hroughout the years, the celebration of Christmas have changed, and so has our society too, but there is no doubt that the spirit of this important time of the year remains strong.
Many older citizens who now live in the Alberni Valley reminisce on the days they lived on the farms in the Prairies, or fishing or mining on the west coast, or in small villages, where running water was not always available and electricity did not reach remote areas.
Families and neighbours would spend special events together, such as Christmas, with food that came from their own gardens and meat and milk from their farms; and where gifts and decorations were mostly homemade.
“My parents were farmers and worked the land in order to provide for the family. My father worked the fields with team of horses,” says Bertha Levesque, resident of Abbeyfield.
“My mother would grow a big garden each year and can some food items for the winter. As a young girl, we enjoyed the food my mother prepared on Christmas Day, especially the turkey. And, unlike the way it is today, all our presents were knitted or sewn in our house, such as mittens, socks, coats, etc. There was no money available to buy things.”
She adds that Christmas was a joyous occasion in her household and a true family togetherness. They sang and laughed. But, unfortunately, Bertha’s father passed away, before reaching his 60th birthday.
“I loved Christmas, and I enjoyed it very much with mom and dad and my brothers and sisters, especially when I was very young,” says Pat Dearle, the youngest member of a large family, who was born in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. She has lived in Port Alberni for many decades but remembers her childhood fondly.
“We didn’t live on a farm, like many in those days. I used to get dolls that my mother would make for me. I loved it. On one Christmas Day, I received the best present ever: a violin. This opened the doors for me to learn how to play music on an instrument I enjoyed so much. Once I learned how to play, I performed at different community events.”
Nelda Stainbrook moved to Canada at the age of two. Her family, originally from Ontario, had moved to Detroit, Michigan, and then back to Ontario and Alberta, where she and her siblings were raised. Her father was a carpenter.
“We enjoyed all the activities that took place in the Christmas season, from school concerts to the family gatherings and, not to forget our lovely mother’s cooking. And, although we didn’t get many presents (we would be lucky if we got a pair of gloves or mittens, and occasionally a doll!), we all had a great time.
I want to wish my family and friends a Merry Christmas!”
Edith MacLean was born on Prince Edward Island, the second oldest of a family of six (three boys and three girls). “Our Christmases were always special celebrations in our household because it was an opportunity for a family reunion with a big dinner, a small Christmas tree and lots of fun,” she recalls.
“In those days, regardless of the celebration, we as young children, had to help with the farm chores. We had to go to the barn and milk the cows and do the cleaning, even on Christmas Day! We also helped mother with the cooking.
“This Christmas celebration will remind me of days gone by when we played, sang and enjoyed the festivities of such a special day in the year,” she said.
Terry Brown recalls that all her Christmases were happy times enjoyed by the family, mom, dad and a sister in Laforest, Ont. “We were lucky because my father, who was a logger, always had a job, even on the suffering days of the depression.”
Every Christmas during her childhood Brown saw the family enjoying the lovely meals skilfully prepared by her mother. “In that area, Laforest, there were 12 families who lived relatively close to each other. At Christmas time we got together for a good social time. I had a pleasant childhood and Christmas was always so special for me.”
Orlando Delano writes the Valley Seniors feature.