Holidays and Celebrations

What holidays, traditions, or celebrations were observed in your home during your early childhood?

Celebrations were always an important part of growing up in our family, and almost always included lots of extended family, as well as friends. In a way, the holiday celebrations at our house started with Hallowe’en! Of course we grew up in a day and age when Hallowe’en was relatively fun and safe… well, except maybe the year we were dressed as robots in big paper bags, and kids kept tossing firecrackers our way, and our mom was terrified we’d go up in smoke! Anyway, the important thing about Hallowe’en was that we’d get candy, of course. We’d be allowed 3 or 4 pieces that night, then maybe one piece each night for the rest of the week… and then it would disappear. Candy was not a common item on our menu!

Which brings us to Christmas, when Santa Claus would bring stockings with a Japanese orange and an apple in the toe, a tiny doll in the top for the girls or a little car in the top for the boys, useful gifts like socks in the middle, and scattered among them, a bit of Hallowe’en candy! Christmas was definitely a big celebration, whether at our house, or at the home of relatives at Summerland or at the coast. It always started well ahead of time, with Christmas caroling, special events at church, and decorating the tree. Since the tree was real, we’d decorate a few days before Christmas, and it would come down New Year’s Day. Christmas eve we’d hang the stockings, and then off to bed. Next morning we’d wake up bright and early, and peek through the crack at the edge of the living room door, to see the magic of Christmas morning. The stockings, hung by the chimney with care, were stuffed full, and the Christmas tree lights were on in the dark room, illuminating the heap of gifts under the tree, where the floor had been bare the night before. Of course we kids were not allowed into the living room until the adults very slowly got up, had a cup of coffee, and did all they could to keep the suspense going. We had a rule that no one could go into the living room for stockings unless they were still in their pyjamas. So we have some quite charming pictures! Anyway, after opening stockings, we’d have breakfast, which was always the one-serving cereal boxes, with sugary brands – cereal was a huge treat at our house; and sugary cereals only appeared at Christmas. The rest of the year we were “treated” to corn flakes or rice krispees, on Sundays. Sometimes we’d even have store-bought eggnog for Christmas breakfast, which I really loved. Again, the adults would sit around and drink endless cups of coffee, and drive us kids crazy with waiting. Finally, they’d wander back into the living room, and the gift opening would happen. Gifts were handed out one at a time, and we all had to wait our turn, and ooh and aah over each gift. Finally, after all the gifts were opened, carefully so the paper could be folded and reused next year, we’d get to enjoy our new treasures. Christmas dinner usually occurred a little after noon, with the dining room table pulled out to its maximum size, and usually an extra table or two added on the ends to accommodate the crowd of both relatives and friends! Mom always invited people who had no place to go, so we often had Fuller Brush salesmen, little old ladies from church, Mormon missionary boys, or anyone else who needed family at Christmas! We had turkey dinner with all the trimmings. We could always count on yams and jellied salads, which were treats, at least in my opinion! Dessert was generally pie and ice cream. In the afternoon and evening, we’d play table games and try out our new toys. If we had received outside items, like new sleds or skis, we’d head outside and slide down the little slope on our front lawn to try them out. When I got into my early teens, our family took up skiing, so we’d go to bed early on Christmas day, to get up early for Boxing Day, and hit the slopes, with all our relatives. Of course lunch at the ski hill always featured turkey sandwiches with mayo and cranberry sauce. Yummmm… On New Year’s Eve we would sometimes go to “watch night service” at church, but I don’t remember too much about that; I don’t think we went very often. My parents were definitely “early to bed” types! We’d often have another big dinner on New Years, again with lots of relatives. And we’d take down the tree! End of Christmas…

The next celebration was Valentine’s Day. Of course we would be busy for a week ahead making valentines for all our friends at school. Some years we would make them from scratch, and other years mom would get one of the big old-style books of cut-out valentines. We never had the fancy kind that came pre-cut, or that featured cartoon characters, much to my great sorrow! On Valentine’s morning, we would come out to the kitchen table to find Valentine treats at each of our places. These included cinnamon hearts… and Hallowe’en candy!

Then on to Easter. Of course Easter was an important event at church, starting with Palm Sunday, then on to Good Friday (if we weren’t traveling to the coast again!), and then the glory of Easter Sunday — sometimes with sunrise service on the top of Knox Mountain in Kelowna. Easter Sunday morning, we’d wake to find that the Easter Bunny had arrived. There would be dyed Easter eggs (which we had dyed the day before of course!) and those nasty colored Easter eggs with hard white sugary stuff inside… and Hallowe’en candy! (Are we beginning to see a pattern here?) Easter was again the occasion of a big family dinner, sometimes turkey, sometimes roast beef or ham… but always with lots of family and friends.

The next celebration was May Day. This was a huge deal in our little town of Rutland. There was a huge parade, and us kids would often decorate our bikes and go in the parade. There were also events all day at the park: May pole dancing (I was part of it in grades 2 and 3), crowning of the May Queen, West Coast Shows carnival rides, and softball tournaments. This was a true community event; the park was packed, and everyone had a great time. No, there wasn’t any Hallowe’en candy. I think it had either run out by then or mom had given into her craving and finished up all those nasty orange-with-black-Hallowe’en-pictures-wrapped brown chewy candy, which was mostly what people gave out those days, in addition to apples and homemade treats like popcorn balls and puff wheat squares… well, we really didn’t mind her eating it at all!

The next celebration was really more of a tradition… off to Family Bible Camp the day after school ended. In the good old days it lasted 10 days, but as the years went by it sadly got shorter and shorter. Those were wonderful days with great memories. As we got a little older, we’d be able to stay an extra week for Christian Youth Crusaders camp for 9 to 14 year olds. Summer just wasn’t summer without camp. The year my dad decided to take us on a long cross-Canada trip, we were broken-hearted to have to miss most of camp!

Of course summer also meant wonderful (well, in varying degrees!) family trips as both parents, being teachers, had the summer off. Sometimes we’d stay fairly close to home; other times we’d head off farther afield. On the very long trips we’d just travel as the family, but on shorter trips, we’d often have our grandparents with us, or meet our cousins for camping. In the early days we camped in tents, and later we graduated to a basic tent trailer. Summer travels were not elegant, but we got to see a lot of places, and meet many interesting people, as well as often have a lot of fun with friends and relatives. Some of the trips I remember are the cross-Canada trek, a trip to Yellowstone Park and Salt Lake City, a trip out to the prairies and western Ontario to visit places where my grandparents had grown up, trips to visit my cousins in Idaho, trips to the Cariboo including Barkerville, and several camping trips in the Rockies, in Yoho and Banff National Parks. We, however, did not go to “touristy” destinations like California or Mexico, and we certainly did not go anywhere we could not drive and take our trusty tent! We did spend a lot of time visiting historical military establishments and other such educational destinations, since my dad planned our trips!

The next celebration was Labour Day, which of course was always the day before school started in the fall. We generally got together with our relatives in Summerland, including my grandparents and sometimes my Mott cousins. I remember one year when Uncle Preston had a piece of property on a remote little stretch of beach on Okanagan Lake, and we went there by motor boat for a picnic, which we thought was really neat.

Our final big celebration of the year was thanksgiving. This was another important church event, and everyone would bring home canned fruits, fresh garden vegetables and such to the church. The platform would be totally loaded with all the wonderful products grown in our region. Afterwards, the produce would be given to “the poor” of course. Thanksgiving Monday almost always meant a trip to Manning Provincial Park where the Okanagan relatives and the coast relatives would meet in the middle to enjoy a day of hiking in the beautiful autumn forests and mountains. It was an event that we looked forward to with great anticipation. We would all bring picnic foods and “potluck” it. Mom always made her famous chocolate crazy cake, which was a great success except for the year when it turned out to be raw in the middle. Next day, at home, mom baked it some more and poured home-made chocolate sauce over it… and it was incredible! And then it was Hallowe’en again… and fresh Hallowe’en candy to start us off on another year of family celebrations!

I should mention, however, that we also celebrated birthdays with great joy! We would always have birthday cake and ice cream, with friends and family invited over. The cake was always much anticipated, as we did not have a lot of sweets. We might also have some potato chips, and on very rare occasion, might even have a glass of pop (well at least ginger ale in kool-aide)! As my birthday is mid-summer, it was often celebrated at the Summerland Experimental Farm with a big family-reunion-type picnic. My cousin Kathy’s birthday is one week before mine, so it was often a joint affair. Or we might be with relatives at the coast – or even on holidays. My 7th birthday was in Yellowstone Park, and was memorable for a burning marshmallow sticking to my leg, making my dad think I was being eaten by bears, so he rushed out of the tent banging pots and pans together and yelling at the top of his very considerable voice! Another memorable birthday was my 16th, in Toronto. We rode the subway, and we went to the Ontario Science Center. In a very large room, there was a “dish” at each end with a tiny hole in the center. If one spoke quietly into the hole at one end, one could be heard clearly through the hole in the dish at the other end of the room, despite all the noise of people visiting exhibits in between. So I said, “My name is Norma, and I am sixteen today!” There was a girl at the other end, and she said, “I’m 16 today, too!” So we met in the center, and congratulated each other!

While we did not spend a lot of money or do lavish things for our celebrations, we did find many reasons to celebrate, and celebrations always meant lots of good, healthy food, and wonderful times with friends and relatives. And quite often, Hallowe’en candy too!

Posted: Jun 13, 2008


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