December 2010

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My Scottish ancestors did not really celebrate Christmas until the twentieth century and then it was for the children. My Irish ancestors celebrated Christmas quietly. As a result decorating the outside of the house was not something that my ancestors did.

When I was a child my grandmother decorated the outside of her house with big snowmen and candles that lit up inside. These were put on the upper balcony or sometimes on the patio on the first level. She did not decorate the outside of her home until she moved to Canada. This was a North American tradition that was done for the grandchildren.

It was not until we got a house that my parents started putting up outside lights. It was the usual string around the eaves and maybe some around a bush. At one point they gave up the stringed lights and used spot lights which were red and green. If we got a lot of snow around Christmas they stayed in place until the spring thaw. Now there are white lights on bushes and an evergreen decoration on the wall next to the front door. The urns out the front are filled with greenery, red sticks, pine cones and a large glass ball.

©2010 – Blair Archival Research

Most of our family lived in Ireland, Scotland and England so Christmas cards were the main way of keeping up with everyone. My mother is one of twenty one first cousins and this was the only time during the year that they would communicate, unless of course there was a birth, marriage or death.

The cards would be placed on the mantel over the fireplace in the living room.

Some cards held handwritten letters telling of the families activities during the year. It could be a small note on a card or several sheets of blue air mail paper. Sometimes a picture would be included to show the latest member of the family. This now includes pictures of grandchildren.

Mum would start her card writing early in December especially if letters were to be included. You had to have them in the post by a certain date to guarantee that they would arrive before Christmas.

Everyday when we got home one of the first things we did was to check the Christmas cards to see whose had arrived and what news they held.

©2010 – Blair Archival Research

Our Christmas tree ornaments were the usual lights and colourful balls.

The special ones were those my parents bought for their first tree. Over the years most of the glass ornaments have broken but I have the precious few that are still left.

There were the Santa heads with the cotton beards and the small chocolates and candy canes that were hung on the tree. It was the mission of my brother and me to sneak the odd chocolate off the tree and see if my mother would notice. She always did.
©2010 – Blair Archival Research

When we were in Dublin Ireland for Christmas the main event was the Limerick ham that was sent to my Grandparents from my Grandpa’s Aunt Girlie. There is nothing like a Limerick ham.

Another Irish tradition was the spiced beef. This was a particular favourite of my Grandpa’s and I enjoyed it as well. I found a recipe so that I could make it here and eventually found one shop in the area that made it for the holidays.

Our Christmas dinner was the usual roast turkey and ham. We had mashed potatoes, brussel sprouts and turnips and sometimes carrots. My mother made the best sage, onion and sausage stuffing.

Dessert was a plum pudding with the coins wrapped in foil and stuck inside for us to find. Around the base of the pudding holly branches were put on for decoration. The pudding was set aflame and the lights turned out as it was presented to the table. Pouring custard was served on the side.

Over the years things have changed. Now our Christmas dinner consists of roast beef with brussel sprouts, turnip and roast potatoes. Dessert is always something different.

The dinner table was always dressed with Christmas napkins, crackers and candles. Just before dessert is served the crackers are pulled and everyone puts on those silly paper hats. How many of you have a Christmas photograph with people wearing those colourful paper hats?

©2010 – Blair Archival Research

When I was a small child our Christmas trees were always real. The smell in the house was wonderfully warming.

In the 1970s when the artificial Christmas trees really became the rage we got one.

Whether the tree was real or artificial the ornaments were the same. We had some lovely ones that my parents had bought for their first tree in 1959. I have the few surviving ones for my own tree.

Putting up the tree each year was a ritual. It went up the second weekend of December and my father would put on the lights. Then it was our turn to put on the decorations. The final items on the tree were the candy canes and small hollow chocolates in the shape of Santa, pine cones, angels and Christmas trees. The presents were not put under the tree until Christmas Eve.

The tree was always taken down by the 6th of January.
©2010 – Blair Archival Research

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