Everyone got their choice of sauces or both if they wanted it. Mother’s pudding was a Christmas dinner staple. My cousin never turned down a second helping of Mother’s pudding and it’s something that I miss to this day.
Here is an article on “The Tradition of the Christmas Pudding.”
One of my favourite pies is mincemeat and Mother always made mincemeat pies at Christmas. Originally she made her mincemeat from scratch with suet. As the years went by she would buy a jar of mincemeat and “Doctor” it up as she would say. Usually her “Doctoring Up” involved adding chopped apples and perhaps a little more fruit it still never tasted like the real thing. Mother’s mincemeat pie had a double crust. The top was sprinkled with sugar and it was always served warm.
Even the tradition of serving mincemeat pies at Christmas has a history. This article tells “The History of Mince Pies.”
Baking Christmas cookies will always be a fond memory of mine. This was a time I got to spend with Mother in the kitchen. We made lots of Christmas Cookies and they were always fun to make. I would help mix them up and Mother would roll out the dough. I got to pick out what cookie cutters I wanted to use and then cut out the shapes. I don’t remember doing any fancy decorating with icing but we did use sprinkles. My favourite was shortbread and I still make it every Christmas. We also made pans of squares as it seemed everything we went to at Christmas time Mother would take a pan of squares.
BREAD & BUNS
Mother would also make homemade bread and buns at Christmas. She made Christmas buns with fruit in them and often a fruit loaf that she would slice and toast for breakfast. There is nothing that beats the smell of fresh bread or buns baking. A couple of slices of homemade bread or a bun with thick slices of leftover turkey on it can’t be beat.
Christmas baking continued over the years. After Mom went into the home we didn’t enjoy her Christmas pudding anymore. Now that she is gone her Christmas Cake and Pudding are very fond memories that I have of her.
CHRISTMAS BAKING OVER THE YEARS
Over the years Christmas Baking has changed a lot for me. I don’t make Christmas Cake or Christmas Pudding like my Mother used to make. If I want Christmas Cake I buy one. It isn’t the same of course and as there isn’t anyone else in the family that likes Christmas Cake. I usually end up serving it for company or eating it all myself. I am not complaining but it just doesn’t taste or look the same as Mother’s.
One year we had a cookie exchange at work that was fun. It was great as we got many different varieties of cookies to serve at Christmas. That year I didn’t make many different kinds as I used the ones from the cookie exchange for company.
I still carry on the tradition of making Christmas cookies. I use to make dozens and dozens of squares, cookies and mini cheesecakes. One Christmas I baked over 12 different kinds. I used them as gifts. I find there isn’t anyone that will turn away a plate of homemade cookies plus it gives them variety to go along with theirs.
I loved to bake and Christmas was my excuse for being able to make many different kinds. I still continue to bake but now I am down to three or four of my favourite cookies. I don’t like to have a lot on hand as they are just too tempting and I sure don’t need the extra calories!
THE CHRISTMAS TREE
A CHRISTMAS TRADITION
THAT WILL NEVER GO AWAY
I recollect the Christmas Tree as being a thing of beauty but also have memories of it being a lot of work.
My Dad used to sell Christmas Trees and I remember going with my family miles away to tag our trees. This was quite the process. We headed north, in the fall to a tree farm or two. This usually took place around Thanksgiving weekend. First we had to walk through the bush, ribbons in hand and help him pick out all the perfect trees. Dad was an expert at picking out the best trees. He was very particular and only certain trees were approved and passed his scrutiny. I was always looking for the perfect tree and asking “Dad is this one good enough?” But often my tree was rejected. He did let us choose a tree each to tag but most of our time was spent following him around. He would pick out the tree and we would put the ribbon on it. Even the ribbon had to be tied a certain way so it wouldn’t come off. Through the years though I did learn how to pick out a “good” tree. Dad would get a variety of trees including spruce, pine and balsam. Pine was always my favourite with its long pine needles and to me it was always a fuller tree.
Dad knew and remembered every tree he tagged. Even back in those days there were thieves. I can still hear Dad saying “that isn’t the tree I tagged” as someone had taken his tag and moved it to another tree and claimed Dad’s tree for their own. This happened on more than one tree which infuriated my Dad.
I loved the day we went to tag our trees as we got to have lunch in the bush. Mother would get up early and roast a chicken. She would wrap the roasting pan in newspapers and blankets. We would have slices of hot chicken with bread and butter for lunch along with cookies. Mother and Dad would share a thermos of tea and my brother and I would have juice to drink.
In late November we had to go and cut down the trees. We always hoped that the snow wouldn’t be too deep so we could get them out. Dad didn’t like to cut them too early. Again, Mother would pack her famous hot chicken lunch. Dad cut down the trees in the old fashioned way, with an axe and a saw. He never used a chainsaw and yes, we were allowed to swing the axe. I must admit that I would still be there trying to cut down a tree as my axe skills were terrible. I was a little better at using the saw though. Mother, my brother and I would help drag the trees out of the woods. This was hard work but we loved it. If he had a lot of trees to drag out Dad would always take someone with him to help out.
Our trees were never wrapped up or cut too early like they are now. Dad had it down to a schedule of what time of the year these jobs had to be done.
Dad sold the trees to local businesses and from the house. The only time Dad got to stay home from church on a Sunday was when he was selling Christmas Trees. Even in those days you couldn’t trust anyone not to come and steal them if you weren’t home.
We selected our tree from all those Christmas Trees. Dad would let us pick the one out that we liked the best. We took turns picking our tree so throughout the years we had various kinds of trees.
This was a Christmas Tradition that I grew up with and have never forgotten.
Here is an article on “The History of Christmas Trees.”
The years have changed my Christmas Tree Traditions. I always had a real tree even when I lived on my own. Dad would find me a tree and deliver it to my apartment. I continued the tradition of a real tree even after I was married but as the years passed and I was working more and more, heaven forbid but I got an artificial tree. I didn’t miss cleaning up all the needles but I really missed the smell of a real tree. Dad never understood my putting up a “fake tree” as he called it.
Now I take the easy way. My tree is a table top tree all decorated. I put it in a box and pull it out at Christmas. Is this cheating and defeating the purpose absolutely yes, but as I was the one putting on the lights and doing all the decorating it became a job instead of fun.
WHAT A MINISTER HAD TO SAY
ABOUT CHRISTMAS TREES
I have never forgotten what a minister at our church once said about Christmas Trees. He told us that he had a very hard time finding a Christmas Tree. We couldn’t understand why as we had seen all kinds of them for sale. He went on to say that all he could find were Xmas Trees. He told us that he would never buy anything that was advertised as Xmas because that was too commercialized for him. He concluded by telling us that by taking “Christ” out of Christmas the whole meaning of Christmas was gone. I never forgot those words and how very true they are. To this day I will not buy anything that is advertised as “Xmas”.
This article “Xmas or Christmas” has made me re-consider. However I still prefer to say “Christmas” rather than “ex-mas”.
MORE CHRISTMAS TRADITIONS TO COME
In this article I have only written about a few of my Christmas Traditions. In Christmas Traditions Part 2 I will cover more of my Traditions including: A Letter to Santa, Christmas Concerts, Christmas Shopping and more.