Ed Neil, an active member of the Spaniard’s Bay Heritage Society, remembers what Christmas was like growing up in Conception Bay North in the 1950s.
“What memories!” the 67year-old chairman of the Bay Arena Association exclaims.
Christmas was a “12- day fami- ly/community/christian festival that usually began on Tibb’s Eve (usually Dec. 23, the day before Christmas Eve) with the ritual of cutting a real Christmas tree by our dad and uncle. This was usually combined with a few grog. It (Christmas season) ended on Old Christmas Day, Jan. 6, a fortnight later.”
Neil, who is also past chairman of the Trinity Conception Placentia Health Foundation, recalls, “there were very few outdoor decorations in those days, but inside all was bright and cherry, with decorations everywhere, even inside the church.
“Christmas Eve Night was a wonder,” the retired teacher recalls.
“It was the most sacred night of the year and the beginning of the Christmas season. Celebrations began with the 11 p.m. church service. Much of the church community turned out from far and near for the special service that few wanted to miss. The church would be blocked.
“After exchanging Christmas greetings, we returned home, usually to a boiler of homemade soup and some salt fish purchased from the Labrador fishermen earlier in the fall. We chatted and grogged into the wee hours of the morning until the gifts magically appeared under the tree.
“Christmas Day greeted us with the once-a-year-aroma of the Christmas turkey roasting in the oven for the feast that day.”
The next two weeks were taken up with jannying, visiting, dancing, singing, Christmas concerts, moonlight skating, fruit cake and clingy, laughter and friendship with a parade somewhere in between it all.
For Neil, “the whole wondrous event created treasured memories that last a lifetime.”