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.”

Photo by Danette Dooley/Spe­cial to The Com­pass

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.

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