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Farm families have special Christmas traditions

December 24, 2020 - In the spirit of Christmas, we don’t think this article could say it any better. The author, Jeanine Moyer, was raised on an Ontario farm and is one of the winners of the Guelph Mercury Christmas story contest. We think Jeanine captured the essence, exactly, of Christmas on a Canadian livestock farm. Merry Christmas to all. - OFAC

Farm families have special Christmas traditions - News - December 21, 2020

Christmas is the holiday for traditions. Growing up, we knew our family had several Christmas traditions such as leaving milk and cookies out for Santa, hanging stockings and attending church on Christmas Eve. It wasn’t until we were in our early teens that my siblings and I began to understand just how different our family was and that our Christmas traditions were different from most.

Growing up as the seventh generation on our family farm, my sisters, brother and I knew we were different from most families, and for some reason it always seemed most apparent at Christmastime.

Most of our school friends shared stories of waking up their parents at five in the morning in anticipation of unwrapping presents. They told of travelling to faraway ski resorts over the holiday break and enjoying overnight visits with family. We were different. We knew Christmas presents couldn’t be opened until Dad came in from the barn — and oh the torture of looking at all those gifts under the tree and silently willing Dad to hurry.

We were too young to understand that unlike most families celebrating Christmas, ours was one of the less than one per cent of Canadian families who were farmers. We knew we couldn’t complain because Dad would remind us each year on Christmas Day that there are no holidays on the farm — a farmer was responsible for feeding his animals 365 days a year. And that phrase would be repeated countless times in the following days — while our school friends were enjoying their holiday travels, my siblings and I were working in the barn alongside Dad, completing the ‘to-do’ list he would make each year in anticipation of extra help around the farm, thanks to our holiday break from school.

Despite the additional workload, we always had a wonderful holiday, enjoying the company of family, indulging in treats and exchanging gifts As I grew older, I began to appreciate that although our traditions were different than most, they were just as special.

The older we got the more we realized that if we pitched in to help feed the animals and lend a hand with Christmas morning chores, we could open our presents faster. And, surprisingly, it wasn’t a chore at all.

Waking before dawn was always the hardest part. But as soon as we stepped outside into the crisp morning air and saw the lights from the neighbours’ barns we knew we weren’t alone. Other neighbouring farm families were rising earlier than usual to finish their chores earlier and spend more time with family, too. And somewhere out there I knew there were kids waiting at the window watching for their dads to hurry in from the barn so they could open their gifts.

Our barn was always warm and inviting that festive morning, and although it wasn’t adorned with decorations and twinkling lights, it was festive just the same. Dad would whistle and sing Christmas carols while we followed behind wishing the animals a ‘Merry Christmas.’

Christmas is a special time for any age, and as I grew older I began to appreciate our farm family traditions more and more. I no longer compared our holidays with those of friends. We may not have travelled or visited resorts, but we managed to enjoy tobogganing on sunny afternoons between morning and evening chores, trips to the local skating arena and baking Christmas cookies. After all, food is another tradition our family is proud of.

You will never find a Butterball turkey or Green Giant vegetables at our table. Preparing for Christmas dinner seemed like so much work growing up. It remains so. But it’s much more rewarding because I soon understood that almost everything on our table was grown, raised, harvested and prepared on our farm. For a few years, I even contributed the turkey from my small flock I presided over as a youth agricultural entrepreneur.

The apple cider came from the fall apples. The pumpkins for the pie were grown in the garden. The sweet corn on our table was picked from our soil. It was a satisfying feeling to know that the mouths eating the mashed potatoes were attached to the same hands that planted, hoed, picked and stored those same potatoes. I still look around the table in wonder today and think that although we may be considered a minority in Canada for making a livelihood out of farming, the majority of Canadians would be envious to know that we enjoy a meal that wasn’t just produced within 100 miles — it was produced within our view from the kitchen window of our farm house.

Today, more than ever I am able to appreciate our farm family Christmas traditions.

I didn’t always understand these traditions and why our family was so different from others when I was younger. But I was aware they were special. And, as I start my own family, and Christmas traditions, I will remind my children that there are no holidays on the farm.

We are a farm family that cares for our animals 365 days a year just like our ancestors did before us on our same farm for more than 170 years ago. Christmas is a special holiday for making traditions and although we may be different from most, they are special just the same.

Jeanine Moyer is one of this year’s winners of the Mercury’s annual Christmas Story Contest. A winning submission will be featured in the paper each day through Dec. 24.

Posted by OFAC on December 24th, 2009 :: Filed under Beef cattle, Farm life, Sustainability of the family farm
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One Response to “Farm families have special Christmas traditions”

  1. @boomergirl (Twitter)
    December 24th, 2009

    A special Christmas story that I am glad you shared. May Canadians read this and remember to support their Canadian family farms 365 days a year. I will tweet your site hoping that others retweet so, we help spread the word.

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