Christmas Doings

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I’ve lived in the past in many ways, ever since I was a child. Fascinated by old photos, old books, old stories. Old everything, it seemed. And never more so than at Christmas.

Soldier carrying a Christmas tree, 1915. source

That’s why when my mum married my step-father and we moved to the farm I was in seventh heaven. There were old buildings to explore, piles of old treasures in the dirt-floored cellar under the kitchen to unearth, and many, many old stories to hear from my step-father who was himself a bit mired in the past. I was particularly thrilled to discover, our first Christmas on the farm, that Lloyd would be harnessing up his team of horses to head into the woods to cut our Christmas tree. Oh, joy. I might have been a character out of Little Women, without the fur trimmed muff, of course. I wonder if sister Connie remembers the long, hooded, winter cape she wore on our adventure that year. Now, she DID look like a character out of the past.

Lloyd harnesses up the team. Sometime in the early seventies.

My favourite Christmas movies are, of course, the old black and white ones. I think I know every line of Miracle on 34th Street. Especially from the last scene where John Payne congratulates himself: “I must be a pretty good lawyer. I take a little old man and legally prove to the world that he’s Santa Claus.” I love that bit. I also love Maureen O’Hara’s wide-shouldered fur coat and fur trimmed hat. You can’t beat the forties for winter fashion, in my opinion.

The other night Hubby and I watched another old Christmas movie, one recommended by a reader here on the blog. The Bishop’s Wife starring Cary Grant, Loretta Young, and David Niven was new to both of us, and we loved it. I think Hubby liked it even better than I did. If you haven’t seen it you should do so. It has echoes of other favourite Christmas movies: an angel, and someone who has forgotten the important things in life. The same child actor who played Zuzu Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life plays little Debbie in The Bishop’s Wife. Plus Monty Woolley as the old professor is a dead ringer for Ed Gwenn in Miracle on 34th Street. Then again, it may just be the beard.

Now, have a look at the tree from The Bishop’s Wife, below. It reminds me of all our Christmas trees growing up. The same sparse looking garland, the same lights, except we had tin reflectors on our lights, and a few bubble lights. They were my favourite. Remember having to test every single bulb on the string when one went out? And all that tinsel. Our tree always groaned under the weight of all those tinsel icicles. My sisters and I carefully draped every single, blasted one of those. One at a time, over and over. We were NOT allowed to just toss handfuls of the stuff at the tree, as someone (who shall remain nameless) might have been tempted to do.

Cary Grant and Loretta Young in The Bishop’s Wife.

Icicles on the tree is one tradition I was not sad to abandon. When Hubby and I were first together we still used them. Our old cat would sit in front of the tree for hours, paws neatly folded, waiting for us to leave the room. One night Hubby heard a suspicious rustle from the living room and returned to see the cat still sitting, facing the tree. He turned around when Hubby chided him with, “Doc, what have you been doing?” Ha. I swear that cat could look so innocent, and so offended, when accused of anything. And we might have fallen for it if it weren’t for the two inch trail of icicle dangling from the corner of his mouth. Sigh. I miss old Doc. But I don’t miss the icicles.

We’re a bit behind schedule with Christmas this year in our house. Hubby and I have our tree up. But I haven’t even started decorating it yet. That’s tomorrow’s job. I love to unpack all the ornaments, and put up the lights, and garlands, and the old ornaments that I brought from home a few years ago. Then the wreaths, and the greenery on the mantle, and whatever, wherever. I hate to rush when I decorate for Christmas. Hence it is my one, my only, job tomorrow.

I’ll be taking a week off from blogging during the holidays, like I usually do. Hubby and I will spend Christmas Day with my sister and her family. We have a few parties and open house events to attend in the next couple of weeks. But Christmas Eve will be just us. That’s how we like it.

We’ll enjoy a bottle of good red wine and my famous (at our house anyway) Christmas tourtière. We’ll have lots of vegetables; Hubby is trying roasted brussel sprouts this year. A lovely, green salad with my cranberry-pear balsamic vinegar and blood-orange olive oil dressing. I love that combo so much I think I could drink the stuff. And then something light and lemony for dessert. When I’m cooking dinner, we’ll listen to the late Alan Maitland read Frederick Forsyth’s Christmas story “The Shepherd” on CBC radio. I hate to miss that story. I cry every time. You can listen to it here, if you like. But I warn you, have the kleenex ready.

And have a listen before you go to this final scene from Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. I do believe that Alistair Sim in this 1951 film is the definitive Scrooge. And although I’ve seen this movie a million times, I just noticed that Mervyn Johns as Bob Cratchit looks amazingly like Tim Conway. Ha.

I remember reading the original A Christmas Carol story when I was a kid. We had a big old hard-cover version that came from my grandmother’s house. Not to sound preachy, and I know you all know this, but I never cease to be amazed by how much we can learn from books. And from the films that are faithful renditions of books. About life, and how we should live our lives. And what resonated with me this year is the line that Scrooge says to Bob Crachit: “I haven’t taken leave of my senses, I’ve come to them.” That’s my wish for the world this upcoming year. May we all come to our senses.

And as for you, my lovely bloggie friends, I wish you all a wonderful holiday season. Have a warm and wonderful time with your family and friends celebrating whatever traditions you celebrate in whatever way makes you happy.

Love, from Hubby and me.

From the archives

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You know, sometimes when life gets very serious, it’s good to stop and stress about …

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59 thoughts on “Christmas Doings”

  1. Oh I love your nostalgia posts . I know life wasn’t perfect in the past & we mustn’t fall into the nostalgia trap but , like you , I’m a sucker for old photographs & films etc etc
    We have a TV channel in the UK called Talking Pictures . It was set up by someone who loved the old black & white films & felt they were neglected by the major channels . I’m sure you have something similar . They are broadcast all day long & it has been a great success . There are many repeats , which is handy & plenty of tosh , which can be good for a laugh , but there are also lots of treasures which have been hidden for years . We even have old film stars popping up now to wish us Merry Christmas .
    My niece is having family Christmas day at her house this year – her first house & they only moved in a month ago ( but she’s a great cook ) So new traditions may be coming along . Hope you & your family have the very best Christmas . Many thanks for all the work that you put in here on your excellent blog . And yes , may we all come to our senses .

    1. Thanks, Wendy. I remember your Christmas story about your mum and Max “dropping her.” Love that. Hope you enjoy your newly developing traditions. All the best for 2020. xo

  2. The first day of astronomical winter has dawned clear and dry so on we go with the preparations…enjoy all the traditions and the warmth of this blessed festival. I have spoken to Susan about our tree but she has merely turned the furry shoulder.

  3. I enjoy hearing about how other people celebrate Christmas. Here in Australia it will be swimming, a cold lunch with prawns, salads and cold ham and lamb. In the afternoon when it cools down a bit it will be a game of cricket in the backyard and then movies in the air conditioning at night. Hopefully we might even get a bit of rain. Merry Christmas to you and your hubby. I look forward to catching up with your blog in the New Year.

  4. How does it happen that whenever I open a new post from you it’ll be something after my own heart ? Maybe one of my ancestors emigrated to Canada and we are related ! We have so much in common ! To not be presumptuous !
    I laughed so much at your story of your cat’s antics with the decorations. I’ve had to be careful this year what I put on our tree since we have a new kitten. Although she mostly favours electric cables. In the past I’ve had to prise tinsel & stuff from the jaws of a cat.
    Anyway, have a wonderful Christmas , and carry on writing your much-appreciated blog in 2020 !

    1. Ah… thanks so much, Maisie. Stu and I always laugh about the furtive rustlings coming from the living room as the cats verrry quietly messed with the Christmas tree. Merry Christmas to you too.

    1. Sure. But I take no credit for doing anything but mixing. I bought the cranberry-pear balsamic vinegar and the blood-orange olive oil at a local shop here in Ottawa called “The Unrefined Olive.” And the combination was suggested by a lovely guy who I always consult for ideas when I shop. 1 tablespoon of vinegar to 2 tablespoons of oil. I have two or three flavours of vinegar now. I’m trying a fig vinegar with the orange oil as well. Yum. My fav olive oils are the orange one, and a pungent basil olive oil which I use frequently for pasta. A friend got me onto buying better oils and now we’re hooked. They are expensive but sooo good we think they’re worth it.

  5. And a Merry Christmas to you and your husband from me and mine, down under. I love that although we live across the world, our lives and our hopes are very similar. May 2020 bring us all continued good health and safe travels. Jules

  6. Happy Christmas to you and yours. Thanks for all the delightful blog posts and photos, for letting us tag along on your travels and for generously sharing your wardrobe adventures🎄

    1. Thanks, Maria. And thanks so much for reading. It’s a ton of fun to have these on-line connections. I am so glad I decided to start writing a blog. It’s really added richness to my retired life. That’s richness… not riches. Ha.

  7. I do not comment much but I would like you to know how very much I look forward to your posts. Thank you.
    I remember tinsel on our family tree and every year enjoy watching Christmas movies, Bishop’s Wife is a favourite. My daughter and I bake cookies watching White Christmas every year. I love family traditions.
    Merry Christmas.

  8. Hope you and Stu have a lovely Christmas. Thank you for all your hard work that makes your blog so varied and interesting. And as you say, may we all come to our senses in 2020.

  9. Thank you for sharing so beautifully. I, too, remember the tinsel icicle trees. We even reused our icicles….carefully removing before taking out the tree.
    Wishing you a blessed black and white Christmas.

  10. Thank you so much for slogging with blogging over the year. I thoroughly enjoy reading you. Long may your blog continue. Happy Christmas!

  11. Merry Christmas. Loved today’s blog. Did you know that originally Cary Grant was supposed to play the Bishop and David Niven, the Angel? A few scenes were filmed. But the director and producer realized that it just wasn’t right. They stopped filming and had a think. And maybe a bit of a rewrite. Apparently Cary Grant needed a lot of persuasion to switch parts. I heard this recently on a commentary on Turner Classic Movies. It is hard to even think of Cary and David in the other part.

  12. Lovely post. I too wish the world would come to it’s senses. That visual is perfection. Aren’t Cary and Loretta just gorgeous? Wishing you a very Merry Christmas. Thank you for all the joy you’ve given me with your book recomendations.

  13. A wonderful holiday to you and see you in 2020. Your dinner sounds spectacular! I haven’t been one to rewatch movies, not since Wizard of Oz stopped playing at Easter time here in the USA, but I am thinking I’d actually like to see one in theater this season:).

    1. Thanks, Lisa. I can’t get Hubby into a movie theatre anymore. He hates the noise. I have to go with my girlfriends. Hoping to see Knives Out with some pals over the holiday.

  14. Wishing you a very Merry Christmas. I hadn’t heard of the movie The Bishop’s Wife so merci for that recommendation. And really Thank You for ALL your recommendations throughout the year!
    Suz from Vancouver

  15. A very Merry Christmas to you and your Husband Sue. All the best for a Happy and Healthy 2020. Thank you for all you do!
    Glenda

  16. Merry christmas to you and your husband.
    Unfortunately it is rather warm in Germany, a bit more like easter, evev the birds started singing.
    Monika

  17. Merry Christmas to you and your hubby. Enjoy your blog very much, so interesting your holiday adventures as well as just the everyday stuff. Good job.

  18. The Bishop’s Wife, It’s A Wonderful Life, Christmas Carol (with Alistair Sims), Miracle on 34th Street are the wonderful old black and white movies that capture much of the Christmas seasonal spirit and are much loved. So much so that our two dogs were named after the angel in It’s a Wonderful Life (Clarence) and the angel in the Bishop’s Wife (Dudley) although at times the fur babies are not the angels that they were named after! I love real trees with white lights, hand blown glass ornaments and finished with leaded tinsel icicles…yes…I still place the strands one at a time and when done stand back to admire the shimmer of each branch. In my childhood in Quebec, our neighbour Mr. Rankin hitched his horse Nellie up to the classic red sleigh with bells and we would be off for a Christmas Eve sleigh ride…always put my little sister on my lap to act as a windbreak! Poor girl didn’t realize I was hiding my face from the frosty air in the warm pile of her coat. Christmas is a time for memories and making new ones…thank you for sharing yours. Warmest wishes for a healthy and very happy Christmas and year to follow for all those you hold dear.

  19. The Bishop’s Wife is my absolute Number One Christmas Film ! Who could resist such an angelic temptation ;-)?
    Your post from the past is beautiful. I can’t believe that I think fondly now about our Christmases,when they were celebrated only at home,they were not legitimate (we worked or went to school as any other day) but really intimate,cozy,”merry little Christmases”,without any consumerism
    Wishing a wonderful Christmas to you and Stu! And to the readers of your beautiful blog,our “meeting point”!
    Dottoressa

  20. Merry Christmas and thanks for (another) delightful read. If Doc left you any icicles, I’ll take some as it appears tinsel has gone the way of the do-do bird. I saved mine for years, and it finally got too tatty – who knew it would be impossible to replace. I hate putting it on (and taking it off), and I do love how every little puff of air sets the tree glittering! Anyway, thanks for the blog, the recipes, the movie/book/travel/wardrobe recommendations – best wishes always.

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