The Magic of Christmas Past

They say that the heart always comes home for Christmas and perhaps that is why so many memories of Christmas’s past seem to fill our minds at this special time of the year.

We’ve been asking congregation members to share some of their special Christmas memories with us. Here’s what the attendees of the December Medley Tea had to say.

For Rita Veysey, the thrill of Christmas was the Christmas Sock! This much-anticipated sock and the gathering of the entire family for Christmas dinner are part of Rita’s favourite memories.

Elizabeth Smith lived in Saint John when she was a youngster, and her best Christmas present was a cardboard grocery store complete with canned goods. She was six years old when she received this gift and was mightily impressed with it. She recalled scurrying next door to share her good luck with her friend, who had also received a grocery store, and hers was made out of wood!

Lots and lots of snow and hunting for a Christmas tree in the woods are fond memories shared by Yvonne Milward. Yvonne grew up near Rusagonis on the family homestead and remembers that her father would take them out the weekend before Christmas into the woods to choose a tree. Invariably, in spite of his warnings before the tree was cut down, the children would pick one much too large, and it would wind up having to be substantially shortened before coming into the house. Apparently, little ones have eyes that are too big for both trees and their bellies!

Fern Wolstenholme recalls every Christmas (without fail) getting up very early and getting into the car to head to Wirral and to Welsford. Fern, her sister, and her parents would leave Sussex and travel through rain, sunshine, sleet, or snow to spend Christmas with both sets of grandparents. The girls were allowed to take one thing from under the tree for the journey and usually, they chose a book. Of course, the Christmas trees were real back then and were decorated with real candles, which would be lit for a short time. Fern said that her aunts were probably waiting behind the parlour door with a bucket of water, just in case!

Althea Barlow said that when she was little, the children were never allowed to see the tree before Christmas morning. What anticipation they must have felt when they tumbled out of bed that morning!

The fondest memory that Joan Harrison shared was of the first night that she was allowed to attend the midnight Christmas Eve service with her family. She was only about six years old, and it snowed that night as they walked the mile or so together from their home to the Anglican church in Plaster Rock. She can still picture the beauty of that evening.

Ken Howlett began every Christmas Eve as a young boy with a family skate on Lake Edward, followed by going to church together. When they returned home from church, they would put a lunch out for Santa before heading to bed. Ken also remembers the sparklers and real candles that decorated the tree and the warning to little ones to sit down and not touch the tree. The mischievous twinkle in Ken’s eye as he related this story leads one to believe that those warnings were well advised!

They say that the heart always comes home for Christmas …

When Carolyn Howlett was six years old, all she wanted for Christmas was a doll carriage. There seemed to be a dearth of doll carriages in the shopping area close to New Denmark. Thankfully, Carolyn had an aunt and uncle living in Toronto and her mother wrote to them to share her dilemma. Off they went to Eaton’s and a doll carriage was shipped from Toronto to New Denmark. For little ones, Carolyn says it was all about the cookies and the presents!

Wendy Brien recalls the Christmas that they spent in what is now the family cottage in Maquadavic. They had moved to New Brunswick from Silver Springs outside of Washington, after her Father suffered an injury. The log cabin on Maquadavic Lake was built by Wendy’s grandfather, and they lived there for a year or so before moving into town. Wendy told us how beautiful and magical a place the cabin was with its huge stone fireplace and still is magical to this day. She remembers an owl who got to spend Christmas with them, due to a broken wing. He was a well-behaved owl, unless he smelt smoke. Then he would hoot and hoot. No need for a smoke alarm in that house!

Mavis Cater, and her daughter Amy Elizabeth, both commented on the year that Amy Elizabeth received a bouncing ball. lt seems it was one of Amy Elizabeth’s favourite toys and one on which she could sit and bounce joyfully all around the house. Mavis said, somewhat wistfully, “I wish I had one as well.” She may have been expressing what many mothers feel at the end of Christmas Day, as well-sugared children head off to bed. “Oh for a bouncy ball…” Mavis also told us how on Christmas Day, she loved to head over to her granny’s house in Williamsburg. She had a young cousin just a year older than her, who due to having lost her Mother at an early age, lived with her grandmother. She would receive lots and lots of toys—more than enough for her and Mavis to enjoy!

… so many memories of Christmas’s past seem to fill our minds

When her children were about two and four years old, Juanita Fowler recalls finally getting them off to bed and asleep so that gifts from Santa could be placed under the tree on Christmas Eve. While the children did indeed get into bed, sleep apparently was a little farther away than Juanita thought. As presents were being placed carefully around the tree, a little voice was heard whispering, “Page you got your carriage!” Paige wound up spending the night sleeping with her mother, and Kevin slept with his father to prevent any further destruction of Santa’s surprises.

Lois Baker’s next-door neighbour could have helped Juanita solve the problem of sneak peeks on Christmas Eve. They had six rambunctious little ones to try to corral in their rooms, as presents went under the tree. The neighbour solved the problem by tying the bedroom doors together during this process!

Lois’s father was the true Christmas lover in the family. They had a big old house where rooms could be shut off and not heated when not being used. Much to his delight, the Christmas tree went up in one of these rooms. That meant that it could stay up long after Christmas. Sometimes it would stay up until Easter. Every Sunday, Lois, her sister, and her father would light the fireplace and sing Christmas carols! That’s a true Christmas afficionado.

One Christmas was especially jolly for Mary Pugh’s little brother. He was running around and round the dining room table, full of more energy than usual because the seven-year-old had indulged in brandy butter! Mary’s family lived in a big Victorian house in England with a huge staircase. Like Althea Barlow’s family, the Christmas tree was never put up until after the children were tucked up in bed on Christmas Eve. One can imagine the expressions on the children’s faces the next morning!

As we head towards Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, keep checking this website for more stories of Christmas past.

Cathedral communications


One thought on “The Magic of Christmas Past

  1. What a delightful collection of reminiscences! Thanks for gathering these stories and sharing them with us. Keep ’em coming! Wishing a happy, holy Christmas to all.

  2. These wonderful reminiscences made me recall the time when I was three (and the only child at the time)and decided I would stay up with my parents until Santa came. They had a real challenge to get me to to bed, because I did not fall asleep as they had hoped as the evening wore on – and on. Finally they said Santa wouldn’t come unless they went to bed and for some reason this convinced me to get off my dad’s lap where I was sitting ramrod straight, apparently,and head for bed.

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