December 2010

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Happy Hogmany everyone!

Hogmany is the Scottish word for the last day of the year and it is the start of what can end up being a three day party.

A tall dark man is supposed to be the first person to cross the threshold into a home in the New Year. They bring coal, salt and other items to bring luck to the family of the house.

The traditional song for this time of year is Auld Lang Syne by Robert Burns.

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind ?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and auld lang syne* ?

For auld lang syne, my jo,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

And surely ye’ll be your pint-stowp !
and surely I’ll be mine !
And we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.


We twa hae run about the braes,
and pu’d the gowans fine ;
But we’ve wander’d mony a weary fit,
sin auld lang syne.


We twa hae paidl’d i’ the burn,
frae morning sun till dine ;
But seas between us braid hae roar’d
sin auld lang syne.


And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere !
and gie’s a hand o’ thine !
And we’ll tak a right gude-willy waught,
for auld lang syne.


This version of the song came from Wikipedia and you can find out more about the history of Auld Lang Syne here.

If you are interested in finding out more about the history of Hogmany in Scotland look here.

All the best for 2011!

Merry Christmas

Joyeux Noël

Nollaig Shona

Nollaig Chridheil

Christmas Eve is our Christmas celebration day. We all meet at my parent’s house for the present exchange, conversation and cheer. The tree is now in the living room near the fireplace and I have passed on my present distribution duties to my niece. Mum, as always, will put on a lovely spread. There are hors d’oeuvres of shrimp, cheese and pate. Then it is the roast beef dinner that we look forward to all year. Dessert is my job and I have a hard time finding something new every year. Then while the coffee is being served so are my homemade cookies and truffles.
©2010 – Blair Archival Research

My Great Great Grandparents James Edward Cheetham Brooks and Mary Bartington married on Christmas day in 1868 at St. John’s Church in Manchester, Lancashire, England. It is not known if there was a particular reason why they chose Christmas day to marry. It could be because that was the only day they could both get off work.

A Great Great Grandmother, Susan Boxwell Malone, married her first husband on 27 December 1854 in Wexford Ireland. She was a Quaker and they were married in the Presbyterian Church. He died just before the birth of their third child, a daughter. Susan then married my Great Great Grandfather Henry Thompson who was also a Quaker.

My Blair Grandparents married on December 27th. I know they chose that time to marry because my Grandfather was working on the Gold Coast in Africa and was home for the holidays.

My parents were married on December 30th. Again I know they married at this time because my father, who had already moved to Canada, had the time off work.

My father had a little glitch getting back to Ireland for the holidays and the wedding. He was working up in Northern Ontario and planned on taking a train into Toronto to get to the airport. The train derailed and he was stuck in Sudbury. His father was working in Toronto and they were due to fly to Dublin together so he gave him a call. He was told to take a taxi to North Bay and then a flight to Toronto. The taxi cost him $90.

He arrived at Toronto airport just in time to spend a little time with the small party that had gathered to wish him well and then get on the flight. This was the time before the big jets and flights overseas were not as regular as they are today. He would not have been able to get a flight to Dublin much before the day of his wedding so anything he had to do, or pay, to get to that flight on time was done.

©2010 – Blair Archival Research

We did not go to visit cemeteries at Christmas. The only family members in Canada were with us around the table. We did remember absent people with a toast at the beginning of the meal.
©2010 – Blair Archival Research

My parents had a collection of Christmas records from the 1960s. One of my favourites was Jungle Bells by Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons in 1962. The other favourite was Ballad of the Christmas Donkey by Ed Ames. I could listen to these for hours.

For overall variety it was Mitch Miller and the Gang with two Sing along with Mitch Christmas albums. One was traditional songs and the other the novelty songs of the season. Of course Christmas would not be complete without the Bing Crosby Christmas album. Bing was one of the constants of the season when I was a child.

We sometimes went caroling. I can remember one year doing it with the Girl Guides to collect money for charity. We went from door to door singing our hearts out. One year our church held a caroling service in a local park which was open to everyone in the community. The Salvation Army Band provided the musical back up.

©2010 – Blair Archival Research

When I was small we went to Church on Christmas day if it was on a Sunday. The Advent Sunday’s were regularly attended. When I became an adult I started attending the Christmas Eve service. This service was particularly peaceful and joyous. The lighting and music in the church was uplifting. After the service I would take a walk through town in the cold night air. It was serene and hushed since not many people were out and the street decorations were lit and sparkling. When I got home hot chocolate was made and the movie “A Christmas Carol” was turned on.

©2010 – Blair Archival Research

In our family Christmas shopping was always done early to avoid the rush. My Dad usually ended up going to the mall on Christmas Eve but that was to pick up a box of Laura Secord’s French Frosted Mint chocolates for my Mum.

Shopping was different forty years ago. Shops were not open seven days a week and were not open really late at night either. You could not shop 24/7 online but you could order from catalogues. I remember the Sear’s Wish Book arriving on the door step and things being ordered from it.

©2010 – Blair Archival Research

My Christmas stocking was always put at the foot of my bed. I could only open my stocking when I woke up in the wee hours of Christmas morning and had to stay in my own room, although my brother and I sometimes would go into each other’s room. There was always a mandarin orange, a chocolate Santa, a roll of film and in the very bottom of the stocking a quarter.

At one point it developed a hole in the sole and I rather expertly (?) mended it. I still have my original Christmas stocking.

©2010 – Blair Archival Research

My childhood memories of television during the holiday season are of a plethora of Christmas shows and specials which would start around the second week of December.

The broadcast premiers of “Merry Christmas Charlie Brown”, “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer”, “Frosty the Snowman”, “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town” and “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” are memories from my childhood. It was usually broadcast once a year and you had to be in front of the television on that night or you would miss it.

Then all the variety shows would have their Christmas specials such as Donny and Marie, Carol Burnett, Andy Williams and Sonny and Cher. There were movie stars that would have a Christmas special such as Bob Hope, and Bing Crosby. They would sometimes bring their entire family on the shows to sing and perform skits. The regular television sitcoms would do a special show for the holidays and it was fun to see what kind of predicaments they would get into.

You would get a broadcast of “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “A Christmas Carol” with Alistair Sims, “Miracle on 34th Street” and “The Bishop’s Wife”. A favourite scene from “The Bishop’s Wife” is Dudley, Julia and Sylvester skating in the park. “A Christmas Carol” is best seen in black and white as it does not have the same feeling in colour. You might get a broadcast of several Bing Crosby movies such as “The Bells of St. Mary’s,” “White Christmas” and “Holiday Inn.” “Holiday Inn” is the first time Bing Crosby sang “White Christmas.” These days “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “Miracle on 34th Street” seem to be the only two mid twentieth century Christmas movies shown on television anymore.

Watching the holiday specials would be a family event. We could all watch together and sometimes sing along to the songs. The movies became a tradition as well. “A Christmas Carol” was watched on Christmas Eve.

The old children’s classics can still be seen on television so new generations can develop an appreciation for them. If you miss them on television you can get the shows on DVD so that you can watch them when it suits your schedule and with no commercial interruption.

Today there are new shows that have become family favourites such as “Shrek the Halls,” the live action movie of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” and the “Home Alone” movies. It would be nice if they could coexist with the old black and white holiday classics without any being excluded. This way a new generation could develop an appreciation for them and they will not be lost.

©2010 – Blair Archival Research

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