As the countdown to the end of the year is gradually approaching, we prepare to celebrate it and reminisce. For some, the farewell to the 12 months bring memories of old traditions that were celebrated with families and friends.
These memories take them back to a different era, of younger days with different people, locations and, maybe on different lands.
Many of our seniors grew up with their typical traditions on the Prairie farms, the coastal mountains or maritime locations of this vast country, while others, perhaps, came from far away lands to fulfill their dreams and begin a new life.
Canada has been described as the land of multipluralism and ethnicity where people from all part of the globe have come to live and prosper here. With their arrival, they have also brought their customs and experiences to enrich the Canadian mosaic. We see the variety of traditions when we celebrate festivities such as Christmas and New Year.
Some examples of the ways some celebrate or celebrated the end of the year, which might have begun many generations ago with our ancestors, are: “… the belief that people should eat seven, nine, or 12 times on New Year’s Eve”.
“To tell the fortunes of the New Year by melting “tin” (actually lead) in a tiny pan on the stove and throwing it quickly in a bucket of cold water”.
“When midnight arrives, the families count down and then they turn off all the lights and reopen their eyes to ‘enter the year with a new light’”.
“Neighbours meet at their nearest large bonfire, while watching the midnight fireworks”. “It is traditional to eat 12 grapes, one on each chime of the clock”.
“New Year’s Eve (as well as New Year’s Day) is a public holiday, and is one of the biggest holidays of the year”.
“Traditionally, most households in Spanish speaking countries host or attend a midnight feast called the Media Noche”.
Seniors homes in the Valley are rich of memories of events and people from seniors who often reminisce on old traditions that were part of their lives.
Two residents of Echo Village, Betty Vandermolen and Ruth Brohmann, share some of their memories on the year’s end celebrations.
As a child, Betty grew up in Holland. She remembers New Year’s Eve as a time to celebrate either at their home or at the neighbour’s home. Neighbours and friends would be invited. They would dance and sing all evening with lots of food to eat and yes, drink as well. The small children would be sent to bed early in the evening. The older children were allowed to stay up with the adults until midnight to welcome in the New Year.
At midnight, Oliebollen were served—a traditional Dutch New Year’s Eve treat. Betty remembers this being the job of the men—to prepare the dough early in the evening and make the Oliebollen close to midnight.
There are many Oliebollen recipes with slight variations. Betty is not sure what has happened to her family’s recipe over the years, but here is a typical one to share.
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 ¼ cups whole milk
1 tsp. salt
3 tbsp. active dry yeast
2 tbsp. warm water OR milk
2 tbsp. finely grated lemon peel
½ cup raisins
½ cup currants
¼ cup combined crystallized ginger, lemon peel and orange peel
5 tart apples, peeled, cored and diced
8 cups sunflower cooking oil
2 cups icing sugar
Sift the flour and add the milk and the salt. Dissolve the yeast in about 2 tbsp. warm water OR milk and then let it stand for about 5 minutes.
Add the yeast to the flour mixture and place the dough in a warm place, to rise for about 1 ½ hours.
After it has risen, punch the dough down and add the grated lemon peel and the raisins, currants, peel and diced apples.
Heat the oil to about 375’F and, using 2 tablespoons which you have dipped in the hot oil, pull a ball of dough from the batter and dip it in the oil until golden brown.
Allow the Oliebollen to rest on some paper towels for a few minutes, then place on an attractive serving tray and garnish liberally with icing sugar.
Ruth remembers when she was a young wife and mother, they would invite friends and family to their home for a New Year’s Eve dinner. Ruth made most of the dinner, but says that her husband was a great help as well.
About 14 people including the children would sit down at 5 p.m. for a delicious meal. There was always lots of talking and laughter around the table.
Once the meal was complete, everything was cleared away and they would play games until midnight when a resounding “Happy New Year” would ring out!
Soon everyone would say goodnight and go home to bed. Ruth remembers New Year’s Eve always being lots of fun.
(A special thanks to Mitzie Colyn for the residents’ interviews—Orlando)