The ghosts of Christmas past

The earliest Christmas dinner celebrations I can remember occurred at my maternal grandparent’s home in the west end of Toronto. They just had a small bungalow but somehow my mother, father, me, my mother’s brother, his wife and their two children who were both younger than me, could all squeeze around the dining room table with our hosts.
In my mind, the turkey was the size of my elder cousin and carved with gusto, after much sharpening of the knife on a whetstone, by my grandfather. My grandmother always ate the roundish nub at the turkey’s rear, something she called the pope’s nose. The event took days of preparation and much scurrying to and fro in the kitchen by the ladies. Men were not allowed.
About ten days before Christmas there was always a party for employees where my father worked in Guelph. He was in charge of entertainment for the kids that consisted of a two-reeler including a feature film, numerous shorts, news items and cartoons. The movie canisters arrived by bus a week ahead so my father always previewed everything at home, an evening occasion when I got to invite half a dozen friends. In the days when television was still in its infancy, such an event was much prized.
In this year of the Covid Christmas, we will be having none of the usual family gatherings for roast beef on Christmas Eve followed by turkey and all the trimmings on Christmas Day. That’s why I’m revelling in such former youthful times as well as recalling Christmas dinners during various adult years spent in London, England, Paris, France, and Washington, D.C.
I imagine there will be many families suffering a similar drought this year. Cousins will not be flying in from some foreign land; in-laws won’t be driving from Ottawa to join the festivities. And that’s okay, too. For me, Christmas has always been as much about times past as times present. This year will be very different in that regard. And not just because there will be fewer gatherings, but because we not only have our fond memories but also the promise and the premise of a better future next year.
So, enjoy, however you’re celebrating. Good cheer at Christmas and good health in 2021.

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