December 31, 2015

December 31, 2015

Auld Lang Syne

At midnight tonight, after shouting ‘Happy New Year,’ many will recite the well-known poem by Scottish poet Robbie Burns, Auld Lang Syne, written in 1788.  The tune to which it is traditionally sung is an old Scottish folk tune.

From us at the Oshawa Community Museum, have a wonderful New Years.

From the Oshawa Community Archives Collection

From the Oshawa Community Archives Collection


Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and auld lang syne*?

For auld lang syne, my jo,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll tak’ a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

And surely ye’ll be your pint-stoup!
and surely I’ll be mine!
And we’ll tak’ a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

We twa hae run about the braes,
and pou’d the gowans fine;
But we’ve wander’d mony a weary fit,
sin’ auld lang syne.

We twa hae paidl’d in the burn,
frae morning sun till dine;
But seas between us braid hae roar’d
sin’ auld lang syne.

And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere!
and gie’s a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll tak’ a right gude-willie waught,
for auld lang syne.

December 30, 2015

December 30, 2015
Lakeview Park, Oshawa, 1937

Lakeview Park, Oshawa, 1937

December 29, 2015

December 29, 2015

If you’re enjoying a break between Christmas and New Years and are looking for a winter activity, why not build a snowman.  This photograph from Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru / The National Library of Wales can be your inspiration.  It is the oldest known photograph of a snowman, dating to the 1850s.


From Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru / The National Library of Wales

December 28, 2015

December 28, 2015


With a nation as large and diverse as Canada, it makes sense that different regions would have different traditions for celebrating this holiday season.  One such example is in Newfoundland and Labrador who take part in mummering.

What is mummering? It involves groups dressing up in costumes and often masks and travelling door to door spreading cheer.  If the mummers are welcomed into a house, they might partake in informal performances, including dance, music, jokes, or recitations.  Because the mummers are disguised, the hosts will have to guess their identity before offering them food or drink; the hosts will try many ways to get the mummers to reveal who they are, and in turn, the mummers go to great lengths to disguise their true identities.  Once guessed, the mummers will stay and visit with the hosts, before moving onto another home.

The earliest recording of mummering in Newfoundland dates to 1819, however it is likely to have taken place earlier.

December 27, 2015

December 27, 2015


Kwanzaa is an African-American holiday which falls between Christmas and New Year’s Day.  It was founded by Dr. Maulana Karenga, a University of California at Los Angeles professor from Nigeria; he chose this seven day period for the observance in order to provide African Americans an alternative to Christmas, which he viewed as a European holiday. He also wanted to make Kwanzaa easy to celebrate by placing it during a week when many people were already celebrating and had time off from work or school. Kwanzaa Begins on December 26 and ends on the 1st of January.

Dr. Karenga hoped that the new holiday, based on practices and symbols associated with African harvest festivals, would provide an ethnic celebration that all African-Americans could observe, regardless of religious affiliation. He also sought to create a holiday that emphasized communal and spiritual values, rather than the materialism he found rampant in American Christmas celebrations.

Karenga created the word “Kwanzaa” from the Swahili phrase matunda ya kwanza, which means ‘first fruits.’ Many African first fruit celebrations, or harvest festivals, last between seven and nine days. Accordingly, Karenga decided to have the new American festival continue for seven days. He added the extra ‘a’ to the Swahili word kwanza so that the name was a new holiday, Kwanzaa, would contain seven letters.

Karenga selected seven principles from among the values most commonly held in high esteem by the people of Africa and honoured in their harvest celebration. One of the seven principles of Kwanzaa is celebrated on each of the seven days of the festival. The seven principles include umoja (unity), kujichagulia (self-determination), ujima (collective work and responsibility), ujamaa (cooperative economics), nia (purpose), kuumba (creativity), and imani (faith). Kwanzaa celebrations also feature a seven-branched candleholder called a kinara. The kinara holds red, green and black candles, colours symbolic of the African identity. One candle is lit on each of the seven nights. On December 31st celebrants participate in a communal feast. Then on January 1st, the last day, modest gifts are exchanged.

Since its founding in 1966 Kwanzaa has steadily grown in popularity. Millions of people will observe this celebration each year.


Happy Kwanzaa!

December 26, 2015

December 26, 2015

The Christmas Truce

The Christmas Truce was a series of unofficial ceasefires along the Western Front around Christmas 1914; roughly 100,000 British and German troops were involved in the unofficial cessations.

In the week leading up to the Christmas holiday, German and British soldiers crossed trenches to talk, exchanging seasonal greetings. In areas, men from both sides ventured into no man’s land on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day to mingle and exchange food and souvenirs. This truce did not happen everywhere, as fighting continued in some sectors, while in others the sides settled on little more than arrangements to recover bodies.

This unofficial ‘truce’ was not reported on right away; in fact, many newspapers did not report on it until one week after.  the Toronto Globe had the following article published:

From The Globe, Toronto, December 31, 1914, pg. 2

From The Globe, Toronto, December 31, 1914, pg. 2

DESPATCHES ARE COMING THROUGH showing that at various points on the lines on Christmas Day the Germans and British soldiers fraternized, visited the trenches of the enemy, and swapped tobacco, Christmas cards, an no doubt plum pudding.  The informal truce was so generally observed that at one point the British and German soldiers swarmed out in front of their trenches, met in the neutral ground between, and had photographs taken by some German offices.  That sort of snapshot is probably unique in war.

British and German troops meeting in No-Mans's Land during the unofficial truce.  From the collection of the Imperial War Museums.

British and German troops meeting in No-Mans’s Land during the unofficial truce. From the collection of the Imperial War Museums.

December 25, 2015

December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas from the Oshawa Community Museum and Archives! Whether you’re celebrating the birth of Jesus, the arrival of Santa, the latest blockbuster movie from Hollywood, or just spending time with family and friends, we wish you and yours a wonderful day.

Historically, what has taken place on December 25?

On this day (from Wikipedia):

  • 336 – First documentary sign of Christmas celebration in Rome.
  • 800 – The Coronation of Charlemagne as Holy Roman Emperor, in Rome.
  • 1000 – The foundation of the Kingdom of Hungary:
  • 1066 – William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy is crowned king of England, at Westminster Abbey, London.
  • 1100 – Baldwin of Boulogne is crowned the first King of Jerusalem in the Church of the Nativity.
  • 1492 – Carrack Santa María captained by Christopher Columbus runs onto reefs off Haiti due to a proper watch not being kept. Local natives help to save food, armory and ammunition but not the ship.
  • 1643 – Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean found and named by Captain William Mynors of the English East India Company vessel, the Royal Mary.
  • 1776 – George Washington and the Continental Army cross the Delaware River at night to attack Hessian forces serving Great Britain at Trenton, New Jersey, the next day.
  • 1809 – Dr. Ephraim McDowell performs the first ovariotomy, removing a 22-pound tumor.
  • 1868 – United States President Andrew Johnson grants unconditional pardon to all Civil War Confederate soldiers.
  • 1914 – A series of unofficial truces occur across the Western Front to celebrate Christmas (more on this tomorrow! Check back!)
  • 1941 – Admiral Chester W. Nimitz arrives at Pearl Harbor to assume command of the U.S. Pacific Fleet
  • 1941 – World War II: Battle of Hong Kong ends, beginning the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong.
  • 1950 – The Stone of Scone, traditional coronation stone of British monarchs, is taken from Westminster Abbey by Scottish nationalist students. It later turns up in Scotland on April 11, 1951.
  • 1965 – The Yemeni Nasserist Unionist People’s Organisation is founded in Ta’izz
  • 1968 – Apollo program: Apollo 8 performs the very first successful Trans-Earth injection (TEI) maneuver, sending the crew and spacecraft on a trajectory back to Earth from Lunar orbit.
  • 1974 – Marshall Fields drives a vehicle through the gates of the White House, resulting in a four-hour standoff.
  • 1991 – Mikhail Gorbachev resigns as General Secretary of the Soviet Union (the union itself is dissolved the next day). Ukraine’s referendum is finalized and Ukraine officially leaves the Soviet Union.
  • 2004 – Cassini orbiter releases Huygens probe which successfully landed on Saturn’s moon Titan on January 14, 2005.
Postcard from the Oshawa Community Archives Collection

Postcard from the Oshawa Community Archives Collection

December 24, 2015

December 24, 2015

This is the fifth 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, 2015

December 23, 2015

The Victorian Christmas Dinner

During the Victorian times, families would typically exchange gifts on Christmas morning, and then attend church. Upon their return they would enjoy a Christmas feast that included goose, yams vegetables, turnips and of course the Christmas pudding!  The tradition of goose has fallen out of favour in exchange of turkey, but goose was the fowl of choice for Victorians.

Charles Dickens described the Christmas dinner as enjoyed by the Cratchit family:

There never was such a goose. Bob said he didn’t believe there ever was such a goose cooked. Its tenderness and flavour, size and cheapness, were the themes of universal admiration. Eked out by apple-sauce and mashed potatoes, it was a sufficient dinner for the whole family; indeed, as Mrs. Cratchit said with great delight (surveying one small atom of a bone upon the dish), they hadn’t ate it all at last! Yet every one had had enough, and the youngest Cratchits in particular, were steeped in sage and onion to the eyebrows! But now, the plates being changed by Miss Belinda, Mrs. Cratchit left the room alone—too nervous to bear witnesses—to take the pudding up and bring it in.


December 22, 2015

December 22, 2015

Winter Solstice

Tonight marks the first day of winter, or the winter solstice.  This is the astronomical phenomenon marking the shortest day and the longest night of the year.

Yule and yuletide, other common names for this holiday season, are thought to be derived from the Scandinavian ‘Jul,’ the pagan celebration of the solstice.  Yule/Jul was a twelve day celebration, often interpreted as the reawakening of nature.  Many traditions we celebrate today, including, the Christmas tree, wreath, Yule log, and other, are believed to be descendants from these ‘Jul’ celebrations.

Happy First Day of Winter!

Winter at Henry House

Winter at Henry House