December 21, 2016

December 21, 2016

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!

Robinson House.JPG


December 20, 2016

December 20, 2016

Christmas Wishes From Overseas

By Jennifer Weymark, Archivist
This article originally appeared in the Oshawa Express, Dec 21, 2011

In 2011, the archives acquired four Christmas cards sent from an Oshawa boy serving overseas during WWII.

Pte. Earl Hann was overseas serving as a member of the Canadian Corps, under the 8th Army, as World War II battled throughout Northern Africa and Italy.  This meant that he was away from his young family during the holiday season in 1944.


A011.10.1, Christmas Card sent by Earl Hann

Standardized Christmas cards were made available to the soldiers so that they could let their family back home know that they were thinking of them.  The cards were really a single sheet of paper with a drawing on it meant to represent the area where the soldier was stationed.  Once the soldier had completed personalizing their card in the little space made available to them,  and the card was passed by the censors, the army would  copy the card and reduce the size so that it would be less expensive to send back home.


A011.10.2 – Christmas Card sent by Earl Hann

Pte. Hann made the best of the limited space available to let him family know just how much he was missing them.  Three of the cards are addressed to his wife Irene with the fourth being addressed to his young daughter Joyce.


A011.10.3, Christmas Card sent by Earl Hann

The lengthiest of the notes written by Pte. Hann also lets us know that the holiday season was extra special as his wedding anniversary also fell during that time.  He writes:

“Happy Anniversary My love.  With Best Wishes that this is our last spent apart.
All my love and Millions of Kisses
Forever yours

He chose to send his daughter a card showing where her day was when he wasn’t with her.  The card has a map of the Mediterranean Sea, showing both Italy and North Africa.  This time the card is simply signed from “Daddy with all his love and best wishes for 1945”.

Pte. Hann was happily reunited with his family once the war was over and he went on to become a 50 year member of the Oshawa Historical Society.  It is fitting that these letters have found a home with a museum he loved so much.

December 19, 2016

December 19, 2016

St. Nicholas was a historic 4th-century saint and Greek Bishop of Myra in Lycia. He had a reputation for secret gift-giving, such as putting coins in the shoes of those who left them out for him.

Santa became popular in Christmas tradition when Sinter Klaus, Dutch for “Saint Nicholas,” was brought over by Dutch immigrants and they honored his death.  New York newspapers reported on this and his popularity grew!

St. Nicholas is the patron Saint of the Netherlands, and his feast day is observed every December 6, or December 19 in Eastern Christian countries.

December 18, 2016

December 18, 2016

Christmas is one week away? Have you decorated your tree yet?


From the archival collection of the Oshawa Museum, December 1956

December 17, 2016

December 17, 2016

Going Home for Christmas

By Jennifer Weymark, Archivist
This article originally appeared in the Oshawa Express, Dec 2012

For so many, the arrival of the holiday season often means travelling both near and far, as families come together to celebrate.  Travelling long distances for the holidays may seem like a more recent trend, what with the availability of cars, trains and airplanes, it turns out that this was not the case.  While it may be easier to travel now, the pull to be with family was just as strong  90 years ago when a rather large portion of Oshawa’s residents left the Town to travel home to family.

In the December 23, 1922 edition, the Oshawa Reformer wrote about just how many people were expected to travel from Oshawa during the holiday season.

“Enjoying as it does the reputation of being a great industrial center Oshawa has attracted many people from other towns and cities who are busily engaged here in helping to keep the wheels of industry turning.  With the approach of the holiday season hundreds of citizens are letting their thoughts turn homeward.  And judging by the statements made by local railway officials this morning approximately two thousand people employed in local factories and offices will leave Oshawa for all parts of the Dominion to spend Christmas at their homes.”

At this time, Oshawa had a population of about 13 000.  That means that just over 15% of Oshawa’s population travelled out of town to visit family.  Of that 2000 the odd person might have owned a car but, as the article suggests, most would have been travelling by rail.

If you are travelling this holiday season, remember that you are a part of a time honoured tradition of Oshawa residents taking time to celebrate with family and friends.

December 16, 2016

December 16, 2016

With nine days until Christmas, days are often filled with songs about Santa, reindeer, Jesus’s birth, and winter wonderlands.  There are a number of carols with religious themes, like Angels We Have Heard On High, Away In A Manger, and O Holy Night, but then there are songs that are slightly more irreverent.

One such novelty song is All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth.  In 1944, a man named Donald Yetter Gardner was teaching music at public schools in Smithtown, New York. He asked his second grade class what they wanted for Christmas, and noticed that almost all of the students had at least one front tooth missing as they answered in a lisp. He wrote the song in 30 minutes.

Let’s hope Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer has a less anecdotal origin!

From Wikipedia.

December 15, 2016

December 15, 2016

We’re halfway through the month of December and 10 days until Christmas. This has always been a season of giving, and it is especially important to remember to give to those who need it the most.

In 1922, the local newspaper, the Ontario Reformer, included a plea to ‘Give the Kiddies A Happy Xmas,’ and this message is just as relevant today in 2016 as it was in 1922.  There are many wonderful charities in Durham Region, and if you’re able to give at this time of year, here are just some of the many organizations looking for your support:

Feed the Need Durham

Simcoe Hall Settlement House

Salvation Army Oshawa


Ontario Reformer, December 23, 1922

December 14, 2016

December 14, 2016


Canada’s oldest Christmas song is Huron Carol, believed to be written around 1642 by the French Jesuit missionary  Jean de Brébeuf at St. Marie Among the Hurons, near current day Midland, Ontario.  It was originally written in the Huron language, and the English version, “‘Twas in the moon of wintertime,” was written by Jesse Edgar Middleton in 1926. The tune is related to a 16th-century French song, “Une jeune pucelle.”

December 13, 2016

December 13, 2016

If you visit the National Capital Region in Ottawa/Gatineau during the holiday season, you will be able to enjoy Christmas Lights Across Canada.  First launched in 1985, this program was created to highlight landmarks and sites along Confederation Boulevard, including Parliament Hill, national museums, monuments, embassies and other prominent institutions.  Christmas Lights Across Canada also helps to add vibrancy to the Capital during the winter months and it kicks off the holiday season in Canada’s Capital Region. This year, the program started on December 7 and will continue through the month of December.

Information from 

December 12, 2016

December 12, 2016

The twelve days in the carol “The 12 Days of Christmas” are 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).  The popular carol was first published in 1790, but the version we are familiar with today was arranged in 1909 by English composer Frederic Austin, based on a traditional folk melody.

The grand gifts given by ‘my true love’ are:
12 Drummers Drumming
11 Pipers Piping
10 Lords-a-Leaping
9 Ladies Dancing
8 Maids-a-Milking
7 Swans-a-Swimming
6 Geese-a-Laying
5 Gold Rings
4 Colly Birds
3 French Hen
2 Turtle Doves
And a Partridge in a Pear Tree.

This carol is a cumulative song, meaning that each verse is built on top of the previous verses.  If all of the gifts were added up, cumulatively, there would be 364 gifts, a gift for almost every day of the year.