Christmas was always a big deal when I was growing up. No less than seven Christmas trees were decorated and positioned throughout the house, each with a theme. My mom and grandmother would spend days cooking and baking for a Christmas party that boasted 40+ guests; tables set up in the garage became a makeshift cold room for anything that could be made a few days ahead. There would always be certain foods, desserts especially, that were made every year, like two different kinds of trifle, one berry and one chocolate, and a tart lemon pudding served in wine glasses with berries and decorative chocolate shapes resting on top. The mail was eagerly watched for the small, white box containing my great-grandmothers assorted shortbread cookies, my favourite ones had half a dried cherry on top, and fruitcake, which was my first experience with marzipan.
It’s been many years since the days of seven Christmas trees and my Gran passed away in 2007, but I can’t enter the month of December without thinking about the many Christmas traditions that I grew up with, some newly forged and some carried on from generations passed. As I look forward to spending my first Christmas as a mom, I’m thinking a lot about where my family’s traditions came from and which ones I’ll continue (or start) with my own family. And I find myself, as I often do, turning to genealogy to help answer these questions. Genealogy can tell us a lot about our present, and uncovering the history behind treasured traditions is one of the most rewarding aspects of the pursuit. All this month I’ll be looking at Christmas traditions and what they say about our family history. So what are some of your favourite holiday traditions?