Metchosin’s pre-eminent historian and raconteur, Daisy Bligh, recalled in a 1988 Goldstream Gazette article that the school concert and arrival of Santa Claus were the highlights of her year back in 1926.
Preparations started months beforehand and the day itself became a familiar ritual. The morning was easy on school work, as the students and teachers would decorate the community hall with stencils and chalk, and the tree with real candles. The children would be sent home at lunch with the expectation to nap so as to be rested for the evening festivities.
Washed and dressed in their finest, they would return to the hall to be met by mothers who would put them into costumes and make up their faces with grease paint. Every child, even the youngest, would have a part to play in the performances.
Recitations of poetry, dances, solo and group songs, including the audience singing along, would wind down. Bells would be heard in the distance, then coming closer as they announced Santa’s arrival. With great excitement, everyone would greet and usher the man in red into the hall and at some point, the candles were lit on the tree, making everything magical.
Each child received a gift stocking from Santa that came with a candy cane on top and a Japanese orange in the toe. A great puzzle for Daisy was that Santa changed from year to year; some years he was fat and some years he was tall and thin.
After the concert and gift giving, the adults would have a dance, but as Daisy’s father “wasn’t much for dancing,” she can’t tell us of that merriment. I expect the dance would be accompanied by local musicians and followed by a “box” supper. More than likely, the gentlemen would partake of other refreshments behind the hall.
Christmas Day for many families would start with a service at St. Mary’s Church and end with visiting and feasting.
The food may have been richer and more plentiful than usual, but it was not exotic. Daisy recalls that tomatoes were not available at Christmas until 1963 and families had at most two cookbooks – the standard being the Five Roses Flour Cookbook – so there wasn’t much variety, either.
Despite the changes over the years, one thing remains the same: Mandarin or Japanese oranges, individually wrapped in green paper, available only for the season. In 1926, Daisy’s first orange of the season would be from the toe of the Santa stocking given at the concert. The family would have one box of the exotic oranges that would be opened only on Christmas morning.
Wendy Mitchell is president of the Metchosin Museum Society. She can be reached by email at email@example.com.