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This article first appeared in the December 20, 2018 issue of the The Low Down to Hull and Back News.External Link Reprinted with permission. Search complete list of Low Down Articles.

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Christmas then and now

By By Adéle Zeitoun, Francis Rose Zeitoun, and Isla Rattray. Special to the Low Down

As a child, Joan Garnet had to walk about a mile to school each day. It was bad enough in summer, but got even worse when she had to do it in winter. Joan said they were bundled up until you could only see a sliver of the face, where the nose was.

That was a memory that our friend Joan Garnet remembers from her childhood winters and Christmases in Manitoba. She also remembers the Christmas concerts. Maybe you've gone to Rupert's very own Christmas concert, or maybe not, but in those days, for everyone, including Joan and her family, this was a huge holiday tradition. Joan said that they would stock the carriage with blankets and pillows, but even with all that they had to huddle together to stay warm.

winter carriage ride
Christmas in a bygone era - a winter carriage ride in Manitoba. Photo: Creative Commons.

Nowadays, we receive gifts like books or electronics or remote controlled toy cars, but when Joan was a child they would get oranges and apples or even nuts - things we take for granted these days.

Joan said that she remembers they would sometimes order presents from the Eaton's catalogue, and one year her parents ordered a doll. When it arrived, her father started opening it, but it was a doll that made noises and it had started to cry, so her father stated that it was about to explode and ran outside with the doll. She cherished this doll and it stayed with her forever, even to this day. Her name was Dimples.

We all love Christmas, but it seems maybe not as much as young Joan. She said that when they got the tree, she would put some needles on the wood stove so it would smell nice in the house. Being a child these days, we don't realize how lucky we are to have everything we have. Joan and her siblings got dressed in bed to avoid the cold in the morning because there was no heat. We, on the other hand, enjoy the luxury of heated floors and instant hot water, but back then the only source of heat for the Garnet house was a wood stove.

Christmas carols are a beautiful tradition around this time of year, but wouldn't they be so much better if they were sung live on the radio? Well, Joan remembers listening to carols on the radio around Christmas; it was one of the special things they would save the batteries for.

This year, we expect to have a white Christmas, and go to midnight mass with our family. A lot of the things we give and get may be different these days, but the idea is the same: a fun day with your family, finally opening the gifts together that you have been eyeing under the tree.

We usually see family around this time - it's nothing to drive to the next town over, or beyond. But Joan said that it was hard to travel in winter since the roads and the weather were unpredictable and the carriages were cold and uninsulated, not like cars these days. If we think about it, our lives are a lot easier than we make them out to be: imagine going outside to a freezing outhouse every time you had to go, or having to go to a well every time the water ran out. The luxuries we have now are nice, but even though she may not have had them, Joan said that her childhood was very pleasant and that she likes to remember times from her past.

May this year bring peace and health to all. Happy holidays!

Kind thanks to Joan Garnet for a wonderful morning spent traveling back in time.

Adéle and Francis Rose Zeitoun and Isla Rattray are young readers (11 to14) who took it upon themselves to write this piece and submit it to the Low Down.