By Ann (Lysak) Stoute – Brampton, Ont.
When I was about seven years old on our farm in Hazel Dell, Sask., Christmas Eve was the most magical night of the year. Outside the air was cold and crisp. The snow sparkled in the moonlight and the stars twinkled in the sky. I’d go upstairs and look out the east window. It was heavenly to look out the window as I could see the smoke trailing out of the chimney.
I knew Christmas Eve had come because the sky started to populate with many twinkling stars. I was sure the star of the east had to be there somewhere – the star the three wise men followed so long ago. This to me was heaven. It was easy to believe in heaven because the sky seemed so high up and had so many stars.
Meanwhile, downstairs mother was busy preparing Christmas Eve supper–which was a very onerous task as it was 12 meatless dishes; each very time-consuming.
Not only did she have the challenge of preparing this meal in time for supper, she also had to ensure there was firewood in the wood box to continue to fuel the stove, and snow brought in a tub to melt in the stove reservoir to make water to wash the dishes.
As mother was busy multitasking, dad was finishing up the evening chores feeding hay to the cows and horses. Then he’d close up the barn leaving the animals warm and cozy.
Dad began passing dishes
When dad came into the house it was time for supper, but not before we said the Christmas Eve prayers. Mom and Dad and all the siblings knelt around the heater in the living room. That was the warmer part of the house. After prayer we waited for dad to start the evening meal.
He’d start by sprinkling wheat over the table in thanksgiving for the harvest. Then dad began passing the various dishes mother prepared: perogies with different fillings of sauerkraut, poppy seed, cheese and potatoes, and most loved, raspberry filing, cabbage rolls, salmon, plus other dishes.
Dessert was apple pie, lemon pie, and Christmas cake. And mother always made delicious donuts and crinkles and her own homemade root beer which sizzled when the bottle was opened. It was real root beer, not the sugared water type sold in stores today. This had the real root beer extract which gave the flavour without the sugar.
Brother Walter was the Santa Claus of the family. He was truly the ‘real Santa’. It was his sparkle of generosity and goodness that made Christmas exciting and a wonder, as we wondered what the presents were in each of the meticulously wrapped boxes.
The shiny paper with flocked imprints and matching ribbon topped with a bow made you want to look at the gifts as decoration to be admired. Saving the wrapping paper was a must.
Decorations the size of grapefruit
Walter was very fixed on having the tree decorated just perfect. He brought beautiful Christmas balls which were the size of grapefruit, and in pretty pastel colors, pink, mint green, and blue, covered with snow and Christmas motifs. Some of the balls had crested centres which sparkled in various colours. The tinsel he hung with much care, ensuring it was spaced exactly in each swag and evenly layered.
While mother was busy continuing with her kitchen duties, we tried to stay up as late as we could to capture as much of the night as we could, but sleep soon overtook us, so off to bed we went.
But that wasn’t the end of the magic for me, as I came downstairs in the night after everyone was asleep, the living room was a place of heaven for me, the moon and stars illuminated the tree, the balls, icicles, and tinsel sparkled. The room was alive with the sparkling of the Christmas decorations and no other light was needed.