By Dave Geddes
CHRISTMAS AS IT WAS CELEBRATED – 1870s.
Consider the Christmas Mrs. Victoria Callihoo describes from memory in her ‘Early Life in Lac Ste. Anne and St. Albert Eighteen Seventies’.
She remembers the long trip to Lac Ste. Anne Mission to attend Midnight Mass. The trip, she remembers ‘was a delight for young and old’. The church would be filled with good-natured people happy to attend the simple service. During the service ‘bundles of food were placed in the corner for enjoyment on Christmas Day’. Everyone was made welcome. On Christmas Day meals were served consisting mainly of favourite dishes – meatballs, bannock, rice and raisin pudding, and for dessert cooked, dried apples. There were no gifts exchanged. It was a religious feast filled with joy, good companionship and feasting.
Charles Dickens, writing in far-away England about the same time, has his Bob Cratchit say it all. ‘A Merry Christmas to us all, my dears. God Bless Us’.
‘God Bless us every one’ said Tiny Tim, last of all.
CHRISTMAS DINNER MENU – FORT EDMONTON 1847
Boiled buffalo hump Boiled buffalo calf
Mouffle (dried moose nose) White fish browned in buffalo marrow
Buffalo tongue Beaver tails
Roast wild goose Potatoes
PIONEER CHRISTMAS DINNER 1899
Chicken, head cheese, vegetables, potatoes, apples and cakes
At Christmas be merry, and thankful withall.
And feast thy poor neighbors, the great with the small. – ThomasTusser
TYPICAL PIONEER MENUS
1881 Breakfast: wheat porridge with a little molasses, toast, rabbit stew, tea (no milk)
Dinner: rabbit, potatoes, bread, tea
Supper: more rabbit, potatoes (fried if grease available), bread, tea.
1885 Breakfast: porridge or mush, milk and brown sugar, sometimes hash or cold meat,
warmed potatoes, bread, butter if available, stewed or preserved fruit
Dinner: stewed rabbit with dumplings, potatoes and another vegetable, sometimes plain pudding or pie
Supper: variable: hot soup, pancakes, perhaps potatoes cooked some tasty way and often raw onions
Breakfast: porridge made of ground wheat
Dinner: potatoes and one kind of vegetable, sometimes meat, bread and butter
Supper: bread and milk, sometimes boiled wheat with milk and no sugar
1893 Breakfast: oatmeal porridge, fat bacon, bread, butter and tea
Dinner: fat pork, potatoes and another vegetable and apple pie
Supper: rice and egg or canned salmon, buttermilk pancakes and syrup
Reprinted from The Echoes, Vol. XXVI, No. 1, January, 2008; St. Albert Historical Society