Archive for the ‘Christmas’ Category

Christmas at School–Advent Calendar

In Christmas on December 16, 2009 at 9:14 AM

Christmas concerts!  Ah, the memories.

One of my first memories was from Grade 1 in Port Moody.  I remember I was chosen to play one of  three angels.  But having  heard almost everyone else in class being told they would be a “child” in the play, and not wanting to be different, I asked to play one of the children instead of an angel. And so it was that I played the part of a child at the ripe old age of 6.

By Christmas of Grade 2 we were in Squamish.  I seem to recall the concert them may’ve been The Grinch who Stole Christmas.  Our class had a song to sing.  During the concert one of our classmates fainted dead away.  Apparently he had been sick but had still come.  I seem to recall he had a couple of stitches to his head, but nothing terribly serious.  The next school day we all had to make a get-well card for him.

I don’t recall much of other Christmas concerts.  Later on, when I was old enough to join Band (Grade 6) then I started being in Band concerts which I thoroughly enjoyed.

In a time before religious pluralism in schools,  Christmas was a time of crafts involving a lot of coloured cardboard cutouts of trees and stars, some paper chains, and sometimes even the use of that extra special item, glitter!  It also meant a lightened workload generally–funny how just the opposite was true in University, with exams and papers marking the holiday season.


Fruit Cake–Advent Calendar

In Christmas on December 14, 2009 at 8:37 AM

Grandma Painter always provided fruit cake, both light and dark varieties, home made, at her Christmas dinners.  It always had a good thick layer of marzipan/almond paste icing on it.  The one she gave to our family was also soaked in brandy or other liquor.  Okay, maybe not so much soaked, but definitely flavoured.  I have to admit it was not my most favourite item on the dessert place, after all it wasn’t chocolate.  Yet I would take a small slice every year, and oddly enough, I enjoyed it.

It’s funny the things you take for granted.  Grandma died without any of us thinking to ask her for her recipe.  So for several years the search was on.  I tried many different recipes and finally find a dark fruit cake recipe that we agreed most closely resesembled grandma’s.  Would you believe it has a little bit of chocolate in it!

Fruit cake is surprisingly expensive to make, assuming you buy your dried and candied fruit as I do.  And the mixing of it is a real workout!  Not many recipes today have ingredients you measure in pounds/kilos. It is best if it is made a few months in advance so that it has time to mellow, especially if you stew it in liquor (which makes for a nice moist cake).

Holiday Travel–Advent Calendar

In Christmas on December 13, 2009 at 10:10 AM

Many of our Christmases growing up involved travel, although usually a 5 hour drive, at most, to a relative’s house.  Inevitably the drive would involve a certain amount of caroling amongst us.

There were two holiday seasons however when we actually travelled outside the country.  One, a Christmas gift from dad, was a trip to Disneyland when I was about 6.  The other was a trip to Mazatlan, Mexico (was it 1985 or 1986?)–we left shortly after Christmas and remained until after New Years.  Both were, as you can imagine, memorable trips.

Gifts–Advent Calendar

In Christmas on December 10, 2009 at 9:22 AM

One christmas, soon after I had my first job, I bought my mom a foot bath/massager and signed it from Santa.  It’s one of the few times I remember my mom seeming genuinely surprised and pleased, as she tried to determine just who had given her the gift.

Both my father and sister are extremely difficult to buy gifts for–dad “doesn’t need anything”, and my sister is very particular about details (pyrex dishes, but the ones with the blue lids, not the red lids as they have worse reviews and/or contain certain chemicals–I understand this, but it does make shopping more of a challenge).  A few years back I bought my family each a pay-as-you-go cell phone.  Dad eschewed it, saying he didn’t have use for such a thing.  It sat in it’s box for nearly five months.  Then he finally figured he may as well use it as he had it.  He and his cell phone are now rarely apart.

A fountain pen was my favourite gift received, but that was a birthday present.  As for Christmas, the packages of little bits of this-and-that (manicure sets, soap, mirror, dolls, hand knitted slippers & gloves…) assembled by grandma Painter were always exciting to open.  Even what she put them in was interesting, perhaps the most memorable being a little log cabin whose roof lifted up to reveal it’s contents.  I still have that little log cabin, my sister still has hers, and a cousin had hers until very recently, more than 30 years later.

A couple of other gifts seemed odd to me at the time.  I was a young teen when the Cabbage Patch Doll frenzy hit in 1982/3.  Grandma and grandpa Akeson got me and my much younger sister and cousins each a doll.  I felt much too old to be getting such a gift, but I did appreciate the story that went with my particular doll.  You may recall the frenzy the dolls created that first year of mass marketing.  Well, Grandpa had managed to grab the last bald-headed doll but had to fight for it, and that’s the doll I got, Clement Gideon.  When I was 16, mom bought my sister and me a nice new-release hardcover book, but a kids book really.  While the story was sweet, again I felt too old for such a gift.  It was called The Polar Express.  I have recently discovered that those books are first editions and now worth a fair bit of money.  But I’m not parting with mine for anything!

There are so many memorable gifts, I could go on and on.  Every year there seems to be at least one gift that wasn’t on my list, takes me completely by surprise and causes sheer delight.  I am one lucky woman.

Grab Bag–Advent Calendar

In Christmas on December 9, 2009 at 7:29 PM

Our player piano formed an important part of the holidays around our house.  It’s an old 1920s pump-it-yourself type of piano, so not only do you have fun singing at the top of your lungs, you also get a work-out.  This time of year meant we got to play the special rolls in the green boxes (regular rolls are in red boxes), all christmas songs.

Now us kids, we used the player piano on a weekly basis throughout the year.  The adults, however, only pumped it during the holiday season and were tuckered out fairly quickly.  As a kid I didn’t understand this–how was it they could be tired so quickly?  Being clever adults, they would soon recruit us kids to do the pumping.

I have this player piano in my home now.  I only pull out the rolls and pump it maybe three or four times a year, generally around this time of year.  NOW I understand the adults issues all those years ago…it has become hard work all of a sudden.  I’m sure this is simply because the bellows need redoing or some of the wheels need lubricating.  No way it could have anything to do with my age, or even with my lack of physicality.  Surely neither of those things have anything to do with it.  *wink*

Christmas Cookies–Advent Calendar

In Christmas on December 8, 2009 at 12:51 PM

I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who baked cookies at christmas, but it’s funny, I don’t recall any other cookies at christmas.  There were bars and cakes and pies, but no cookies.  Or perhaps the problem was there were no chocolate cookies, which were generally the only ones to catch my attention.

In any case, when I was old enough (10, 11 maybe?), I started baking.  When christmas time came around I would try some new “fancy” recipes (ie something other than chocolate chip or peanut butter cookies).  There were at least two cookies in particular that got some rave reviews.  One was basically a shortbread ball cookie with a Hershey’s kiss inside, the other was a soft chocolate cookie with maraschino cherries.  Note the chocolate in both….yup, if it didn’t have chocolate, I wasn’t interested.  And as I reflect, perhaps it was my own rave reviews these cookies received!

I’ve scanned both recipes below.   I see the first recipe actually calls for cherries which are tasty, but I can tell you from experience that Hershey Kisses (unwrapped of course) instead work extremely well too.  Oh, and the Chipits Noel Crisps went over very well last year as well–be sure to use shortening to get the full effect (calories and fat don’t count during the holidays do they?)

Thanks again to GeneaBloggers and their Advent Calendar of Memories for the inspiration for these daily posts.

Holiday Parties–Advent Calendar

In Christmas on December 7, 2009 at 3:00 PM

It’s funny, I don’t think of our family get-togethers as parties, but I suppose that’s what they are.  In which case, we party every December 25th.  Growing up, we alternated years between our house and one of my aunt & uncles.  Usually this was a multi-day trip–we’d arrive Christmas Eve and leave Boxing Day most trips, and the same for the company at our house.  If it were at Nana & Jack’s, who were within an hour and half’s drive, we would relunctantly leave our freshly-opened gifts christmas morning and head out for Christmas dinner there, driving home afterwards.  Generally there were upward of 20 of us at these dinners.  And yes, the wearing of paper crowns found in christmas crackers was mandatory, seen below.  Also, in the early years, mom would sew us up matching outfits, also below.

We also had a get-together with my dad’s side of the family a couple of weeks before christmas, either at grandma’s or, one time, at a traditional Victorian feast at a posh restaurant.  This was a one-day party and held a special spot in my heart as I got to visit with my only older cousins (I’m the eldest by several years on the only side).  Usually there were 10 of us attending these.

I always loved work christmas parties, whether it was a meal at a restaurant all together, or a party complete with santa up in the break room.  You could always find me easily, usually seen with garland draped around my neck, santa hat on, and/or socks with jingle bells.  Yup, I’m one of those people, and just love it!  I miss those days, being retired now.

Santa Claus–Advent Calendar

In Christmas on December 6, 2009 at 10:04 AM

I actually don’t recall ever really writing a letter to Santa, nor even sitting on his knee (this is going to require a call to mom for confirmation!).  I know my sister did as we have a picture of it.  As did my mom as a child–there’s a picture of it.  When I was in college, my roommate and I went and sat on Santa’s knee–there’s a picture of that too.  As we somewhat shyly stepped forward Santa said “Come on girls, Santa likes children of all ages!” and we all laughed.

I was 7 when my somewhat older cousins “told” me about Santa Claus and who he was and wasn’t.  But now I’m not so sure they were right.  Every christmas season I still get unexpected gifts, sure they say “Love from Mom” or such, but they still make me giddy with delight.  And then there’s the jovial air that lasts all December long.  There are still some things that aren’t explained, so yes, I do still believe in Santa Claus.  If I didn’t, I couldn’t hear that bell ring, right?  I check every year–still hear it loud and clear!

Outdoor Decorations–Advent Calendar

In Christmas on December 5, 2009 at 4:59 PM

This topic had me daydreaming for a few minutes as I recreated our house in my mind in detail, including the steep 30m/100ft driveway up to it.  Our outside decorations consisted of a couple of strings of lights, mult-coloured C7 bulb lights, in our cherry tree just out front of the house.  These lights looked nice, but could only be seen by those of us at the house as the tree was too far up and away to be seen from the street.  So then we started putting some light strings going down the driveway.  This served the bonus purpose of lighting the driveway as well.  We learned quickly that we could not have those lights all the way to the bottom of the drive as young vandals couldn’t resist taking the bulbs and popping them (breaking them to hear the little explosion they made and popping sound).  At the time replacement bulbs were not cheap.

In our community there was a cul-de-sac where they really went all out.  It varied, but usually six or eight houses would be all decked out with decorations on their lawns, lights bestrewn everywhere and even christmas music playing on speakers.  I’m not sure when this started, but apparently it is still going on today, some 22 years after I moved away.

Christmas Cards–Advent Calendar

In Christmas, General Genealogy on December 4, 2009 at 9:57 AM

Cards we received would be displayed set upon the top of the piano or along the mantel piece generally.  Grandma and grandpa Akeson received a large number of cards, and would have them hung on a string up high on the wall, sometimes going around a corner even.

I don’t really remember mom or dad sitting down to write Christmas Cards to all and sundry.  I do recall, however, mom would buy special Christmas Cards for both their parents.  By special, I mean cards like from Hallmark or Carlton, “To our parents” sorta thing, as opposed to the box of more anonymous cards one usually buys and sends out.

Dad talks about memories of cards on the Christmas Tree as he was growing up, something we have done in miniature (ie 2 or 3 cards only) from time to time, usually when it’s “gift” card.

Below are three “old” Christmas Cards I’m lucky enough to have possession of as family historian.  The Santa card dates from 1917 and was sent to my grandma Painter her first Christmas from an uncle and aunt.  The other two cards were sent from grandpa Painter to his parents and family during World War One (one from 1916 and the other probably from 1917).  You may have spotted that grandma Painter was just born and grandpa was old enough to be fighting overseas in 1917–there was a 24 year gap in their ages, grandpa being 49 when he finally married.  I can’t help but think that WWI left some large scars on grandpa, perhaps contributing to his long bachelorhood.  Which is rather getting off the topic of christmas cards.

The ideas for these Christmas postings come from the Advent Calendar of Memories ( topics suggested at — thank you geneabloggers for helping guide me down memory lane!