Old Fashioned Christmases

By Dave Geddes

 

CHRISTMAS AS IT WAS CELEBRATED – 1870s.

 

Consider the Christmas Mrs. Victoria Callihoo describes from memory in her ‘Early Life in Lac Ste. Anne and St. Albert Eighteen Seventies’.

 

She remembers the long trip to Lac Ste. Anne Mission to attend Midnight Mass. The trip, she remembers ‘was a delight for young and old’. The church would be filled with good-natured people happy to attend the simple service. During the service ‘bundles of food were placed in the corner for enjoyment on Christmas Day’. Everyone was made welcome. On Christmas Day meals were served consisting mainly of favourite dishes – meatballs, bannock, rice and raisin pudding, and for dessert cooked, dried apples. There were no gifts exchanged. It was a religious feast filled with joy, good companionship and feasting.

 

Charles Dickens, writing in far-away England about the same time, has his Bob Cratchit say it all. ‘A Merry Christmas to us all, my dears. God Bless Us’.

‘God Bless us every one’ said Tiny Tim, last of all.

 

CHRISTMAS DINNER MENU – FORT EDMONTON 1847

 

Boiled buffalo hump                          Boiled buffalo calf

Mouffle  (dried moose nose)             White fish browned in buffalo marrow

Buffalo tongue                                    Beaver tails

Roast wild goose                                Potatoes

Turnips                                               Bread

 

PIONEER CHRISTMAS DINNER 1899

 

Chicken, head cheese, vegetables, potatoes, apples and cakes

 

At Christmas be merry, and thankful withall.

And feast thy poor neighbors, the great with the small. – ThomasTusser

 

TYPICAL PIONEER MENUS

 

1881   Breakfast:       wheat porridge with a little molasses, toast, rabbit stew, tea (no milk)

Dinner:           rabbit, potatoes, bread, tea

Supper:           more rabbit, potatoes (fried if grease available), bread, tea.

 

1885   Breakfast:        porridge or mush, milk and brown sugar, sometimes hash or cold meat,

warmed potatoes, bread, butter if available, stewed or preserved fruit

Dinner:            stewed rabbit with dumplings, potatoes and another vegetable, sometimes plain pudding or pie

Supper:            variable: hot soup, pancakes, perhaps potatoes cooked some tasty way and often raw onions

 

Breakfast:        porridge made of ground wheat

Dinner:             potatoes and one kind of vegetable, sometimes meat, bread and butter

Supper:             bread and milk, sometimes boiled wheat with milk and no sugar

 

1893    Breakfast:       oatmeal porridge, fat bacon, bread, butter and tea

Dinner:            fat pork, potatoes and another vegetable and apple pie

Supper:            rice and egg or canned salmon, buttermilk pancakes and syrup

 

Reprinted from The Echoes, Vol. XXVI, No. 1, January, 2008; St. Albert Historical Society

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