Heavenly smell fill the air at Christmas

From our December 2011 issue

By Gladys Ridley – Edmonton, Alta.

With Christmas just around the corner, I think back to my childhood and the Christmases spent growing up on a farm near Dunstable, Alta. My loving parents made Christmas a magical experience for me and my 10 siblings. Money was scarce, so they used the resources at hand to create memories that have lasted me a lifetime.

The day before Christmas, poppa would take his axe on his shoulder and disappear into the woods. He’d come back at dusk with a tree bigger and more beautiful than ever before. The door would burst open and with a cloud of freezing air, poppa would pull in a tree that would hardly fit through the door’s frame.

He would stand it in the corner on the floor and it would reach right to the ceiling. A heavenly smell of spruce would fill the house. Mom would get out her decoration box and we’d trim the tree right after supper. She’d bring a bowl of oranges and apples from the cellar. From somewhere else, she would find a bag of candy.

She would make little cone-shaped bags from an Eaton’s wallpaper sample book. Each would be a different pattern. I helped fill these little cones with peppernuts, candy, and nuts. One for each of us hung on the tree.

Gum wrappers made into stars

The silver paper we had gathered all year from chocolates and gum was carefully smoothed out. I watched fascinated while mom folded each one. Then, with one snip of her scissors, she unfolded a perfect silver star. These were hung on the tree along with apples, oranges, and candy.

Out of a box, mom took a roll of sparkling tinsel, which she very carefully draped over the tree. Oh, the magic in that roll of tinsel. It turned my tree into a shining fairyland! Then came 13 candle holders with real coloured candles in them. She carefully clipped each holder onto a safe place on the tree. We ended the day singing carols. I still remember poppa’s lovely voice.

In the morning I was up bright and early to dash down the stairs. There, on the ceiling, hung all kinds of toys. There were no names on anything and only poppa knew to whom they belonged. Santa had told him when he came.

We flew up the stairs to wake poppa and pulled him down the stairs. He pretended he couldn’t see anything, never looking up, and I was in a frenzy trying to get him to see what Santa had brought. Finally he looked up and said, “Vell look at what Santa dot! Vy didn’t you tell me dey ver in der ceiling?”

Spellbound at the sight

I got a wonderful big teddy bear one year and it was my prized possession for many years.

After Christmas supper, the little ones sat on poppa’s knee. Mom and the older kids gathered around the tree. Each was in charge of one or two candles. The candles were lit and it was a beautiful sight. I was spellbound! As each candle burnt down to an unsafe level they were put out.

We were allowed to stay up late. At midnight, mom set out lunch and passed around the big box of chocolates which poppa always managed to get for her, no matter how poor we were. She always gave him a box of cigars. Images of my poppa and Christmas still flash vividly in my mind when I smell cigar smoke.

These childhood Christmas memories will live forever in my heart.

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