by Willa Condy
Growing up we had several traditions that we did every year. Well, some of our traditions didn’t start out as such, they evolved into traditions over time.
We had an acre of land that went up the side of the mountain behind my parents’ house. We would go up the mountain with my father looking for a perfect tree. My dad notched the top of the stump, explaining that what was left would grow a new tree.
I was two and a half the first time I got to go with my brother and sister and dad hunting for that perfect tree. The snow seemed deep climbing up the hill and I rode on the back of the tree going back to the house. I am pretty sure my brother cadged a ride on the return trip home. We would pick out our perfect tree but often find it was more of a Charlie Brown tree when we got it down to the house. One side would look perfectly bushy with branches. The other side was not so nice. The tree would defrost in the basement waiting for the day we set up our tree.
My mother’s birthday was December 22 and that was the day we put up the tree and decorated it. Our tree stayed up until after the 12 days of Christmas.
We also set up the creche on Christmas Eve and for many years my sister or my brother would read the Christmas story from the bible. As the youngest I was itching for my turn reading the story but we aged out of the bible story when I was old enough to read it.
We also had our Christmas cakes and the lucky stir. No one ever turned down one of my mother’s Christmas cakes.
My mom would mix the cakes in a large pot. When all the ingredients were in the pot we would have our lucky stir and make a wish on something that we wanted. I don’t think I really wished for presents that often. More likely I wished for snow for skiing or sledding.
The other tradition was the size of our turkey. When I was small I got sick one Christmas and wasn’t able to eat Christmas dinner. My folks promised me I could pick out the turkey for my birthday that year. When you are four bigger is always better and I was excited to pick out the ultimate turkey. It was the biggest turkey in the grocery store and weighed 26 pounds. My mother tried her best to redirect my attention to a smaller bird. I kept pointing to the big turkey and that was the one that came home.
My folks loved how that turkey tasted and it started a tradition of large turkeys. My mother would get up at six a.m. to get the turkey stuffed and in the oven. We would eat leftover turkey for a week. It was all part of our Christmas traditions.
My mother had many talents but housework wasn’t top on the list. We used to host Christmas dinner at our house and my father’s sister and family would come out for dinner. Back in the 1970’s phoning long distance was not done on a regular basis. We had an aunt out in Ontario and my dad would phone her every year on Christmas.
My mom would work at cleaning the house before the family rolled in. With the phone call to Ontario my Aunt and family started arriving earlier every year to try to be included in the phone call. It left my mother flustered and the housework started but not finished before the company rolled in. We still enjoyed having our relatives for Christmas dinner. That tradition ended when they moved further away and another tradition evolved.
My sister had left home when we took up skiing and my mom, brother and I would get our ski gear and head up to Red Mountain for skiing.
My mom would get up early and get the turkey cooking in the oven. My father would be left in charge of watching the bird and we would head up to Red.
One year my sister and her boyfriend came skiing with us. By the end of the afternoon both resembled snowmen from the amount of snow coating them.
I was having fun until I got one of my ski tips buried. I had cable bindings, an old set that should have let my foot pop. Instead my foot came right out of my boot. I guess it saved me breaking something and it did lead to a new pair of ski boots.
Christmas has changed over the years but some of the old traditions still linger. My tree is generally a ceramic one now. Never sheds and one of my aunts actually painted the snow on the tree limbs.
We can decorate outside the house in December but the tree and inside decorations don’t go up until December 22. That is one tradition I am keeping. The 26 pound bird not so much.