Angela Meady -

A Slovak-Danish-Finnish Canadian Christmas


Here was a quieter time as there were only two other cousins to play with. Our grandparents would always be very dressed up and the house would be sparkling with silver and blue, especially the tree which would be drenched in silver tinsel. More hugs and kisses, and thank yous for the gifts they had left for us the night before. Mor-mor (or mother's mother in Danish) was a beautiful strong jawed woman with the perfect posture of the ex-gymnast that she was.

Daddala was a young-looking grandfather who loved to tease and got as much enjoyment out of being teased back. As my mother helped to get the food ready, we'd take turns sitting with my grandfather in his big leather chair listening to his jokes (he always had a million of them) and begging to see his tattoo - a big blue rose he had gotten on his arm in his youth in Denmark when he thought he might want to be a sailor. But it was a master baker that he was to become and so on the table would be a gorgeous gingerbread house each year.


It would be a seriously complex affair which you could spend hours investigating. Dinner was open-faced sandwiches (smorrebrod) of egg, tomato, shrimp, smoked salmon and home-made liver pate. My grandmother put much work went into the artful appearance of these lovely things but they disappeared with much ease. So my cousins from Atikokan and I would play some of the games they had gotten, and nibble on Danish pastry and almond pretzels until we finally couldn't eat any more. By this point the littler ones would almost be in a food stupor and would lie on grandfather's lap just smiling with their eyes closed as he rocked and smoked his long cigars. I couldn't leave without the ritual of looking at all my grandmother's jewelry, playing a tune on her music box and then checking out her collection of  four leafed clovers. Most people might never find one but Mor-Mor had a whole cedar box full. She was also the fortune teller on New Year's Eve - dropping bits of lead into cold water to see what the future might bring.

Our tree would stay up until our Ukrainian neighbours had celebrated Christmas Day and then it would end up as an ignoble object stuck in the front snow bank to be taken away. Then one evening not long after that, one of the church altar boys would run up to our door breathless to announce that Father Reguly was on his way to bless our house. In a flurry of activity we'd all try to tidy up the Christmas toys and so forth scattered across the rooms when he'd enter, all dressed in black from hat to rubber boots. After chatting for a while he'd go to the kitchen where he'd burn some incense on the stove element. As that begin to warm and scent the room he'd progress from room to room leading us in prayers to bless each portion of our home. Then one of the altar boys would stand on a chair and write in chalk over the door  G + M + B and the year (the initials of the three wisemen) and one felt now ready to greet the new year.

Those are my childhood memories of Christmases as they came tumbling out of my head. My grandparents are no longer in this life, and I miss them very much. Looking back I realize how they shared parts of their individual cultural traditions and how that enhanced our Christmas celebration which like most Canadians, isn't typical of any other.

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 Story and Photos © 1998 by Angela Meady - ameady@loon.norlink.net
All comments should be forwarded to Ondro Mihal at omihal@slovak.com.

All contents copyright © 1998.All rights reserved.
Revised: Dec 21, 1998