Christmas celebrated by local families in days gone by was full of traditions carried on for generations. A check of the pantry would determine the grocery list of supplies needed for pre-Christmas baking. Sweets would be made and tucked into simple packages ready for Christmas celebrations and to give to neighbours and friends throughout the season. Letters to Santa were written and Christmas cards would be posted. In the days leading up to Christmas, the family would plan a trek through the forest to pick out the best evergreen tree to be found. Once selected, the tree would be cut down with an axe and hauled back to the house. Furniture would be shifted aside and once the snow had melted off the branches the tree would be propped up in a stand. The family would be busy stringing cranberries and popcorn for garland. A few candles would be added to the tree in brass or tin holders that fastened to the sturdy branches with clips. The candles would only be lit for a brief few minutes 0n Christmas Eve due to the risk of the tree catching on fire. Glass bulbs would later replace the real wax and wick and be strung on an electrical card. In modern times, strings of lights are added to every surface inside and outside for the entire Christmas season. Garlands of evergreens were popular to decorate the fireplace mantles in early days. With the passage of time, artificial trees and garlands were produced and were adopted as a way to avoid the messy clean up of needles from the real evergreens. Many families have gone back to real garlands and trees. These are available at Christmas tree farms and local greenhouses. The annual stroll through the wilderness has been replaced by the yearly trip to select the ideal tree from the tree lot for those who don’t have their own natural supply.
The trend toward using natural elements to decorate the tree and mantle has become popular once more. Families are opting for a live tree and garland and using forest items such as pinecones and branches to adorn their homes. Dried cranberries and oranges are sometimes used to harken back to the original decorations used by generations before. The Middleville and District Museum volunteers found some vintage Christmas ornaments and fashioned some burgundy and light pink bows along with two long white sashes to decorate the old schoolhouse door in a Victorian style for the season. A few pine cones were tucked into some natural garland draping the handrails.
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This journal is written, researched, and maintained by the volunteers of the Middleville Museum.