The Christmases of our youth were fun-filled days. The anticipation of Christmas morning built during the week ahead.
I remember singing in the choir at Midnight Mass it was the only time I was in church after dark and sitting in the choir loft singing O Holy Night with the sound of the organ and our voices blending, the lights, the warmth, and the snow falling outside was magical. Walking home on the crunchy snow and knowing in the morning the tree would be up with the colourful lights all lit and the stockings and gifts ready to be opened was a wonderful feeling. The stockings always had the same things in them an apple, a banana, an orange, and little bunch of grapes. We each got one gift and it was usually something we really wanted. Every Christmas Eve my Dad would come home from Town (where he worked) and bring a stranger with him, he never failed in doing this.
One year he was late and I remember him saying he had a hard time convincing this young fella. He would bring a young man home who couldn't get home for Christmas,
they would stay just for a meal with us all around the table and then they would head out to make their way back to their rooming house in Town. He said, "No one should be alone on Christmas Eve." He would head out during the day to the woods behind our house and chop down our tree.
We never saw the tree until Christmas morning we would walk into the kitchen and there it would be all lit up in colourful lights with shiny tinfoil like rings around them and decorated with a variety of decorations, often most were homemade. I remember spending days stringing popcorn to put on the tree. We would run into the kitchen in the morning and stand staring at the lit-up tree, it was a thing of beauty. We always got our stockings first and ate some fruit. My favourite was the Red Delicious Apple.
There were Christmas candy, cookies, cakes and purity Strawberry syrup to be had at various times and various houses. Boxing day was the day I was allowed to go around to the houses to see their trees, I would bundle myself up in warm clothes and head out, I'd knock on doors and ask the Mrs if I could see her tree. Some folks would ask my name and I would say it and in I'd go they would plug the tree lights in and I would marvel at the beauty of it all. Some were loaded with tinsel, some heavy with spray snow but all had tons of lights and were just the most magical things I'd ever seen. I'd always compliment them on their beautiful trees.
Everyone's tree was a bit different but the smell of the cooking, the warmth of the homes, and the enjoyment I felt just staring at the colorful lit up trees was priceless.
Often during the season, the mummers would come barging in and that was delightful, you never knew who they were with the homemade costumes done up to change the way the person looked. Mummers were given a drink and a bit of Christmas cake often one or two would sing or step out in a dance. You could usually tell the one who brought their fiddle by the way they played it. If you guessed who someone was they had to uncover their face and there was great laughter in the house when the mummers came in.
We usually had some time off from school over Christmas and if there was enough snow we would haul our coasters out and slide down the hills. Lots of snow meant forts could be build and snowballs made ahead of time. Then we would form teams and have epic snowball fights.
I almost forgot... The Christmas Concerts in the hall, how could I forget those. We would practice for what seemed like months. It was delightful! Christmas around the bay when we were young was looked forward to all year and enjoyed to the full. The music, the food, the fun with friends and family, was renewing and you felt happy and part of the society around you.
I really loved Christmas around the bay when we were young.