Sunday, December 23, 2007

Christmas Eve - Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories

Dave and Diane, "A Childhood Memory Photograph", Xmas 1954, Woodwards Wonderful Toyland, Vancouver, B.C., Canada.
Photographer, Gwynne.

December 24 - Christmas Eve
How did you and your family spend Christmas Eve?

Christmas Eve was ‘family time’ when we were children. Sometimes my Na came over, but usually I think it was just my mum and dad, my brother and myself. I’m sure we children were jumping up and down part of the night, anticipating Christmas morning. Did we want to ‘be good’ and go to bed early, just in case Santa was watching? Maybe - we received a present on Christmas Eve, once we were all ready for bed, so we had an additional incentive.

Before that though, the house was a busy place. Dad had rushed out to find a tree as soon as the office closed. Sometimes he took my brother and me with him. Mum probably walked up the street to the corner store for some last minute bits and pieces for Christmas dinner. (No malls or big box stores in the olden days and no freezer at home either.)

Once at home, mum started preparing for Christmas Day – we kids had to clean off the dining room table which would be covered with Christmas wrap and supplies. Mum had already cooked a ham, (on the Day, she’d cook a turkey too) and the house was already shined up and ready, so for Christmas Eve, she made soup from the ham bones and we had ham soup and sandwiches for dinner. I would bet money that dad thought that a better meal than Christmas dinner, except for ‘no dessert’ – he wouldn’t eat turkey, didn’t want to be in the house while it was cooking and wouldn’t look at it on the table.

A few years, there was a bit of stress, for sure. My brother has reminded me of the year Dad, the Christmas-Eve-tree-shopper, couldn’t find a tree for sale anywhere, so took off in the car with my brother, found one somewhere (don’t tell where) and cut it down, chopping his leg in the process.

But most years, it was just busy for the adults - Mum in the kitchen cooking or elsewhere wrapping gifts for Na or for her best friends who often came to Christmas dinner with us, and Dad in the living room, trying not to swear, as he drilled holes in the Christmas tree to plug in extra branches to make the ‘last tree on the lot’ look better. (I am NOT kidding!)

We’d have some music on the record player or, in later years, we’d watch one of the Christmas specials on television. (We didn’t get a television till years after everybody else in the neighbourhood. Honestly, my parents!)

Once the tree was ready, Dad would put the strings of lights on, and we’d decorate it with the same old ornaments, some from my Rogers grandparents, and add any new ones we children had made that year. As far as I knew, almost every family did it like this, except for the tree business, that is. My friends’ families all had had their Christmas trees ‘up’ for ages and ages by Christmas Eve.

Since we were never away from home for Christmas as children, this Christmas Eve tradition was rarely broken. Santa never had to look hard for us, thank goodness. We were right there on Yukon Street where we were supposed to be, and yes, we had a chimney, so that wasn’t a worry either. (I remember my grandson fussing that my apartment didn’t have a ‘real’ chimney, so I hung a key on the outside door knob for Santa to use.)

One year I know the Easter Bunny had to search for the Rogers children, but found us in a California hotel room. I wondered then how Santa, the Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy managed to find all the right children. (Now I’d just want to wear a GPS transmitter.)

In a 1926 Winnipeg paper, there’s a nice story about Santa’s finding one little girl on Christmas Eve in a Canadian National sleeping car as the train clickety-clacked along the rails somewhere near Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.

Manitoba Free Press, Winnipeg, Canada
Monday, December 27, 1926, p. 2

“Nothing, Not Even a Train, Can Keep Santa Claus Out”

….Who would ever think that… [Santa]… could squeeze in through the transom of a sleeping car on the train, and the train speeding along through the night? He did it Christmas eve not to far out of Winnipeg.

You see, little Dorothy lives in Vancouver, and instead of being home to welcome Santa she was in a berth on the Canadian National railway on the way home. Christmas eve found her in Winnipeg, traveling from the east with her mother. She was greatly worried was little Dorothy. … She decided to pin her stocking to the green curtains and her faith to the good old saint.

Now the passengers came to hear about it, and they put their heads together…[Her mother had only a “few small things”.] So they took up a collection, and during the stop in Winnipeg sent one of their number out on a rush to shop.

That’s how it came about that the engineer was amazed to see a flock of reindeer sweeping down to the train out of the sky that night, so amazed that he didn’t think to wave back at the jolly red figure with the white beard that was driving them…. Santa stuffed Dorothy’s stocking so full that it nearly burst, stuffed the little string hammock by the window in the berth…waved his mitt, disappeared, jumped into his sleigh and out across the sky like the flash of a meteor. And in the morning when little Dorothy awoke - !

See, even Santa sometimes needs a little bit of help. I figure Dorothy’s fellow passengers must have been on Santa’s ‘nice list’ ever after.

"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a Good Night", especially to my baby brother!


The Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories:

“Night Before Christmas” by Major Henry Livingston, Jr.:

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