Holiday Traditions from our Farm

Written by guest blogger, Kim Tilsley from GlenRyan Farms in Margaree Harbour, Cape Breton.


This time of year is all about traditions; rituals and customs that bring meaning and comfort to the season. Not surprisingly many of these involve food in one way or another. I’d like to share a couple from my family.

Christmas Wishbones

Foodie Tree Ornament:

Many families have cherished decorations for the Christmas tree: delicate ornaments passed down from generation to generation, handmade folk art picked up at local craft fairs, quirky knickknacks that hold a special memory or meaning, and in our family – old poultry bones!

I do not know exactly when this tradition began, but I know for certain I am at least the 4th generation to practice it. I have memories of helping my great-grandmother decorating her tree – it may go back further, we do not know for sure.

Each year the wishbone from the Christmas bird is saved, meticulously cleaned, carefully wrapped in foil or decorative paper, and a tag with the year and the names of all those who dined with us at Christmas dinner is attached. Every year when decorating the tree we reminisce on Christmases past – our first Christmas as a couple, the year each child made their first appearance, the last year Dad was with us – as we place each wishbone on the tree as a decoration.

The origins of this custom seem shrouded in mystery – no one seems to have an explanation – was it frugal Presbyterian Scots decorating with what they had at hand or was there an older religious or perhaps even pagan significance? No one in the family seems to know and I have yet to encounter others who do something similar as part of their holiday traditions. Anyone?

New Year, New Seeds:

New Year’s Day is steeped in so much promise – resolutions, new beginnings and often a bit of an after effect from the previous evening’s revelry! What better way to spend the day than curled up on the sofa, with a comforting hot beverage, surrounded by the new season’s seed catalogues?

I look forward to this day for weeks! As the new crop of seed catalogues begin arriving in the mailbox, I do my best to resist their siren call. I do not crack open the cover, but tuck each of them away in a drawer to await New Year’s Day. The anticipation is exhilarating!

I begin the ritual by taking stock of what I have left over from previous years. Various seeds have different viable lifespans. Onions, leeks and parsnips are very short lived and it is much better to obtain fresh seed each year. Tomato seed if stored properly in dry, cool conditions can remain viable for seven years or more.

With inventory complete, I tear open the pages and immerse myself in the experience – glossy photos of voluptuous produce and optimistic descriptions of fecundity and savour transport me to a summer’s day – the warm, damp soil squishing between my bare toes as I reach to pluck that first ripe tomato from the vine! Summer gardens bloom glorious in winter dreams!

So much promise from a seed catalogue!

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy New Year, and here’s to an Abundant Growing Season!

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