What are you doing these days to get ready for the holidays? All around Lake Simcoe folks are preparing for Dec. 25, 2011. I wonder what tales the Lake would tell about Christmases past if it could talk. 

The First Nations were taught by the missionaries about Christianity. At the Simcoe County Museum there is a native crèche that has been lovingly made by Jennifer, one of the interpreters. She put it together from corn husks, leather and animal fur. The figures haven’t any faces because of native beliefs, (that if the figures didn’t have a face then they didn’t have a soul). Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus are in front of the fire. The fire keeper is there and the little drummer boy. There are three other figures, chiefs, bringing gifts of logs, furs and corn, (logs to make fire, furs to keep warm and corn to eat). The crèche is in the longhouse for visitors to see if they go to the museum this holiday season.

The pioneers decorated their homes simply with pine boughs, strings of popcorn and pine cones. The kitchen was a busy place with the making of puddings, pies, cookies and the Christmas dinner. Mother knitted dolls and sewed new clothes and Father whittled wooden toys from wood. Gifts were wrapped in cloth and carefully, lovingly placed under the tree. Families travelled by sleigh or wagon to celebrate together. They sang carols and hymns and played games. If there was a church not too far away they went to church on Christmas Eve. The children would have been practising for their Christmas concert at school. They would sing, recite poems and the night would end with the story of the first Christmas with the students dressing up as Mary, Joseph, the shepherds and wise men. The schoolroom, all decorated with the children’s artwork would be crowded with the children’s families all huddled around a stove in the middle of the room to keep warm.

When you sing “Jingle Bells” this season think of all the one horse open sleighs, dashing through the snow on the way home from that school concert or from church Christmas Eve.

Nowadays, with all the permanent homes on the lake, folks are decorating with outdoor lights on trees, verandahs and boathouses. Cottagers come north to their winterized homes on the lake for the holidays. There are Christmas events, Light Up Nights and Santa Claus Parades. In the 23 municipalities all around the lake there are Christmas parties, family dinners, office parties, friends getting together for Christmas lunches and pot lucks taking place. Over the years the Lake Simcoe has been a gathering place for all seasons.

We’ve just had the first dusting of snow and looking out at the lake is like looking into Fairyland. You’re never disappointed with what you’ll see when you look out at the lake but this time of year is special.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year to all!