This year the Goat’s Andrea Arnold reached out to local people for their memories of Christmases and holidays past. We hope you enjoy them as much as we did.

Two-year-old Lucille Green sits on her mom’s knee, joined by her brother and sister, enjoying the Christmas season in their new house in Terrace. /SUBMITTED

The memory that stands out for Lucille Green is that of family.

“Every year we would have a large family gathering,” she said. “Extended family too. Cousins of cousins. Not actually related.”

Their gatherings were so large that out-of-towners were accommodated wherever possible. This sometimes meant that they had to get creative with sleeping arrangements.

“I often slept in the tub,” said Green.

It was a time of games, specifically BINGO, and each child received a treat of a Japanese orange, a candy cane and peanuts in the shell.

On Christmas Eve, they were allowed to open one gift on Christmas Eve, then the rest waited until after the breakfast dishes were done on Christmas morning.

“We received one toy every year,” she said. “We cherished that toy all year.” The rest of the presents contained much needed clothing like socks, underwear and winter necessities.

About a month before Christmas 2019 Owen Torgerson got to celebrate early with his family at his brother’s home in Calgary.

“My parents were there and my other brother even flew in from Seattle,” he said.

The group played games and had a Secret Santa gift exchange. It was the time together that made this November gathering so special.

“I think this was the first time in about 12 years we had all been together for Christmas,” said Torgerson. “We had gotten together other times, like May long, but not Christmas.”

“I’ll be home for Christmas” is Sheri Gee’s favorite Christmas song because it brings to mind thoughts of home, Manitoba.

“I get a little teary each year when I hear it on the radio, because I don’t get to go home often for Christmas,” said Gee.

When she is able to make the trip for the holidays, Gee loves very early Christmas morning.

One year, Gee got up before everyone else. She sat enjoying the Christmas tree glowing in the dark, before heading outside for an early morning walk.

“It was one of those mornings with fresh snow and Hoar Frost”¦ the kind you can only get in the Prairies,” she said. “The whole landscape was fresh and clean and sparkly.”

McBride Mayor, Gene Runtz looks back on the Christmas of 1970 as the neatest Christmas he’s ever had.

Runtz was serving in Vietnam and earlier in the year, he and wife Susie had welcomed baby Sarah into their family, and in October, Susie was hospitalized with complications due to two detached retinas. In mid November Susie was released and Runtz returned to the base in Port Lewis.

“I was granted an early leave of absence for Christmas,” he said. “I was actually home for about three weeks.”

He returned to Beaverton Oregon and remembers going to pick out a small tree for their home.

“The ladies of the area had been taking care of Susie and Sarah,” he said. “They had set up a schedule and every day someone was at the house. When I got home, it didn’t stop. They brought us all kinds of treats.”

They didn’t have much at the time. No money. But they had the support of many wonderful friends.

“I remember sitting on our used couch in the living room, with Sarah on my lap and our two year old border collie laying on the floor,” said Runtz. “I felt really good, and I felt this was the start of parenthood for me. It was a wonderful feeling. I still think back to that day sometime when I’m sitting at home around Christmas time.”

Keiran Foster gets a ski lesson from his Uncle Andrew Foster. /SUBMITTED

SheiIagh Foster’s favorite memories are spread across the generations. Too many to pick just one.

“Family traditions that I remember and treasure from my childhood include our annual Christmas Eve fishing trip with my dad, Everett Monroe, to the Blackwater (McKale River),” said Foster. “Ice fishing and fresh trout were a special part of Christmas Eve.”

They often hosted 20-30 family and neighbourhood friends for dinner. Her mother organized and prepared the turkey meal and the kids were tasked with cranking the old ice cream freezer for the decadent finale to their feast. The gatherings were not just a Christmas event. The neighbourhood gathered at the Marsh home on New Year’s Eve where Sarah prepared a goose feast for all.

“With our own children, we had a special day in late October when we went hunting for a Christmas tree which we marked for December cutting,” said Foster. “It was fun to wander through the forest not hampered by deep snow to find our ‘perfect’ tree.”

Turkey dinner wasn’t complete without Christmas pudding with hard sauce – a sweet stiff icing type of topping. Their Christmas day was filled with visiting, playing games, and enjoying new puzzles.

After Boxing Day the family looked forward to an annual ski trip.

“Sometimes it was about skiing but most of it was about visiting and having fun together,” she said. “We still gather, whenever possible, after Christmas with our adult children and their children for a ski vacation.”

Sheilagh Foster cherishes the memories that her mother mentions in this letter to Foster’s grandparents following the Christmas season. /SUBMITTED

For Rosemary Hruby, the memory that comes to mind was the first Christmas spent with husband Dave.

“We lived in Texas and we were not going home (to her parents house in Colorado),” she said. “We weren’t going, we really weren’t going. Until it became apparent that we were going.”

They hurriedly packed and hit the road for the drive from Texas to Colorado on December 23rd.

“We sang Little Drummer Boy all the way across Texas,” said Hruby. “Dave drove, so this helped keep him awake.”

They stopped in Lamar Colorado to try to get some food on Christmas Eve. Most restaurants and shops were closed, but they talked a closing truck stop into selling them chocolate bars for their dinner.

They continued their Little Drummer Boy duet as they hit the road for the last stretch. The song was one of Dave’s two favorite Christmas songs, and continues to be in spite of the hours of singing it on this 1050-mile trip.

“We arrived at my parents’ house around 11 p.m. on Christmas Eve,” said Hruby. “They weren’t expecting us so they didn’t have a tree. We decorated the potted norfolk pine. It was the best Christmas ever. It illustrates that the real joy of Christmas is being with family and friends.”

Pat Elliott has been a part of the Hospital Auxiliary in McBride for the past 40 years.

“I joined when I was 19,” she said with a wink.

The memory that resonates with her is one that gets built on each year.

“Each year as we put up the Community Christmas Card (names displayed on plywood boards expressing Christmas greetings though a Auxiliary fundraiser) we have to remove names,” she said.

Some of the cards have to be removed or ones with multiple names have to be redone after someone has passed away during the year.

“We keep losing precious community members,” she said.