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Article posted: December 19, 2001

Remembering Christmas Traditions
By: Ryan Taylor, Biography and Archived Articles

As Christmas approaches, we often cast a nostalgic eye back to our childhoods. I find myself hearing about how this friend learned the truth about Santa Claus, or which festive cookie was the favourite of another.

The family of Marcia Gevers, a vocational rehabilitation teacher for the blind here in Fort Wayne, had a Christmas custom that was quite new to me.

About a week before the big day, Santa Claus would make a pre-Christmas visit. It was his task to put up the tree and decorate it. The three Gevers sisters would leave him some treats in anticipation of his visit, and would receive some small token in return. They would find the tree in its full glory, the result of Santa's labours.

I found it interesting that Mr and Mrs Gevers had devised a plan which actually created more surprises for the children than usual.

Once Christmas Eve itself came, the Gevers family all went to their community church for a service which featured performances by the children. It was very exciting.

As an extra treat, the girls were allowed to ride home with their grandparents after the service. Grandpa was a careful driver at the best of times, but with his precious cargo on this night, he seemed to drive slower than ever. Sometimes, Marcia says, her grandmother would have to urge him to hurry on a little.

But eventually they would arrive home and, what a wonder! Santa had come while they were at church. The excitement of Christmas morning for many of us would happen, in the German tradition, on Christmas Eve at the Gevers house.

Christmas Day would be spent visiting aunts and uncles, where there would be a great exchange of cookies and fruitcakes. It was not part of Mrs Gevers' tradition to make fruitcake, but one or more of the aunties would have done so, and would share.

Fruitcakes were definitely part of our family tradition. My 2001 cakes are currently wrapped in rum-soaked cloths ripening in a cool place. I even make them in my mother's sixty year old special fruitcake pans, used only once a year.

Have you noticed that the fruitcake has a bad reputation nowadays? Television sitcoms and greeting cards are full of rude references to how to use them as filler for potholes or for building outhouses.

Fruitcake does not fit into California cuisine. My theory is that the lettuce-nibblers in Hollywood have brainwashed the younger generations into thinking that fruitcake is not the tasty thing it is.

The daughter of a friend observed her mother's cherry and peel filled creation and said, "That sort of thing is just for older women, Mom."

It may be full of sugar and a dozen eggs, but there will always be a place for a fruitcake in my Christmas larder. Over the holidays and into January, there is the prospect of sitting down with a fat slice, a matching piece of cheese and a glass of sherry or a cup of strong coffee, to be consumed during a favourite old movie. All worthwhile despite the inevitable lecture from the doctor.

Marcia and her family will be spending Christmas Eve at the same community church as forty years ago. I am looking forward to seeing my grandnephew with his pile of presents, creating traditions with his parents which he can remember half a century from now. Perhaps I will have the chance to hold my new grandniece on my knee during part of the celebration.

May all the varied joys of Christmas be present at your house this season.

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Norway Bay United & Anglican Cemetery
(Pontiac County, Quebec)

The Merivale Cemeteries
(Protestant - Ottawa area)