Thursday, December 27, 2012

Christmas Traditions #2, 3, 4, and 5

We are a family that loves traditions at Christmas.  You can read about Christmas Tradition #1 here which takes place when we decorate the tree.  Christmas Tradition #2, 3, 4, and 5 all take place on Christmas Eve day.

During the day on December 24th we go on a family outing together.  We have done everything from the Royal Ontario Museum (which you can read about here) to Chinatown (which you can read about here).  This year we decided to go to the McMichael Art Gallery.  

There was a special exhibit of Tom Thomson's art as well as many of the Group of Seven paintings that we wanted to see.  I was especially struck by the skies in two of Thomson's works.  I can't get enough of the squiggles in the Moonlight painting

Tom Thomson, Moonlight, 1915, McMichael Art Gallery
and the bricks of colour in The Jack Pine painting.  I'm totally inspired to do some crazy skies when my art classes start back up in January.

Tom Thomson, The Jack Pine, 1916-1917, McMichael Art Gallery
On the evening of December 24th we eat tourtière for dinner (Christmas tradition #3). I made ours a few days ago using my friend's mother's recipe (which you can find here).  

We eat by candlelight using our Christmas dishes (bought at Loblaw's last year) and the beautifully painted winter napkin rings that my parent's brought back from a trip to Russia.

After the Christmas Eve church service we eat our bûche de Noël, aka yule log cake (Christmas tradition #4).  This year we went for the birch log look, but we have done a more traditional type of log on other years (here and here).  

We end the evening in the living room with all the candles lit and taking turns reading from our favourite Christmas stories and poems (Christmas tradition #5).

Among our favourites are Twas the Night Before Christmas, A Child's Christmas in Wales, The Good Little Christmas Tree, and Sam's Christmas Pud. The last one is a poem (which I have printed below) that took on new meaning this year.  The poem was written about the Peninsular War which lasted from 1808-1814, the same time period that Kate was representing when she was a soldier at Fort York this past summer (although a different war).  She spent many an hour polishing her musket (unlike Sam) and firing a cannon.

Sam's Christmas Pudding
by Marriott Edgar
It was Christmas Day in the trenches
In Spain in Peninsular War,
And Sam Small were cleaning his musket
A thing as he'd ne're done before.

They'd had 'em inspected that morning
And Sam had got into disgrace,
For when sergeant had looked down the barrel
A sparrow flew out in his face.

The sergeant reported the matter
To Lieutenant Bird then and there.
Said Lieutenant 'How very disgusting'
The Duke must be told of this 'ere.'

The Duke were upset when he heard
He said, 'I'm astonished, I am.
I must make a most drastic example
There'll be no Christmas pudding for Sam.'

When Sam were informed of his sentence
Surprise, rooted him to the spot.
'Twas much worse than he had expected,
He though as he'd only be shot.

And so he sat cleaning his musket
And polishing barrel and butt.
While the pudding his mother had sent him,
Lay there in the mud at his foot.

Now the centre that Sam's lot were holding
Ran around a place called Badajoz.
Where the Spaniards had put up a bastion
And ooh...! what a bastion it was.

They pounded away all the morning
With canister, grape shot and ball.
But the face of the bastion defied them,
They made no impression at all.

They started again after dinner
Bombarding as hard as they could.
And the Duke brought his own private cannon
But that weren't a ha'pence o' good.

The Duke said, 'Sam, put down thy musket
And help me lay this gun true.'
Sam answered, 'You'd best ask your favours
From them as you give pudding to.'

The Duke looked at Sam so reproachful
'And don't take it that way,' said he.
'Us Generals have got to be ruthless
It hurts me more than it did thee.'

Sam sniffed at these words kind of sceptic,
Then looked down the Duke's private gun.
And said 'We'd best put in two charges,
We'll never bust bastion with one.'

He tipped cannon ball out of muzzle
He took out the wadding and all.
He filled barrel chock full of powder,
Then picked up and replaced the ball.

He took a good aim at the bastion
Then said 'Right-o, Duke, let her fly.'
The cannon nigh jumped off her trunnions,
And up went the bastion, sky high.

The Duke, he weren't 'alf elated
He danced around trench full of glee.
And said, 'Sam, for this gallant action.
You can hot up your pudding for tea.'

Sam looked 'round to pick up his pudding
But it wasn't there, nowhere about.
In the place where he thought he had left it,
Lay the cannon ball he'd just tipped out.

Sam saw in a flash what 'ad happened:
By an unprecedented mishap.
The pudding his mother had sent him,
Had blown Badajoz off map.

That's why fuisilliers wear to this moment
A badge which they think's a grenade.
But they're wrong... it's a brass reproduction,
Of the pudding Sam's mother once made.

How do you spend Christmas Eve?  My post about Christmas traditions 6, 7, and 8 (from Christmas Day) is coming soon.

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  1. Love this post Grace. Things got so busy this year so we didn't get our traditions covered. We usually have tourtiere on Christmas eve and I really missed it. I'm living vicariously through your beautiful photos.

    And the McMichael - one of my favourite places in the world and The Jack Pine is my favourite painting by my favourite artist. Reading your post was like opening another lovely Christmas present. Thanks J.

  2. What lovely traditions! Our art class at school went to the McMichael gallery two weeks ago but my students and I had a conflicting trip and couldn't go this year. I love soaking in the beauty of the grounds. The tourtiere and yule log look delicious.
    Our Christmas Eve is a large gathering of some of my siblings, their families, and grown neices and nephews with their spouses and kids (the great grandkids.) My sister two streets away hosted this year, and we all contributed way too much food. Very loud with all the kids and adults, we eat early and then head off to 9pm Mass.

  3. Stanley Holloway (Mr. Doolittle in My fair Lady) recites all sorts of these poems. You could probably find them on You Tube. I have a c.d. with some of them. My personal favourites are Albert and the Lion and the one about Noah and the Flood called Three Halfpence a Foot. If you aren't already familiar with them, you might enjoy them.

  4. So glad you got to the Thompson exhibit! You have so many great traditions - your buche de noel looks delish!!!!

  5. My family has had to make some new traditions due to life's changes. Losing my FIL and my own parents aging have altered what we do on Christmas Eve and especially Christmas Day. For the very first time we went to a movie this year. It was really quite fun and relaxing. We all agreed we will do it again next year if possible. Happy New Year Grace! I continue to be thankful for our friendship. ~Ann

  6. I love this post! Traditions are really important in our family as well. We share some similar food traditions such as the tourtière and Bûche de Noël. Yours both look fabulous. This year I completely switched out our traditional ground meat tourtière for the lac saint jean variety. It is more of a crust stew with all the same spices and cubed meat versus the ground version. I thought it would be a problem but looks like I established a new tradition around here. What did you use as your filling for the bûche?