Christmas Day with Helen

Introduction to Helen’s family mentioned in her story.

Her father was Selwyn Copping her mother Ruby Napier.

Uncle Wilfrid —her father’s youngest brother who lived on the family farm.

Her sister was Edith, 4 years older than Helen was always very close to Helen.

Reginald was the oldest in the family and the only brother.

Lillian was the youngest sister.

Aunts Mamie, Alice, and Sadie, were her mother’s cousin but always known as “Aunt”

On Christmas Eve Mother would be busy making dressing and putting it into the chicken. Uncle Wilfrid always brought two chickens which they had fattened up for us in time for Christmas. ( Turkeys were not yet used for Christmas Dinner). Oh, the smell of sage, parsley, and chopped onion, was so tantalizing! Our mouths were already watering with thoughts of Christmas dinner.

When I was very young, our stockings were hung at the end of our bed. As soon as it was light in the morning, we opened our stockings in bed. It was nice to have a sister sleeping in the same bed as we shared our joy over the presents we received. Always in the total of the stocking was a package of candy, an apple, and an orange. These were special because they came in our stockings and thus tasted so much better kept in the dish on the sideboard.

We have electric lights in the bedrooms, but night lights, as we know them now, we’re unknown then. Mother kept a cool oil lamp lit on a high stand in the hall. It was turned down low and gave enough light to see to get up at night. One year when I must’ve been seven or eight years, I wanted to see for myself if there really was a Santa or not as Reggie had told me there wasn’t one. That Christmas Eve I stayed awake and sure enough before her bedtime, using the lamp like to see, call bear my mother slipped into the room to fill the stockings. The following year the stockings were placed under the tree with our names printed on the toe!

After breakfast, it was time to open the presents from the tree. It was so hard to wait for Mother to finish clearing away the food from the table! Even though we had opened our stockings already, the excitement kept building waiting to see what else there was for us. Gifts from our parents would be clothing we needed or something we really wanted.

We also received gifts from Auntie Mamie, Aunt Alice, (away out in Kelowna, British Columbia), and Aunt Sadie,( also in British Columbia). Out of necessity, these gifts were small and not easily broken in the mail. They were exciting to open, as they usually were things that could not be found in stores in Rawdon.

Christmas Day was for the family. We had dinner at noon hour. The dining room was used for this special occasion. The table pad was put on first, then the damask tablecloth was spread over it. It seemed to take a lot of smoothing and pulling to get it just right. Then the good silverware from the drawer in the sideboard was set around and a Christmas cracker it was placed beside each plate. The table already took on a festive air.

Before we ate, we pulled the crackers. What fun and noise they made as they went off with a bang! If a cracker failed there was a long face. Mother or Dad would quickly trade their’s with the crestfallen one. The paper hat found in our crackers must be put on and the messages on the folded slips of paper had to be read out (by those who were old enough to read). My father always wore a sheepish looking grin while wearing his hat. It came off as soon as he could do so without attracting attention.

We had roasted the chicken which mother had stuffed the evening before. There was homemade cranberry sauce served in a cut glass dish looking so pretty and sparkling. We had turnip and canned peas with mashed potatoes for vegetables along with gravy. Christmas pudding with lemon sauce was for dessert.

When the food had been removed from the table a  bowl of mixed nuts in their shells was placed on the table. After eating such a big meal, we always seemed to be able to find room for nuts. My father had the unenviable task of cracking open the nuts for the younger ones when our little hands were not strong enough to open them with the nutcrackers. When we were old enough we could use the sharp pointed picks to get the nut meat out of the shells. The Brazil nuts liked to cling to the shell and usually had to be picked out piece meal.

After dinner there was always a collection of shells left at our places. The pale yellow of the almonds, the brown of the hazelnuts, the brown walnuts, the darker brown Brazil nuts, and the rate of the pecans were all in a pile.

The Brazil nuts were oily inside if they were fresh enough. My brother, Reggie, being the oldest, placed them in the indentations in the wood stove lids. A match was lit and put to each shell lighting the oil. We would gather around to see how long each shell would burn.

On the sideboard was a cut glass pedestal dish of stuffed dates. This was a tradition of Mother’s. When I was old enough, I helped split the dates open and remove the stone. An icing sugar paste was then placed inside each date. For some unknown reason my sweet tooth did not fancy stuffed dates.

There was another glass dish with mixed chocolates and candies. Dad liked the licorice candies, which came in assorted shapes and sizes. Another favourite of his was the lemon and orange flavoured jelly slices coated with crystals of sugar.

In the afternoon we would go sliding, skiing, or skating, for a while. I’m sure that Mother was glad to have a quiet rest.