An Old Fashioned Christmas

By Caroline Sealey in Community

Snowfall blanketed meadows, fields, laneways and roof tops. Deer pawed at snowdrifts in search of food. Nuthatches and chickadees flitted from tree to tree in search of shelter. The only visible tracks on the road were those of the mailman’s horse and sleigh runners.
Three tiny faces pressed up against the window pane at the May farmhouse. The May children, Benjamin, Sarah and Peter had never seen this much snow before. They looked forward to many hours of outdoor fun building snowmen and forts, making snow angels and tobogganing. Baby Lily slept peacefully in her cradle by the fireplace. She was too young for all the excitement. Momma had finished the Christmas baking before the children were on Christmas break. She busied herself in the kitchen with last minute preparations as Christmas Day was tomorrow.
The back door flew wide open. First came the Christmas tree, then Poppa. The family had taken a few hours the day before for their annual Christmas tree hunt. The back bush had yielded many perfect Christmas trees over the years. This year it was Sarah’s turn to pick the tree.
Everyone gathered in the family room to help decorate the tree. As each box was opened, cherished ornaments were hung on the tree. Sarah hung Baby Lily’s ornament for her. Benjamin and Peter wrapped the tree in a popcorn chain they had made that morning. After the last decoration was hung, Poppa helped Momma put the star on top of the tree, a tradition in the May household for many years. Everyone thought the tree looked beautiful with all its homemade decorations. Each one hung their stocking carefully on the fireplace. Poppa helped Baby Lily with hers. There wouldn’t be many gifts as times were hard and money was tight. There would be little treats in the toe of every stocking. Great, Great Grandfather Park’s Bible was placed on the buffet, open to the story of the birth of the Christ Child.
Poppa, Benjamin and Peter had a few chores to do in the barn while Sarah and Momma got supper ready. A small meal before church with the big feast happening on Christmas Day. Supper was delicious and Momma’s deep dish apple pie was always a treat. Dishes were quickly washed and everyone scurried around to get ready for church. It was an hour’s ride to church on the sleigh. Bundling up warmly with hand knitted sweaters, hats, mittens and scarves was necessary. Baby Lily was tucked safely inside Momma’s overcoat. Blankets were plentiful and shared by everyone. The snow had stopped, making the ride to church more pleasant. Many neighbours joined in the procession along the way.
The Mays got the last few seats in the church. Central in the church was a wood stove which warmed everyone. Many familiar carols were sung. The sermon reminded everyone of the season’s theme of peace and love. After handshakes, hugs and goodbyes, the May family headed home for hot cocoa and decorated sugar cookies. It was a cold ride home, but singing and laughter kept everyone feeling warmer.
After putting the horses and sleigh in the barn for the night, Poppa settled into his favourite chair. Sipping on his cocoa, he read the Christmas story from Great, Great Grandpa Park’s Bible. Bedtime came too quickly for the children. Sweet dreams came to everyone that night.
Christmas morning arrived with another foot of snow on the ground. Poppa finished chores and everyone enjoyed a breakfast of pancakes and maple syrup. Momma delayed dish washing until after gifts were opened. Sarah and Peter offered to wash and dry later on. The family gathered around the Christmas tree while Momma took down all the stockings. Poppa rocked Baby Lily and helped her open her stocking. Each stocking was filled with a large orange and apple, nuts, chocolate and hard candy. Peter, Benjamin and Sarah were thrilled to find a wooden toboggan Poppa had made placed carefully under the tree. Momma had knitted sweaters, mittens, hats and scarves in everyone’s favourite colours. The family declared that this was another blessed Christmas on the May farm.
The Christmas tradition in the May family was to all gather at Grandma and Grandpa May’s farm for the Annual Toboggan Run. This was no ordinary fiddles fiddles run, on no ordinary toboggan hill. Poppa and Benjamin had loaded the toboggans on the back of the sleigh. Sarah and Peter had put the food containers under the seats. Momma had Baby Lily tucked inside her overcoat, wrapped in many warm blankets. The trip took only twenty minutes and was filled with the anticipation of seeing the rest of the May family, which consisted of many aunts, uncles and cousins.
Upon arrival, the sleigh was unloaded and all family members gathered to start “Tobogganing Time.” The unusual thing about the toboggan hill was that it wasn’t a hill at all. It was the steep laneway that lead to Grandma and Grandpa’s farm. Anyone could really build up speed and slide across the road. Toboggans were shared and the horses came in handy pulling riders and toboggans back up the hill to the starting point. Some of the older children thought rolling down the hill would be fun. Laughter came from everyone as they watched the children trying to walk after rolling down the steep hill. Some of the adults and younger children built snowmen and made snow angels on the hillside. Many trips were made up and down the hill. Even Grandma and Grandpa enjoyed a toboggan ride. The sun shone most of the afternoon which kept spirits up. By five o’clock many hands and feet felt like they were frozen. Everyone headed into the house to warm by the fire.
Grandma had the long wooden table decorated for Christmas dinner. After hands and feet were warmed everyone was called to the table for a meal. Grandpa blessed the meal and everyone chatted while enjoying Christmas dinner. After the meal and clean up, Uncle Samuel and Aunt Dorothy gathered everyone around the piano for a family sing a long. Hymns and old time Christmas songs were sung by young and old. The children did their version of Away In A Manger using Baby Lily as the Baby Jesus.
Grandma and Aunt Mary prepared coffee and served homemade treats while Poppa and Uncle Luke set up board games for everyone to enjoy. The younger children spent time colouring and looking at picture books. By midnight most of the children had fallen asleep. Momma and Poppa decided it was time to head home. Everyone thanked Grandma and Grandpa for a wonderful Christmas. The highlight of the day being tobogganing down, The Laneway Hill.
It was a quiet ride home and everyone went straight to bed. Poppa was the exception as he had to put the horses and sleigh in the barn and check the other animals. That night Benjamin, Sarah, Peter and Baby Lily all had pleasant dreams of Christmas Day – fun with family, good food and special gifts. I think Momma and Poppa did too!