Posts Tagged ‘Holidays’

December 28, 2016

December 28, 2016

In 2016, Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, is celebrated from sunset on December 24 to nightfall on January 1, 2017.  Because the Jewish calendar is based on the lunar rather than the solar year, the date of Hanukkah moves about on the calendar and can land anywhere between November 25th and December 26th.

Hanukkah commemorates the Jewish people’s successful rebellion against the Greeks in the Maccabean War in 162 BCE.  After the victory, a ritual re-dedication was to take place in temple.  Oil that was only expected to last one night instead lasted eight nights.  This was seen as miraculous, and to celebrate this miracle, Hanukkah began and has been celebrated for over 1500 years.

Iconic of Hanukkah is the menorah, a nine branched candelabrum; on the first evening of Hanukkah one candle is lit and special prayers are said. On the second evening two candles are lit, and so on. The rest of the evening is spent singing songs, playing games, telling Hanukkah stories, and enjoying special holiday foods.

Children may also celebrate Hanukkah by spinning the dreidel, Each side of the dreidel bears a letter of the Hebrew alphabet: נ (Nun), ג (Gimel), ה (He), ש (Shin), which together form the acronym for “נס גדול היה שם” (Nes Gadol Hayah Sham – “a great miracle happened there”).


December 26, 2016

December 26, 2016

Did you know that December 26th is National Candy Cane Day? It took a Church Choirmaster to create candy canes from straight sugar cane candies in order shut the mouths of talkative church going children. The cane shape is said to represent a Sheppard’s staff.  The first candy canes weren’t as colourful as we know them to be, rather they were plain white; the red and white striped candy canes were introduced in 1900.

December 26 is also Boxing Day in Canada, the UK, and other Commonwealth nations.  It isn’t a day reserved for the sport of Boxing (as I naively thought as a child!), but rather Boxing Day originated in England, where the word “boxing” refers to the distribution of small gifts of money.

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 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 10, 2016

December 10, 2016

Do you hang a wreath on your front door this time of year? A popular Christmas decoration, wreaths are often made of evergreens, including holly, mistletoe, pine and fir. Not only do they stay green through the year, but they will often bear fruit in the winter, they are representative of life everlasting and the promise of spring through winter’s dark and cold days.  Their shape of a circle reminds us of life, family, and love.


December 4, 2016

December 4, 2016

At this time of the year, in the Northern Hemisphere, we’re dreaming of a white Christmas, as Santa prepares to fly his sleigh led by nine reindeer, but how does Santa get around in the Southern Hemisphere, when December brings about the start of Summer?

Many holiday traditions in Australia and New Zealand are the same as those celebrated in North America and Europe, although, quite often Santa is imagined as wearing warm weather clothing, rather than his fur-lined robes, and his sleigh is pulled by kangaroos instead of reindeer!

The Australian Government comments on Christmas traditions on their website, saying many Australians spend Christmas outside by going to the beach for the day or perhaps camping.  As well, if you find yourself in Sydney, many international visitors go to Bondi Beach, which can see up to 40,000 people visit on Christmas Day!

In New Zealand, the pōhutukawa, a plant which produces large crimson flowers in December, is an often used symbol for Christmas, and it has become known as the New Zealand Christmas tree.


Image from Wikipedia; By Bjankuloski06en – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,




December 3, 2016

December 3, 2016

The oldest secular Christmas song is Jingle Bells.  It was written in 1857 by James Pierpont, originally titled One Horse Open Sleigh and was written for Thanksgiving.

Did you know that Jingle Bells is also the first song to be transmitted from outer space? It was December 16, 1965 when astronauts Tom Stafford and Wally Schirra sang Jingle Bells on board Gemini 6.  They smuggled bells and a harmonica on the space ship with them to accompany the song!  Stafford and Schirra later donated the harmonica and bells to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Space & Aeronautics in Washington DC, where they now sit on display.

All together now… Dashing through the snow, in a one horse open sleigh!


From the Archival collection of the Oshawa Museum

December 2, 2016

December 2, 2016

A treasured holiday event, Oshawa Museum staff always look forward to our Annual Lamplight Tour.  Held on the first Saturday of December, our historic houses are decorated for the season, and there are activities for all ages.

Here is a sampling of photographs from last year’s Lamplight. We hope you can join us on Saturday, December 3, 6-8pm, for Lamplight 2016.

December 1, 2016

December 1, 2016

In just 24 days, Santa Claus will begin his busiest day of the year, delivering presents to children all around the world.  Scientists in the United States have calculated that Santa would have to visit 822 homes a second to deliver all the world’s presents on Christmas Eve, travelling at 650 miles a second.¹ Good thing he’s magic.


1 Source.

November 1, 2016

November 1, 2016

Welcome to the Oshawa Museum’s Victorian Advent Calendar! Every day through the month of December, we share photographs, postcards, trivia, and stories of holiday traditions!

We’re one month away from the start of December. Before we share new posts for the 2016 holiday season, check out our archives and view posts from the past five years!

See you in December!