Friday, December 12, 2008

Blog Advent Tour

It's my very great delight to take part in the Blog Advent Tour 2008, hosted by Kailana at The Written World and Marg at Reading Adventures. I discovered this tour through the blogosphere last year and it became one of the highlights of my holiday season.

I'm a self-confessed Christmas Maniac. I love pretty much everything to do with Christmas. Reading about fellow bloggers' Christmas traditions has been filled with discovery. Here are a few traditions native to my corner of the world.

I live in Halifax, Nova Scotia, on the east coast of Canada. The three provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island are known as the Maritime provinces, and we're all known as Maritimers. Historically we've made our living from fishing, logging and mining, so the Maritimes have been a rather economically depressed region for over 100 years. There is barely a resident here who has not known hardship, and this has given rise to one of the most cherished of our Christmas traditions - Christmas Daddies.

Christmas Daddies is a 45-year-old tradition here in the Maritimes. It began when a panhandling boy was chased out of a tavern several times. Two men enjoying their steaks and beer wanted to know what could drive the boy to come in for a third time. They heard about his family's struggles, passed a hat around the tavern and sent the boy home with $15.00.

The two men worked at the local radio and TV stations. The idea for running a telethon to raise money for all the children like the one who'd come to the tavern was born. Christmas Daddies is a variety show which features local talent, which these days is known outside the boundaries of our shores. When I was young, however, the show always featured performers such as the legendary Sadie - shown on the screen in the photo above. She did the Charleston each and every year.

These days Christmas Daddies features performers like country star George Canyon, originally from Pictou county.

These letters sent to Christmas Daddies are a perfect example of the Maritime experience. They're both sent from other areas of Canada - the Maritimes has a long history of people moving to wealthier provinces in order to make a go of things.

"Hi there! Greetings from Markham, ON.

I want to tell you what Christmas Daddies is all about. I came from Sydney and growing up was pretty rough, we are not all blessed with having all the nice things life has to offer but the one thing we had in common was Christmas and if you were good Santa came and for one day we were like all the other kids.

Then I turned 8 yrs old and I knew we were in trouble there was no money for food, lights, heat, clothes and I knew it was a matter of time there would be no money for Christmas.

But Santa started coming a little early, boxes of toys and food showed up there was someone out there that knew that we needed a Christmas. Now these days I make sure that my siblings and their kids have a good Christmas, for all kids deserve Christmas. I took the day off just for Christmas Daddies and it makes me grateful for all I have, thank God for wonderful people like you that care so much to make children so happy.

God bless.
A. S."

"Dear Christmas Daddies:

It was to my surprise, when I turned on my television set and was surfing through the channels and found you. (We had just received the Eastern Channels last week). I live in Langley, B.C.

I sang 'O Holy Night', in 1982. An astonishing 24 years ago!

The reason I sang then was to 'pay it forward', for the time that people helped out my Mom and our family when I was around one year of age (1965). My Mom often told us the story of the Christmas when the fire department came to our house with toys and a turkey to help us out. I recall my Mom expressing how humbled and grateful she was (with a tear in her eye), every time she told us this story.

I said that one day, I wanted to do something to help other people out, just like we were helped out. Well, I started with the Christmas Daddies.

Now, I am a Registered Nurse and am helping more people than I ever dreamed. God Bless you all for continuing the show, it really does make an impact on others lives .... I know, I was one of them.

Merry Christmas

D. W."

Another wonderful tradition which is dear to Nova Scotian hearts is the Christmas tree we send to Boston each year.

This is our way to thank the City of Boston for coming to the aid of Halifax after the Halifax Explosion in early December of 1917.

Halifax is a naval port and those First World War years saw a lot of traffic through Halifax Harbour, including unmarked munition ships like the Mont-Blanc. It collided with the Imo, a Norwegian relief ship.

After burning for 20 minutes, its volatile cargo exploded.

The force of the blast has not been surpassed as an accidental man-made explosion. Estimated as roughly the same as 3 kilotons of TNT, this compares to the 13-kiloton blast at Hiroshima. Everything in the path of the blast was obliterated. This photo shows the pre-explosion Halifax waterfront in 1917.

The harbour rose up in a tsunami to ravage the city, and to burden the survivors with even more misery, a blizzard fell that night, freezing anyone trapped in rubble who'd managed to initially survive the explosion. Around 2000 lives were lost and 9000 people were injured, some of whom survive today (who were children on that fateful day.)

This Halifax hydrostone housing development was supplied by Massachusetts relief efforts. "A relief train left from Boston at 10:00 PM on the day of the explosion. Relentlessly chugging through wintry terrain, it was delayed by heavy snowfall but reached Halifax just over 30 hours later at 3:00 AM on December 8, unloading much needed food, water, medical supplies, and some aid workers to relieve the Nova Scotia medical staff, many of whom had worked without rest since the morning of the explosion." (Wikipedia)

Here is the neighborhood today: Halifax's Hydrostone Market.

"This is the 37th year that Nova Scotia has donated a towering evergreen to serve as Boston's official Christmas tree. This year's 46-foot white spruce came from the property of Craig and Marina Cook, who live in Clementsvale, just outside Digby.

'We feel honored to have a tree chosen from our property to be sent to Boson this year,' Craig Cook said in a statement released by the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources. 'It's a privilege for us to be able to say thank you for the help they provided during the Halifax explosion.' " - The Boston Globe

My husband and I want to wish everyone a wonderful, joyous Christmas. Take time to savour this very special time of year.


Sandee said...

I did not know about the Halifax explosion. Wow, that was something. Thanks for the history lesson.

You and yours have a wonderful Christmas too. I think I'm as crazy about Christmas as you are. :)

Thomma Lyn said...

What a lovely post, Julia! I enjoyed reading about the Christmas Daddies and reading the letters. What a wonderful tradition, as is sending the Christmas tree to Boston! I didn't know about the Halifax explosion. What a terrible incident!

I wish you and yours a wonderful, Merry Christmas!

Ann said...

Great post.
I hope you and your have a wonderful Christmas. :)

Ann said...

I meant you and yours (you know what I meant). :)

Kerri said...

Julia, what a wonderful posting for today!! Thank you so much for sharing....I got goosebumps about the Christmas Daddies! What an amazing program and how it all started. Merry Christmas to you!

Kerrie said...

Thanks for the post JUlia. Merry Christmas

bigSIS said...

Thank you for sharing. The Christmas Daddies program is great. Having had some hard yrs when we depended on help to give our kids Christmas, I can fully appreciate the wonderful work they are doing.
I did not know about the Halifax explosion. To keep the memory of that fateful day and the brotherly kindness of Boston by such a tradition is wonderful.

Unknown said...

Wow, Julia, wow. I can't believe I've never heard of this. I feel ashamed that this isn't a huge part of our history. I had tears in my eyes this whole post. The Christmas Daddies is such a neat, neat thing, and the explosion/Boston story is sooo powerful. Thank you so much for sharing this. I loved learning this.

Louise said...

What a wonderful post about Christmas traditions in your part of the world. The Christmas Daddies sounds like a fantastic initiative and it is great that is has survived for so many years. Unfortunately not all are as lucky as we are and those things are often obvious exactly around Christmas time. Thanks for posting and a merry Christmas to you and your family as well.

Kailana said...

Great post! Living in Nova Scotia too, I knew most of that, but it was still good to remember. I watched the first few hours of Christmas Daddies this year, actually. And, the Halifax Explosion is something that people around here will hopefully never forget!

Amy Ruttan said...

Merry Christmas season to you and yours. I'm glad your mother was suitably impressed with the "package" I sent your way! :)

Right now it's snowing like crazy, I'm snowed in and me and the kids are watching Mickey's Twice Upon a Christmas which is Mickey's newest Christmas special.

I baked cookies (ready to bake LOL) and made popcorn and milk shakes for the kids. :)

We're all snuggled up enjoying ourselves. :)

Melissa said...

What a wonderful tradition! And I'll have to tell my sister who lives in Boston to stop by the tree. Thanks so much for sharing!

Akelamalu said...

Christmas Daddies is a fantastic idea!

Krissi said...

What a great post I love the history lesson. I didn't know about the Christmas tree what a wonderful community tradition. Thank you for sharing.

Wylie Kinson said...

Had tears in my eyes (still do) re the Christmas Daddies, and then the old chest got tight (still is) over the Halifax Explosion. I remember learning about it in school as a child and just thinking 'Big Boom - NEATO!' (sadly the point was missed)
Thanks for sharing a post that highlights the true meaning of Christmas... and Happy Holidays to you and Brad :)

Marg said...

Julia, this was a fantastic post! Thanks so much for contributing to the tour!

Christmas Daddies sounds like a great tradition to have!

Ana S. said...

Wow, I didn't know about any of that! I really enjoyed reading this post. Thank you!

Unknown said...

I really enjoyed your post today. Hope you and your family have a wonderful Christmas.

When I was younger I volunteered at the telethon. They were selling raffle tickets for a bunch of things and I won a beautiful handmade christening gown. Years later, when I had my daughters they both wore it during their christening.

Anonymous said...

How lovely! Christmas Daddies! Happy holidays to you, Julia!

Anonymous said...

Those are both wonderful Christmas traditions. I hadn't heard of Christmas Daddies before; I'll have to see if we get the broadcast here in the prairies.

Annette Gallant said...

I'm so proud of the Maritimes. Even though this is a tough economic year, we set a record for donations to the Christmas Daddies.

I didn't know about the tree thing until some customers from Boston told me about it. They said they go every year to the lighting ceremony and that one of the big reasons they wanted to visit Halifax was because of the connection between our two cities.

Hope you enjoyed the Nutcracker last night! :-)

Toni said...

Julia, that photo of you and hubby has got to be my favorite yet. Love it. And I didn't know about the Halifax explosion. How sad and terrifying that time must have been. Thanks for sharing it, along with the Christmas Daddies.

Travis Cody said...

What a wonderful tradition you have with that telethon. One of my favorite traditions is dropping gifts in the Toys for Tots bins.

Chrisbookarama said...

Hello fellow Nova Scotian! I missed Christmas Daddies this year, but it is a great program.

Unknown said...

Learn something new everyday! wow!! I want to come visit! :)

Susan said...

Well, now I have a tear in my eye, Julia! Thanks for talking about what the real spirit of Christmas is about - people. My husband has been to Halifax and is fascinated by the explosion. I'll show him your post when he gets up(yes, it's Sunday morning, sorry I'm late again with the advent tour). I love the Christmas Daddies story too. It looks like it's going to be needed here in Ontario too this year, with the car plant (GM I think) suddenly closing this coming January in Oshawa. And thank you for sharing about the tree too. What a wonderful post you did!

Penelope said...

What a great post! I loved reading about the Christmas Daddies and what a wonderful program it is.

Also, I was very touched when I heard the story behind the Christmas tree sent to Boston each year. What a beautiful way to thank Boston for it's help.

Thanks for sharing, and have a lovely Christmas!

Vickie said...

I did not know about the Halifax explosion. Learn something new everyday when you are blogging!

sorry late on the Advent Tour. I am playing catch up.

Have a happy holiday.

Julia said...

WOW - I love reading your post! I love to learn about the Christmas Daddies and the letters too. I love that I'm learning about the Halifax and other things that have happen.

I wish you and your family a Happy Hoidays!