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My Christmas Tree Tells Many Stories…

I put up my Christmas tree the last weekend of November. It is certainly a different process than my childhood, as we would have a real tree that would not be cut until December 21st. My father would spend lots of time prior, searching for that perfect tree. Actually, if it was not perfect he would begin the drilling process adding a few limbs and doing the necessary pruning. I would only accompany him on the day of cutting the tree. This was always exciting! Dad would always put on the lights and the garland, then as a family we would add the ornament, especially the old-fashioned glass balls, adding lots of tinsel before topping the tree top off with a handmade angel. Not to be forgotten, the tree was always placed in a plastic salt beef bucket for good measure and stability. I may be getting a little nostalgic, but this was always a special time and these memories of growing up in rural Newfoundland and Labrador as ones I will always cherish.

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Now the Christmas tree is a modern 8′ artificial, one that was supposedly pre-lit. However, my first order was to remove the 1,000 lights as they never really worked from the beginning and add new ones.

This was quite the task and consumer of my limited time. However, I’m happy to have more space now to add new ornaments. I collect Christmas ornaments from rural Newfoundland & Labrador, as well, when I travel abroad. This year, I’ve added many new ornaments sourced locally at outlets like Mayflower Inn Gift Shop, Roddickton-Bide Arm; Glacier Glass, Englee; Grenfell Heritage Shoppe, St. Anthony and King’s Point Pottery, King’s Point. As well, from my friends, a lovely NL ornament from Mona and the always happy Minion from Amanda. 🙂

These hand-hooked mummer’s, puffins, houses and Inuk are carefully stitched and will joined my salted cod on the line by Anne Hodge-Kirby. The glass and pottery formed salt cod will add to the variety.

I love to travel and this past year, I’ve collected ornaments from a family cruise on “Oasis of the Seas”. Our ports of call were in the Bahamas, St. Maartan and St.Thomas, Virgin Islands. As well this past summer, I made my annual trek to Europe, collecting ornaments from Ireland, Switzerland and Liechtenstein. I did not manage a new ornament from Austria or Hungary, despite amazing new experiences and memories of a lifetime. I’ll have to get one on my next return.

These ornaments have joined other handmade, felted, fabric, metal or hooked mummer’s, accordions, violins, dories, snowshoes, skin boots, fish and other sea life. There are childhood ornaments and others purchased on trips to London, Olbia, New York and various other places life has taken me.

I love decorating the Christmas tree. It brings a smile to my face knowing all the hard work and effort that has gone into producing these ornaments that truly reflect a piece of Newfoundland and Labrador tradition and culture. I also like placing ornaments from New York, recalling ice skating with my mother, sister and brother-in-law in Central Park; the seahorse which brings back a Mediterranean sailing trip with my European friends and of course, my glass ball from Prague – where I lived for four months and had the most incredible experiences and met the most amazing people! My tree is one filled with memories and the who process makes me very nostalgic.

I hope when you decorate your tree, you get similar feelings that reflect upon experiences, friendships, childhood and Christmas past.

Live Rural NL –

Christopher Mitchelmore, MHA for The Straits-White Bay North

A Rural Newfoundland Christmas Tree – Salt Cod Drying on the Line

I’ve always loved trimming the Christmas tree. I remember around the 20th or 21st of December going with my father to cut it. He would have already been prospecting for that perfectly thick Christmas tree. After it was home, there would be the cutting and drilling to ensure that were no empty spaces. I miss the real Christmas tree and that whole process – it is how I remember my childhood and the excitement as we approached the holidays.

My current Christmas tree, although artificial it has many authentic rural connections. My most recent ornament is a Crafts of Character “Salt Fish on the Line” hooked using Anne’s own 100% salt water wool yarn. Anne Kirby, Rug Hooker is the owner of Anne’s Original Hooked Rugs, which are handmade and hand designed. You can visit her Facebook page by searching  Anne’s  Original  Hooked Rugs, email anne.kirby@gmail.com or telephone 709-857-2331 if you would like to get some of her amazing masterpieces. It’s my first hooked rug ornament, but I hope not my last. I will likely seek to add a collection of mummers next year :).

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I remember my Grandfather Mitchelmore telling stories of how they would dry the salt fish on the flakes. I’ve seen photographs of this process, today you see fish in small quantities on a flake or even on the line. Only in Rural NL. Also in the picture is a pair of snowshoes made by past Ivy Durely resident Thomas Newcombe.

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Local resident, Jeffrey Poole made these “Muffy” Christmas ornaments in which the parka hood is trimmed with rabbit fur and covered with seal skin. It is wonderful to see young people take on the task of making Christmas ornaments. It is a very good entrepreneurial activity. The snowshoes next to it were purchased at the Grenfell Heritage Shoppe.

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This summer at the Roddickton Come Home Year I purchased these two mummers from a young entrepreneur and mom as well. They also see at the Grenfell Heritage Shoppe. I purchased the killick from Mr. Ellsworth of Main Brook nearly a decade ago.

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A wonderful present from Mavis, also makes my Christmas tree more traditional given the snowman is made from sea urchins. How creative and what a wonderful use of natural product that washes ashore from the sea. It looks lovely and thank you.

My sister also made items from shells nearly 15 years ago. These are the angels made from scallop shells. My father was a scallop fisher.

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The Mummer’s are plankin’ ‘er down on my Christmas tree. They even have the old squeeze box, which I bought from a Montreal Christmas shop near Notre Dame Cathedral. I love Betty and Bob from the Bight. Hope to see them come to my house over the Chrismas season.

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There are many more snaps from the Christmas tree of traditional ornaments and some from my travels abroad.

The gift of something handmade or an ornament for the Christmas tree seems like the perfect present for those to enjoy the holiday season.

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Merry Christmas everyone, from my family to yours!

Live Rural NL –

Christopher Mitchelmore, MHA
The Straits-White Bay North

 

Family Time – Remember when the capelin rolled in…..

I remember the excitement in Green Island Cove when the capelin rolled in the beach one summer around 1991.  It was the year my father made my little dip net. With all the fuss we rushed to the shore to join other members of the community with our buckets and started filling them with our dip nets. You had to be quick, because it was only a matter of time and they would be gone.

My great-great-aunt Lavinia, who turns 98 years-young this year was on the beach that day. She arrived a bit later and didn’t quite have her bucket full, so we helped her top up her catch. She remembers that day and we have talked about it on occasion in my past visits. She’s a lady full of energy and she has a remarkable way of telling a story. I know from our conversations she was always up for a good joke or a bit of fun.

If you ever get the opportunity to see the capelin roll, it’s one of natures wonders. As they rolled around Logy Bay-Middle Cove-Outer Cove this past summer on the Avalon, it brought droves of locals and tourists alike, creating much traffic congestion.

The capelin – a small forage fish is often the lunch of cod. It is good to see them a plenty. I certainly saw much capelin coming ashore in Englee this past summer. The cod are back and there are giant cod-fish out there.

I have a capelin that was made locally, which I hang on my Christmas tree each year.

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There are many opportunities to show off your talents. The College of the North Atlantic, St. Anthony Campus has a glass art studio and Norstead – Viking Village and Port of Trade, L’Anse Aux Meadows has a pottery studio available for us to make unique product. Why not carve and create a capelin mug, bowl, jewelry, Christmas ornament, glass coaster or pendant? We have so many opportunities, potential markets from local shops, craft outlets, on-line, Come Home Year celebrations and a number of cruise ships that visit the area. Now is the time to start marking product, be ready for those who visit and experience The Great Northern Peninsula.

Live Rural NL –

Christopher Mitchelmore, MHA
The Straits-White Bay North
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