Christmas Day has come and gone in a flurry of family, food, and celebration. There were also snow flurries - a wish come true for much of our family. We did things a bit differently this year, with no big dinner. Rather, we all brought appetizers and set them out for lunch, and then later, more for an evening meal. I'm still undecided about the result, but most of the family thought it was great. We do get together for meals often throughout the year, so perhaps this will become a Christmas tradition. But I miss the turkey and stuffing!
I have been thinking about my childhood Christmases. My parents moved away from their parents and many siblings in order to find work. But we always returned to the Fraser Valley for Christmas (and Easter, and weddings, and other weekends).
My maternal grandparents lived in a rambling old farmhouse. The home once belonged to my great-grandmother. When the highway (Trans-Canada #1) was expanded in the 1950s, the house was destined for removal, so my grandparents moved the house to a property on Old Yale Road. That's where my memories of it began.
Long tables stretched from the dining room to the living room when all of us gathered for dinner. The number varied from year to year as more of my aunties married and had children. We cousins sat together at one end of the table, probably presided over by an auntie who was charged to keep us in order. After dinner was cleared away, we gathered in the living room. Sheets of carols were passed around, someone sat at the piano, and we sang for quite some time. My mother and aunts sang in harmony; my mother has a beautiful alto voice. After the carol sing, gifts were exchanged and drifts of paper filled the room. At some point during the evening, my uncle Frank set up very bright lights and took silent films of the gathering. When I saw a compilation of these films a number of years ago, I was so impressed by the elegant dresses my mother and aunts wore - well-fitting sheath dresses that they had sewn themselves. No leisure wear there.
My grandfather passed out paper bags filled with unshelled nuts, hard ribbon candy, and an orange. Mandarin oranges were a Christmas treat, and they came in wooden boxes from Japan, each orange wrapped in thin green tissue paper. What a treat they were.
As the day wound down, little ones were put to bed throughout the house, conversations continued in groups here and there, and we children played with our cousins. Later, those who lived locally gathered up children and belongings, leaving those of us who were left feeling somewhat flat. Then up the narrow stairs we went to find our own beds. My grandparents slept downstairs. Upstairs four bedrooms opened off of a wide square hallway. My uncle, the only boy of 10, had his own room, but it seemed like the aunties were constantly moving in and out of each others' rooms. We never knew which bedroom we'd be sleeping in, and it was fun to discover where we had been assigned.
When I was 13, we moved further north and I don't think we ever returned to my grandparents' home for Christmas. Several aunts and their families also moved north and our traditions changed as we gathered with those who were near. My grandparents sold the old farmhouse around the same time, purchasing a modern home that always seemed soulless to me. The old house has since been torn down to make way for new development, but before it was demolished, one of my aunts returned and salvaged the original beautiful glass doorknobs.
As I reminisce over Christmases past, I wonder what memories my grandchildren will have of these lovely days that we've spent together. I can only hope they will remember the love that surrounded them.