“Just before Christmas we went out into the woods, cut down a fir tree and brought it home so alive still that the warm house fooled it into thinking spring had come, and it breathed delicious live pine smell all over the house.” – Emily Carr, The Book of Small
A sure sign that Christmas is on its way is the arrival of the Christmas tree in the home. The smell of the freshly cut evergreen brings with it a rush of memories of past Christmases. The tradition of the Christmas tree goes back thousands of years, with people finding special significance in trees that could stay green over the cold winter months.
Monica Rasmussen, who was a part of a group of early Danish settlers at Cape Scott, recalled Christmas in her community in the early 1900s in the book The Cape Scott Story by Lester R Peterson. “There was always a community Christmas tree and dance in the Lake Erie hall, and everyone contributed something to make it a success. The bachelors in the settlement cut a huge tree for the centre of the hall. It reached from the floor to the ceiling, and was decked with tinsel and tiny winking candles, which were lighted just as Santa arrived. To us little folk it seemed to go right up to the heavens.”
In our region, the Christmas tree was found in most homes, because with the abundance of trees on the coast even when times were tough, every settler could find a tree. Florence Tickner, who lived on Maud Island in 1930, recalled in the book Fish Hooks and Caulk Boots that the men would bring home three trees for her parents to choose from as her mother was hard to please. They decorated the chosen tree with strings of popcorn with some cranberries in between.
Celia Haig-Brown remembers going out one December to find a Christmas tree with her brother Alan. They quickly grabbed the first tree that they could find, and then headed over to the Quinsam Hotel for a couple hours of socializing and drinking beer, finally returning home “exhausted from the hours of searching for the right tree.”
Sandra Parrish recalls her father, Roy Forrester, the beloved custodian at Discovery Passage School, getting creative with their Christmas tree. It began one year when they had a rather sparse fir tree and Roy decided to make it appear thicker by drilling holes in the trunk and inserting hemlock branches. The next year, he decided to use that technique with a piece of doweling, drilling holes in it and inserting cedar branches, entirely skipping the real tree. The branches didn’t live long in the house without water, and it became quite a sad, droopy tree. Sandra recalls the tree being decorated with red bows, most likely because the inserted branches couldn’t hold the weight of glass balls and other ornaments.
By Erika Anderson, November 2017