Thursday, January 1, 2009

Christmas on the Farm

Christmas was Mother's favorite holiday and it was particularly magical on the farm. We had two big work horses; one black, Jim, one white, Queen; and two riding horses called Tina and Tamara. A couple of weeks before Christmas Father would hitch up one of the horses to a sled so that we could go out to the woods to find the best Christmas tree. It would always seem very cold, somehow there was always snow for the sled to glide along and somehow the tree didn't take that long to find. I suspect that my Father had found the perfect tree during his many hunting trips in the fall and could take us right to it when the time came.

I recall one such time when Fred, Tony and I were with Father and I fell off the back of the sled into the deep snow - not too far from home, because Tony and I were laughing so hard at something silly. Tony and Fred tried to get Fathers attention to stop and let me catch up but the sound of the horse pulling the sled, the jingling of the sleigh bells and the rustling of the tree in the wind drowned out their cries. The more the gap widened between me and the sleigh the more we all laughed. After a short while Tony jumped off to walk with me the rest of the way home so I would not be alone. It was very funny and when we got home the hot chocolate Mother had made to warm us up and the feel of the warmth by the wood stove were very welcome indeed.

Once the tree was home, Mother, with our help of course, trimmed it with many home made decorations and a few precious glass ornaments that she had collected along the way. There were hearts made of shiny red and white paper woven into a small receptacle that would hold candies while it hung on a tree branch. And there were pink or white paper nets , cut expertly from folded tissue paper that were also filled with candies. The lights were the old bulb variety in beautiful colours of green, yellow and red but no blue. (Mother didn't like the blue ones.) They got very hot so we had to be careful not to touch them and not to leave them on too long.

It always seemed to be snowy for Christmas and the farm seemed somehow a little magical at this time of year. Mother made chocolate candies and she baked cookies and bread. She cooked roasts, hams and turkey. And there was always Christian's favourite red cabbage on Christmas eve. We had an old friend of the family visit on many Christmas eves, a bachelor who lived on Amherst Island where we had a beach lot for summer fun. His mother was a Baroness in Denmark but you wouldn't know he had such noble roots because he was a very plain, and quiet man who lived an almost hermit like existence. He always brought along a bottle of beer for each of Mother, Father and himself. In those days with five children and one paycheck, beer was a luxury that Mother and Father rarely enjoyed. Christmas was one of those occasions and then only because it came as a gift from a friend.

Mother always wanted us to sing before opening the Christmas presents. Usually it was the hymn Silent Night, Holy Night because it brought the true meaning of Christmas to the celebrations. None of us sang very well as I recall, but it didn't seem to matter....