Christ­mas on the Farm

Af­ter the chores were done, fam­ily fun, lots of food and good cheer took cen­tre stage

Our Canada - - Contents - by Ruth Zelinski, Vik­ing, Alta.

Mem­o­ries of fam­ily Christ­mases full of fun, food and fri­vol­ity—af­ter the chores were done!

Christ­mas was al­ways a very happy time of year, es­pe­cially when ev­ery­one was around. Our fam­ily con­sisted of Mom and Dad, three girls and three boys. It didn’t mat­ter if it was Christ­mas or a reg­u­lar work day; we lived on a farm, so the an­i­mals al­ways came first. We never had a trac­tor, so the horses had to be fed by hand, the cows milked and fed, and the sheep and chick­ens looked af­ter be­fore we had break­fast. Re­gard­less of what work had to be done (in­side the house or out­side), no one had a spe­cific job to do, but the older peo­ple did the heav­ier work. When Christ­mas came around, ev­ery­one helped out with bak­ing Christ­mas cake, mince­meat tarts, short­bread cook­ies and pies. No pas­tries were ever pur­chased from the lo­cal store. Also, ev­ery­one helped with dec­o­rat­ing the tree and rooms around the house.

Since there wasn’t any elec­tric­ity or nat­u­ral gas on the farm in the ear­lier days, coal and wood were the main source of heat.

The coal was brought in from the Forest­burg Coal Mine ev­ery fall, and used in the fur­nace all win­ter. Both the kitchen stove and heater used wood for fuel. We had coal oil lamps for the house, barn and yard. One lamp I re­mem­ber vividly was our man­tel lamp, which had a tall glass globe and was much brighter than the reg­u­lar lamps. Un­for­tu­nately, be­cause the man­tel would eas­ily get black­ened, the wick would have to be turned down. This was the light we chose to do our home­work by.

Christ­mas was al­ways a de­light­ful oc­ca­sion. A spruce tree was pur­chased in town and kept in the house overnight to thaw out. The base had to be kept in wa­ter so the nee­dles would not dry up and fall off the tree. It was dec­o­rated with or­na­ments we made in school and at home. Only a few were pur­chased, but favourite ones were kept from year to year. There were ab­so­lutely no can­dles on the tree in case of a fire and there weren’t any colour­ful elec­tric mini- lights be­cause we didn’t have power back then.

When we were younger, we re­ceived many beau­ti­ful Christ­mas cards from all of our rel­a­tives. Those who lived fur­ther away ( On­tario and Bos­ton) wrote more than two pages and folded their cards like ac­cor­dion pleats and stretched them out into a Na­tiv­ity, Christ­mas or beau­ti­ful win­ter scene. We stood them up on the branches of the tree, as part of the dec­o­ra­tions. The rest of the cards were strung on rib­bons and hung wher­ever there was space. Of course, the star took its place on the very top of the tree.

Mom would al­ways hide the gifts she knit­ted for us, such as mitts, scarves and toques, un­der the tree and we al­ways looked for­ward to the big par­cel that came from the Ea­ton’s Cat­a­logue.

The school Christ­mas con­cert was an­other fes­tive oc­ca­sion we al­ways at­tended. Pupils learned their parts for the Christ­mas plays, recitals or car­olling. When my lit­tle brother was just a be­gin­ner in school, Dad wrote a recital for him. It went some­thing like this: “Santa Claus is short and stout, so I have been told by Dad, but I have seen him, he’s tall and thin and looks just l i k e my Dad.” When the con­cert ended we all re­ceived a brown pa­per bag with an or­ange and some hard candy in it. We al­ways trav­elled to school con­certs and Sun­day school con­certs at the church by horse- drawn sleigh. We also had our own foot warm­ers, which were lit­tle metal boxes with a drawer in them that con­tained hot coals. The metal was cov­ered with rug ma­te­rial so that noth­ing was burnt, and we had ex­tra blan­kets as it al­ways seemed colder at night. On Christ­mas morn­ing, we were al­ways ea­ger to get the chores done. Once they were out of the way, we’d eat break­fast, so we could open our presents. Since we raised tur­keys on the farm, we al­ways had a big turkey for Christ­mas din­ner. Af­ter our meal, we’d lis­ten to Christ­mas car­ols and mes­sages on our ra­dio. It had a dry-cell bat­tery and was larger than any of to­day’s ra­dios. There were al­ways new games to be played, along with the old clas­sics. Then, for the rest of the day, we snacked on good­ies and treats. I have won­der­ful mem­o­ries of those Christ­mas gath­er­ings on the farm! n

Above: Ruth’s dad wore a long fur coat to keep him warm while driv­ing the sleigh. Left: the six sib­lings to­gether for Christ­mas at the fam­ily farm in Vik­ing, Alta. In the front row (from left): Ruth, Diana and Rhea. Back row (from left): Arthur, Robert and Boyd.

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