My Mother-in-law, Ruth Rath, wrote this article for her church newsletter 14 years ago. I’ve always liked this interesting peek into the kind of Christmas her Welland-based family enjoyed.
When I was growing up in the ’30s and ’40s, our Christmas routine never seemed to change.
Amid great excitement on Christmas Eve we each searched out and hung on the ends of our beds the largest stocking we could find. Come morning, we early risers would wake up the sleeping sisters as we jumped on their bed so we could see the treasures in our stockings. We would be rewarded with a simple toy or game, an apple (rarely an orange) and candies with a picture in the centre. When we couldn’t contain ourselves any longer, the four of us would converge on our parents’ bed and then be allowed to go to look at the tree and presents… but not to touch!
Ours was a family with limited income—a fact that I realized many years later—but there was always something waiting for each of us. The parents finally would arrive and gifts were given out—always a new pair of slippers, hand-knit mitts and one other gift for each. I remember that it was always a happy time.
In the late morning, we would load up the sleigh and hike across town to my father’s parents’ house. There, we would be greeted by the smell of a very large turkey roasting.
Slowly, aunts, uncles and cousins would gather and the fun began. 25 to 30 people would crowd and mill about, singing from the kitchen as they worked to finish off the meal.
My grandmother would choose one of the grandchildren to program the day’s entertainment. After we ate, all were expected to sing, play or recite whatever they could. A sing-song always finished this off. My grandmother played the fiddle or piano. She was also well-known in our church as a great one to recite.
An old Santa suit was put on the fortunate child who had been chosen to play Santa. The gifts, again simple treasures, were given out. “Pit,” a favourite noisy game, was played on and on until the adults couldn’t stand it any more. Families started drifting away before supper as the dark closed in.
Our family usually stayed on for a bite to eat before setting out on the long, weary walk across town. We would look for the trees and lights in people’s windows…a cheery sight. Then to bed…the end of a perfect day.