December 31, 2017

December 31, 2017

In Canada, December 31 is commemorated as the Levee.  It’s a social gathering held by the Governor General, Lieutenant General and the military in Canada. Levee had been celebrated for years, but it was first tied to New Year’s Eve, in Canada, in 1646. The Governor of New France held the levee in the Chateau St. Louis, and during the levee he informed the guests of what to look forward to in the new year and that they were expected to renew their allegiance to the Crown. The tradition of the levee continued after the Governor Charles Huault de Montmagny was no longer in charge.

Happy New Years Eve Everybody!



December 30, 2017

December 30, 2017

John Henry is dressed and ready for a snowy day.  From the Oshawa Museum’s archival collection (A983.41.3)

December 29, 2017

December 29, 2017

In 2013, the Oshawa Museum received a phenomenal collection of letters and papers from the Henry Family.  In February 1880, George Henry wrote to his mother Lurenda, the first letter may have sent since the passing of his father Thomas in September 1879.  Within this long letter, he tells his mother how he spent the new year, saying,

We went from there by invitation to John Edgars to take Newyears dinner and assisted in disposing of a fine turkey & goose. I have another invitation to meet with them on honour of the old gentlemans birth day on the 11th  inst when another turkey is to be slaughtered. (all spelling as originally written).

Not many letters touch on the holiday season, but this letter provides a small glimpse at how one Henry child marked the beginning of 1880.

Image177 - Polly Ann & George Henry

George and Polly Henry

December 28, 2017

December 28, 2017

While often sung in the lead-up to Christmas, the 12 Days of Christmas actually refers to the twelve days starting Christmas day, or in some traditions, the day after Christmas (December 26) to the day before Epiphany, or the Feast of the Epiphany (January 6, or the Twelfth Day).  That makes December 28 the 4th Day of Christmas, and the ‘True Love’ gifts 4 colly birds (or calling bird).

The song is often sung, but what exactly is a colly bird? According to Peter Armenti, the literature specialist for the Digital Reference Section at the Library of Congress, a ‘colly bird’ is essentially referring to a Black Bird.

As the song’s recipient receives 7 Swans, 6 Geese, 4 Colly Birds, 3 French Hens, 2 Turtle Doves, and a Partridge, here’s hoping they really like birds!

December 27, 2017

December 27, 2017

On this day:

1814 – War of 1812: The American schooner USS Carolina is destroyed. It was the last of Commodore Daniel Patterson’s makeshift fleet that fought a series of delaying actions that contributed to Andrew Jackson’s victory at the Battle of New Orleans.

1831 – Charles Darwin embarks on his journey aboard the HMS Beagle, during which he will begin to formulate his theory of evolution.

1836 – The worst ever avalanche in England occurs at Lewes, Sussex, killing eight people.

1845 – Ether anesthetic is used for childbirth for the first time by Dr. Crawford Long in Jefferson, Georgia.

1911 – “Jana Gana Mana”, the national anthem of India, is first sung in the Calcutta Session of the Indian National Congress.

1922 – Japanese aircraft carrier Hōshō becomes the first purpose built aircraft carrier to be commissioned in the world.

1927 – Show Boat, considered to be the first true American musical play, opens at the Ziegfeld Theatre on Broadway.

1935 – Regina Jonas is ordained as the first female rabbi in the history of Judaism.

1945 – The International Monetary Fund is created with the signing of an agreement by 29 nations.

1966 – The Cave of Swallows, the largest known cave shaft in the world, is discovered in Aquismón, San Luis Potosí, Mexico.

1968 – Apollo program: Apollo 8 splashes down in the Pacific Ocean, ending the first orbital manned mission to the Moon.

1978 – Spain becomes a democracy after 40 years of fascist dictatorship.

2004 – Radiation from an explosion on the magnetar SGR 1806-20 reaches Earth. It is the brightest extrasolar event known to have been witnessed on the planet.


December 26, 2017

December 26, 2017

From the Oshawa Museum, in Ontario, Canada, we wish all of our readers a Happy Boxing Day!  We’ve prefaced this greeting with our location, knowing that some of our readers may not be located in Canada or may not be familiar with Boxing Day, a statutory holiday in our country.

The origins of this holiday are based in England, where ‘boxing’ referred to the distribution of small gifts of money.  Some historians trace this back to the Middle Ages when parish priests would open up alms-boxes on December 26, the feast of St. Stephen, and distribute the money collected within to the needy.  By the 17th century, this tradition of giving boxes of money to adopt the practice of saving tips they had been given in clay boxes and opening them on December 26.  Because of the popularity of this tradition, people had taken to calling the day Boxing Day, and it was declared a holiday in England in 1871.  By the late 19th century, the custom of ‘boxing’ had faced a decline and slowly disappeared from the English holiday customs.

The day itself has survived as a holiday, and for many it may signify the day to ‘throw away boxes that presents came in,’ for others, it is a day for major savings in stores (the Canadian equivalent to America’s Black Friday), or perhaps it is a day many will spend with family, relaxing after a busy Christmas Day.

December 25, 2017

December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas from the Oshawa Museum.


From the Oshawa Museum’s archival collection

Did you know, even though Christmas is celebrated as the birth of Jesus by Christians, many historians believe he was actually born in the spring.

Other people who celebrate December 25 as their birthday include:

  • Sir Isaac Newton, English physicist, mathematician, astronomer, natural philosopher, alchemist, and theologian
  • Humphrey Bogart, actor
  • Jimmy Buffet, singer
  • Sissy Spacek, actress
  • Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his brother Alexandre, a journalist. They are sons of former PM Pierre Elliott Trudeau and, interestingly, they are not twins, but rather siblings who share a birthday
  • Annie Lennox, singer
  • Cab Calloway,  jazz singer and bandleader

December 24, 2017

December 24, 2017

This is the seventh year we have shared stories on our Victorian Advent Blog.  As we have done since the beginning, on Christmas Eve, we share the classic poem, A Visit From St. Nicholas, by Clement C. Moore, originally published in 1823.

We wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday.


‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house.
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;

The children were nestled all snug in their beds;
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap,

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow,
Gave a lustre of midday to objects below,
When what to my wondering eyes did appear,
But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny rein-deer,

With a little old driver so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment he must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:

“Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”

As leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
So up to the housetop the coursers they flew
With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too—

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.

His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples, how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard on his chin was as white as the snow;

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke, it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly
That shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly.

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight—
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

December 23, 2017

December 23, 2017

Legend tells us that Santa’s sleigh is pulled by a team of eight (or nine) reindeer. Reindeer, or Caribou, are native to most northern climates in North America, parts of Greenland, and Europe.  The caribou adorns the reverse side of the Canadian 25 cent piece, or quarter.

Did you know that both male and female caribou can grow antlers, the only member of the deer family where the females grow antlers.  As well, females typically keep their antlers year round, while male caribou shed their antlers in the fall and grow a larger set the following spring.

That’s right – scientifically speaking, if Santa’s sleigh is depicted with antlered reindeer, then Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donder, and Blitzen must be female!


From the Oshawa Museum Archival Collection

December 22, 2017

December 22, 2017

On December 22, 1868, Cassius Stone and Clarissa Henry were married.  Clarissa was the 14th child of Rev. Thomas Henry and his wife Lurenda, and Cassius and Clarissa were married in Henry House.


The home of Clarissa and Cassius Stone in Woodville (west of Lindsay, ON)

It was Cassius and Clarissa’s wish to be married on Christmas Day, but because of Elder Tatton having to serve at the dedication service at the Ringwood Christian Church, they decided to have their ceremony performed on December 22 – in the many years that followed, they always celebrated their wedding day on Christmas.