Premier reminisces about Christmas
For Premier Kathy Dunderdale, the excitement of the Christmas season would start long before the man in red dropped off presents for her and her 10 siblings.
One of her Christmas favourite memories of growing up in Burin is visiting Bartlett’s General Store.
“ When it got very close to Christmas they would open late on Thursday and Friday nights. I’d come out of the house after supper, cold nights, clear skies, crunchy snow ... I’d walk down the road down by the harbour and round the turn by the post office and see the sparkling lights in Bartlett’s windows.”
Once you stepped inside the store, the heat from the oil stove, mingled with the smell of fresh apples, lingered in the air.
Dunderdale remembers it was difficult to stop smiling as she walked to the dry goods section where space was cleared for toys brought in for the Christmas season.
“ The delight in seeing all that and wondering if it would be possible at all that you might get one of those toys,” Dunderdale smiles at the memory.
As a young girl, she also loved doing her school recitation for her parents, grandparents and other relatives on Christmas Eve.
The older folks would then head to midnight mass while her mother stayed home with the children and prepared a hearty meal.
“ They’d all come back at about one o’clock in the morning, maybe 30 people, and they’d have a roast beef dinner or some other big meal my mother had prepared.”
Another favourite memory is of waking up before the light of day on Christmas morning with her siblings to find stockings filled with fruit and candy.
Dunderdale’s mom (who passed away last year) also prepared a big turkey dinner for Christmas Day as well as cold plates for the evening meal.
Christmas afternoon was spent visiting family, friends and neighbours.
Looking back on her childhood, the premier wonders where her mother found the time and energy to bake fruit cakes, buy toys, clean house and do a hundred other things to get ready for Christmas — all while raising 11 children.
“ The effort she put in to making sure everybody was happy, and doing that with a smile on her face, I’m very grateful for that.”
Christmas has always been about sharing good times with family, friends and others in the community, Dunderdale said.
“ We would always have a Christmas concert in the school and … there would be dances and church activities.”
Music, mummering and storytelling were as important as a bottle of Purity syrup.
“ There wasn’t an excess of gifts. You got one thing. It may not have any resemblance to what you thought you were going to get but we were thrilled with whatever we got.”
Reflecting on her childhood, Dunderdale said the hard work her mother did to ensure the children had a happy Christmas is what people need to continue to do today.
“ It just won’t happen because you want it to happen. Somebody has to take that on and put a great deal of effort into it. And that’s what our mom did for us and what we try to do for our own families.”
Raising 11 children wasn’t always easy for her parents, Dunderdale said.
However, because of the love her mom and dad shared, her Christmas memories will always be special.
“ They loved their family and we knew that. We always had food to eat and we were always warm. And Mom and Dad worked hard to make Christmas special. Because they were happy, whatever we didn’t have didn’t matter. They always knew what was important and rejoiced in that.”
Dunderdale is delighted that many of the family traditions of sharing your time with others continues in her family today.
Both Dunderdale’s parents have passed away.
It will be her first Christmas without her mother.
While many of her family live in St. John’s and will celebrate Christmas in the city, there is always a trip to Burin for New Year’s celebrations.
Her roots and family ties are very important to the premier.
“ The thing that gives me joy today is how the children and grandchildren insist we all come together. It warms my heart to see the pleasure they take in that — in all those important traditions. Because it’s not what you have that’s important; it’s about wanting to be in other people’s company.”
Growing up in a family of 11 children, Premier Kathy Dunderdale’s memories of Christmas revolve around small town traditions and the strength and love of family.