Call us old fashioned but maybe that’s what getting old is all about. Today is Old Christmas Day for us, and it’s only now that we can think of taking down our Christmas tree. Unlike many folks whose Christmas calendar seems to begin in early December and ends with Boxing Day sales. Yet to each his own.
We got our tree at a local tree farm – preferably the one we’ve gone to almost every year – Laird’s U-Cut Christmas Tree farm on Manotick Station Road in Osgoode. Until recent years, I cut the chosen tree myself but lately we get the cutting – rather the sawing – done by the always obliging owner ‘s family or employee. This time, our guy went above and beyond, driving us in his truck to a backup grove and loading the tree on our car. Balsam fir trees suit us best for their pleasant scent, sturdy structure and longevity when suitably watered at base. We do the decorating a day or two before Christmas Eve.
Ornaments of rich sentimental value date back as far as our first Christmas in Newfoundland in 1959 and range widely in content from a presiding angel and other handiwork crocheted by Madeline’s sisters to such dinky little artifacts as a rustic tea kettle, a pair of miniature Torbay socks, a Frosty the Snowman and a bird family tucked into leafy havens among the branches. Little pieces of tinsel sometimes pop up to brighten the display,
We may take down our tree today but not before hoisting a toast to the Christmas season we’ve all enjoyed and in celebration of Twelfth Night, an event not only remembered by Shakespeare.
I like to recall a tradition once practised in old St. John’s and probably more so in its rural environs, like down Torbay way. They used to call it The Pilgrimage, a term reflecting its almost sacred status among stout hearted citizens mindful of the importance of preserving honoured customs of their ancestors.
Devotees of the pilgrimage tradition began on Christmas Eve by gathering at one of their neighbour’s homes in which they filled their glasses from household stocks and drank in solemn celebration of the happy and holy season. With many celebrants on hand, it did not take too long for spirits supplies to run out. Upon which, the party goers moved on another house, offered the same good hearted toasts, and made quick work of refreshments provided. Then on to the next welcoming abode. And so on and so on until all 12 days of the festive season ended at Epiphany time. Thus the pilgrimage came to a close for another year.
Christmas traditions, real or imagined, cling to our heart strings despite the excesses of modern merchandising, so let us cherish what is best of all that remains today, and keep its spirit alive and well.