Pioneer Christmas: A family tradition as told to me by my grandparents who experienced Christmas as children in the 1880s and 1890s.
It's Christmas time. Or, at least it will be in a couple of weeks.
At this time more than any other time of the year, I think about what life was like for the pioneers of our region.
I guess that I think about pioneer Christmas, because of the stories that my grandparents told me about their childhood Christmas memories in the early days of Grey and Bruce counties.
It's been more than twenty years since the last of my grandparents passed away, but still each year at this time I remember the stories that I heard when I was a child. When my grandparents were children growing up, more than 125 years ago, Christmas was far different than how we celebrate this festive occasion today!
In the late 1800s, preparations for Christmas began early in the autumn of each year.
When the leaves began to turn brilliant red, Mother and the children headed to the forest to collect chestnuts which would be roasted and served with Christmas dinner.
In November Christmas cakes and puddings were made and stored for the coming celebration. (I still remember the carrot puddings that my Grandma White made every autumn. I have tried many commercially made carrot puddings, but unfortunately none compare to the ones that my Grandma made!!)
In late November or early December one of the highlights of the year on the pioneer Christmas social calendar occurred. Everyone dressed in their best clothes and headed to either the schoolhouse or the church for the Christmas pageant.
The cares of surviving the harsh winter were forgotten, as everyone enjoyed the evening's entertainment, provided by the children of the area.
After the songs and skits, everyone enjoyed festive treats and the joy of being with their friends and family.
On Christmas Eve it was early to bed for the children. After all, no one wanted Santa Claus to find them awake.
On Christmas morning everyone got up a little earlier than usual. Now this may not seem unusual to us, after all, who amongst us doesn't arise a little bit earlier than usual on Christmas morning, especially if there are children in the house!
But the pioneers had to get up early to feed their animals and do the rest of the chores. While the work was being done in the barn the kitchen was also a hive of activity.
Mother and the girls, would be making a special breakfast consisting of eggs, ham and perhaps pancakes.
After breakfast everyone gathered around the Christmas tree which was decorated with home-made decorations and candles.
The gifts under the tree were usually homemade, but there were some treats which came from the store.
My grandmother remembered that there was usually an orange in their stockings, a rare commodity in this region in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
She used to tell us, that they savoured every drop of that juicy fruit and that she and her sisters often put the peels in their clothing chests to scent their clothes.
After the gifts had been opened the family either stayed home and enjoyed visits from friends and family or they went visiting.
Usually a big family feast was held with aunts, uncles, grandparents and cousins in attendance.
We enjoy turkey at Christmas, but the pioneers of this region usually served goose or ham with trimmings which included roasted chestnuts, turnips and potatoes.
Dessert consisted of pies, tarts, cakes and of course, Christmas pudding!
A pioneer Christmas was certainly different than the holiday we celebrate today!
Various versions of this story have appeared in my history column in the Owen Sound Sun Times over the years.
12-year-old Walks to Owen Sound in 1851 from the journal of a teenage boy's experience travelling with his brother in the untamed Upper Canadian wilderness.
1st Grey County Building in 1852 was only built after many hurdles were overcame.
Dr. Anna Henry from Markdale, was a medical trailblazer for women doctors in Canada, who helped lay the groundwork for the establishment for Women's College Hospital.
Egremont Township endured the usual growing pains of a pioneer community, but its early history records times when it was embroiled in a few contentious issues.
Euphrasia Township in the early years when spelling the name was a problem for those who called it home and those that wanted settle this new Grey County township.
Georgian Bay's 1st pioneer settler arrived on the western shoreline long before any other settler reached the area.
Grey County Heritage: A Valuable Resource which is rich and varied, as an important resource for future use for business, political, and many other purposes.
Grey County's Creation in 1852, laid the framework for organizing a county in the last wilderness in the southern region of what would become in the future the province of Ontario.
An Unlikely Hero From Grey County (Part 1) found his way from the farming community of Flesherton to missionary work in the Ottawa Valley, and beyond.
An Unlikely Hero Vs. The KKK (Part 2) Our hero from Grey County took his missionary zeal south of the border and ultimately crossed paths with the infamous KKK!
Barn Raising: A Pioneer Economic and Social Necessity as it provided settlers with an opportunity not only to build a barn, but also build a community.
"Barring Out": A Pioneer School Tradition was a custom which the settlers brought to the new world from England, or Scotland.
Ceylon Ontario: How it Got its Name: It is always interesting how a community got its name, but I doubt any place received its name from a more unique source!
Chatsworth Ontario: First Settlers took advantage of fulfilling the needs of pioneer travellers and built a thriving community in the Upper Canadian wilderness.
Clearing Trees a Daunting Task for Settlers as they worked to fulfill their obligations for their land grant.
Dornoch: or is it Smithville? Originally it was Smithville, then it became Dornoch. But, surprise it is still, in reality Smithville!
First Pioneer in Durham: Archibald Hunter established his family, and a hotel, in what would become the centre of the town of Durham.
Durham Ontario Influenced by the Saugeen River. This river provided a means to create new industries, but especially in the spring it can also pose a menace to the community.
Grey County Bylaws to the 1890s reveal a lot about the financing of local government, especially education in the early days of the region.
John Muir, the legendary naturalist, who promoted the idea of protected nature spaces, spent time in Ontario and I went to help find evidence of his stay in the Owen Sound area.
A Heroic Woman From Grey County who made great changes as a doctor in China in the 1890s and early 1900s.
Jesse James: In Grey County? An interesting question. Did the notorious gangster hide out in Proton Township? We will never know. But it is fun to speculate!
Kilsyth's Train Engine was one for the history books. It brought an evening of joy followed by disappointing news soon after.
The Knight's of Meaford have long history in that Grey County community. Their business forged by early settlers employed many locals and supported the economy.
Leith: Tom Thomson's Birthplace is part of the rich heritage of this community located on the east shore of the Georgian Bay north of Owen Sound.
The Leith Golf Course has provided many families with great memories. The history of this golf course starts, and ends, with the generosity of one family.
Agnes Macphail was a political trailblazer in a part of Ontario that one could hardly expect such radical action for the era in a rural region.
Markdale Ontario: The Beginning: originally known as Glenelg East, but the coming of the railway and the name of owner of the land for the station led to a change of identity.
Meaford's history is one of hardy and entrepreneurial pioneers carving their lives out of the wilderness of what would become Grey County.
Meaford Ontario, first called Peggy's Landing located on the shores of Georgian Bay has a rich history.
Meaford vs Purdytown. Conflict over the name of a new community was not unusual in early Grey County but electing a school trustee was the "hot button" issue in this rivalry.
Pioneer Clergyman: John Neelands was the first to minister to the first settlers' spiritual needs riding on horseback through the wilds of early Grey County.
Pioneer Doctor: Dr. James Smith, a local boy who became a doctor and served his community for his entire life was a testament to Grey County community spirit.
Pioneer Healthcare in Grey and Bruce counties was not administered by doctors, nurses, or pharmacists, no it was the responsibility of the women of the community.
Pioneer Homes in Grey County in the 1840s offered only basic amenities. Homes were basic because clearing the land to earn a living to survive were of paramount importance for those embarking on a new life.
Pioneer Ingenuity created many labour saving devices and methods and quite often helped to create a sense of community.
Pioneer Christmas: A Family Tradition as told to me by may grandparents who experienced Christmas as children in the 1880s and 1890s.
Pioneer Settlement Plans for Grey County began almost two decades before the rest of Grey County was available for settlement.
A pioneer road surveyor's impact on the local history of Grey and Bruce counties could have been dramatic, if it had not been changed by another surveyor.
Pioneer Teachers in Grey and Bruce Counties had a long and arduous task, not to mentions strict and confining job requirements for very little salary.
Plowing Match in Grey County in 1933 the first International Plowing Match held in Grey and Bruce counties and it's success led to more such events in Grey.
Settling Osprey Township: Parts of Osprey were considered too rugged to settle, but today they are prime real estate because of the great view!
Swamp College: Proton Township: this colourfully named institution of education in Grey County has provided many stories to the heritage of the region.
Sydenham Township's First Council undertook the often difficult task of creating a new municipal infrastructure.
The Impact of Snow is not what is Used to be! As snow removal equipment has improved the impact of snow on our lives has reduced significantly from previous eras.
Unique Characters: Nathaniel Herriman lived in Grey County and owned an inn to provide food and and accommodation to early travellers. Each day he performed a unique practice.
Unique Maps: Quilts Guided the Underground Railroad to enable runaway slaves to escape to Canada and freedom from the shackles that enslaved them.
The Women's Institute is a group of rural women that has made a difference to the quality of both urban and rural life in Grey County and across the country.