Archive for the ‘Christmas’ Category

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I had the opportunity to spend this Christmas in Southern Austria with a family from Pichla, a community with a population of 130 people. I host Austrian students each fall who attend Holland College to study tourism. One of my former students invited me to spend Christmas with her family which included her parents, sister, brother/future sister-in-law, and nephew who is almost one year old. They are a farming family within a close-knit community in the southern province of Styria referred to as the “green heart” of Austria for its ideal farming region. It is best known for its wine, apples and pumpkin seed oil.

Like our own rural communities, they are also seeing a decline in farming. My host family runs a pig farm where they prepare and smoke their own meat and sell to long-time customers within their own and neighbouring communities. On December 24th morning, 60 customers dropped by to pick up plates of cold cuts prepared by Marion, her sister and parents. It was a chance for each of the visitors to sit at the kitchen table for a chat and wish each other the best of the season.

Their celebration is on Christmas Eve which began with visiting Marion’s brother and his family. We waited outside the door until we heard the bell ring to announce that Christkind had been there. We entered and sang Christmas carols that featured Silent Night (Stille Nacht), a song composed in Austria. As the story goes, just hours before Christmas mass on December 24th, 1818, Joseph Mohr asked his organist Franz Xavier Gruber to compose music for a poem he had written two years earlier. It is believed that the organ was broken, so that evening, Joseph Mohr sang the tenor part and played the guitar and Franz Gruber sang bass. The song was well received by the audience of working people in Oberndorf who were facing economic hardship after the Napoleonic Wars (1792-1815) when their community had been split between Bavaria and Austria further to the Congress of Vienna. In 1866, this carol was first published in a songbook for the churches in Salzburg. Christian missionaries introduced the song to other countries and now it has been translated in over 300 languages and dialects. Knowing this story and having heard this song so beautifully sung three times during the Christmas season, the original German version is now my favourite.

After our carol singing, we exchanged presents and had our first light meal before going to her aunt and uncle’s home where we enjoyed a delicious meal featuring typical food from Styria…local wine, cream of chestnut schilcher soup, schnitzel, vegetables, polenta and, for dessert, roast apple and ice cream. After dinner, the extended family once again sang Silent Night (Stille Nacht) around their Christmas tree decorated with lit candles. Christkind must have known I would be in Austria, as I received gifts featuring local food products from the region. Included in my gifts to them were copies of Clyde River’s Landscape of Memories book. We now have six of our books in Austria. These farming families were delighted to look at the photos and understand more about rural life in our community.

A couple of days after Christmas, we attended a mass at their local church and, after the service, we visited graves of their family members. I was struck by the beautiful designs and landscaping. Many of the grave sites were decorated with Christmas trees.

For lunch, the extended family attended a meal featuring venison at my host’s home. Marion’s aunt and uncle had visited Austrian cousins in western Canada, so they brought along their photo album from the trip. It turns out their cousins live on the same street as my brother Blois in Spruce Grove, Alberta.

Spending Christmas in a different culture introduced me to the many different rituals and foods that are part of their tradition. I didn’t understand all the German conversation that surrounded me each day, but I knew in my heart that these people with their warmth of hospitality shared many of the values of the people from my own community. And now that these people know about Clyde River, Prince Edward Island, it is only appropriate that the people of Clyde River know about Pichla, Austria.

So as we wish them a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, they would wish us a Frohe Weihnachten und win gluckliches neues Jahr!

The following are the original german lyrics of Silent Night along with the English translation:

Stille Nacht! Heilige Nacht! (Silent Night! Holy Night!)

Verse One:

Stille Nacht! Heilige Nacht!
Alles schläft; einsam wacht
Nur das traute heilige Paar.
Holder Knab im lockigten Haar,
Schlafe in himmlischer Ruh!
Schlafe in himmlischer Ruh!

Silent night! Holy Night!
All are sleeping, alone and awake
Only the intimate holy pair,
Lovely boy with curly hair,
Sleep in heavenly peace!
Sleep in heavenly peace!

Verse Two:

Stille Nacht! Heilige Nacht!
Gottes Sohn! O wie lacht
Lieb’ aus deinem göttlichen Mund,
Da schlägt uns die rettende Stund’.
Jesus in deiner Geburt!
Jesus in deiner Geburt!

Silent night! Holy night!
Son of God, O how he laughs
Love from your divine mouth,
Then it hits – the hour of salvation.
Jesus at your birth!
Jesus at your birth!

Verse Three:

Stille Nacht! Heilige Nacht!
Die der Welt Heil gebracht,
Aus des Himmels goldenen Höhn
Uns der Gnaden Fülle läßt seh’n
Jesum in Menschengestalt,
Jesum in Menschengestalt.

Silent night! Holy night!
Which brought salvation to the world,
From Heaven’s golden heights,
Mercy’s abundance was made visible to us;
Jesus in human form,
Jesus in human form.

Verse Four:

Stille Nacht! Heilige Nacht!
Wo sich heut alle Macht
Väterlicher Liebe ergoß
Und als Bruder huldvoll umschloß
Jesus die Völker der Welt,
Jesus die Völker der Welt.

Silent night! Holy night!
Where on this day all power
of fatherly love poured forth
And like a brother lovingly embraced
Jesus the peoples of the world,
Jesus the peoples of the world.

Verse Five:

Stille Nacht! Heilige Nacht!
Lange schon uns bedacht,
Als der Herr vom Grimme befreit,
In der Väter urgrauer Zeit
Aller Welt Schonung verhiess,
Aller Welt Schonung verhiess.

Silent night! Holy night!
Already long ago planned for us,
When the Lord frees from wrath
Since the beginning of ancient times
A salvation promised for the whole world.
A salvation promised for the whole world.

Verse Six:

Stille Nacht! Heilige Nacht!
Hirten erst kundgemacht
Durch der Engel Alleluja,
Tönt es laut bei Ferne und Nah:
Jesus der Retter ist da!
Jesus der Retter ist da!

Silent night! Holy night!
To shepherds it was first made known
By the angel, Hallelujah;
Sounding forth loudly far and near:
Jesus the Savior is here!
Jesus the Savior is here!

Website featuring history: Click here.

Vienna Boys Choir performing Stille Nacht:

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What a wonderful Fall we had here in PEI and still not any arrival of snow but maybe tomorrow, as the chilly Northwest winds have arrived. The month of December will soon be upon us and in PEI that means the beginning of the Christmas party season. Clyde River will have their community Christmas Party on Tuesday, December 4th at 7:30 pm at the Riverview Community Centre.

Whether you live in or love going to Clyde River events, you are welcome to enjoy the warmth of our hospitality. Other than bringing along your Christmas spirit, you can choose to bring along a gift (value of $5) for an exchange. Men are to take gifts for men; women take gifts for women. There will be music, carol singing, skits, games, some tasty food and overall a grand time.

The Women’s Institute are participating this year in the White Cross Christmas Gift Campaign. This campaign was established in the early 1960s by the Canadian Mental Health Association, PEI Division. If you wish, you can bring along a small, new, unwrapped gift of a personal item e.g. shampoo, cosmetics, socks or gloves. The Clyde River W.I. will arrange to drop off theses gifts at the White Cross Program office in Charlottetown. Gifts will be given to those who may not otherwise receive one this season.

On the evening of our Christmas Party, we will be selling tickets to win a 3′ x 2′ gallery photo of Clyde River featured on the front cover of the newly launched photo book, Landscape of Memories. Tickets are $5 each. Also, if you have not yet had a chance to purchase the book with 170+ full-colour photos of our community and you wish to give it as gifts this season, there will be books available for sale at $25.

So find a touch of red in your wardrobe and come on out to celebrate the Christmas season with your friends and neighbours.

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The nights of the Christmas Concerts filled the hall with families, and when I think of those nights, I recall the warmth from the blazing fire in the wood stove, the excitement and nervousness of performance, the singing, the laughter, the applause and the fudge in little brown bags at intermission.

For those of you who are newer to Clyde River, Christmas school concerts were once quite a highlight this time of year. Songs were practised, poems were recited, lines were memorized for theatrical performance…it was a bustling time for children in the community whether you had talent to offer or not. That was the defining character of the times as we young Clyde River children were taught to perform…there was no choice but to participate.

Today in schools, one is likely able to opt out of activities that require a singing voice or theatrical skills with a signed note from our parents. Well, this was not the case in Clyde River School. Phyllis Newman was our music teacher and everyone had to learn how to sing and perform. We learned our DO RE ME at the same time we were learning our ABCs. Maybe it was assumed that each of us had at least a little Celtic in our blood, so there had to be a musical note inside us somewhere and Phyllis was determined to bring it out. Also, our parents grew up singing and making their own entertainment, so keeping that tradition alive was expected.

Well, for some of you reading this story, I am sure you can recall the poor souls that couldn’t carry a tune in a bag, as they would say. Others who showed the ability to carry a tune were often given solos to sing which was equally as stressful.

As the Christmas Concert time approached, we would treck down to “The Hall”, the golden colour of all PEI halls in their day it seemed. It is not there now, but it was situated across from Lloyd Murray’s gate. If you have been in any hall in PEI, you can imagine the architecture…small entry-way, wooden floors, wooden chairs, wood stove, piano, stage, pull-backed curtains, back room and an attic. We started off practising our performances at the school, but there is really nothing like walking on the stage to give a performance life and bring out the performer in even the most humble of us.

For choral singing, we would line up in rows, the small kids at the front and progressions of height toward the back. The kids behind could jab or pinch the ones in front wthout Phyllis seeing. She was strict, but in a good way. It was the kind of strictness where you might not think you could do something, but then she showed you that you could.

I remember specifically being in Grade One and preparing for the choral singing. One of our songs was Away in a Manger. Phyllis decided that I would sing one verse as a solo. My costume was a white pillow case with foil wings and a silver tinsel halo. It was all well and good to practise at school or at home, but when I went on the stage at the hall, it was real and I became nervous. I remember after the practice walking over to Mrs. Newman and saying that I didn’t think I could sing the solo. All I can remember is a very quick response to say that I would do it…and I did it.

The nights of the Christmas Concerts filled the hall with families, and when I think of those nights, I recall the warmth from the blazing fire in the wood stove, the excitement and nervousness of performance, the singing, the laughter, the applause and the fudge in little brown bags at intermission. Toward the end of the evening, we would hear bells at the back door and in would come Santa with a bag of small gifts. The little hall stood still and cold for most of the year, but when there were concerts, its old wooden walls swayed with the music and were alive with the lights and warmth of the crowds. I have to say that I miss that old hall. – Vivian Beer

If you have your own memories of the hall and Christmas concerts, we would love to hear about them…please add them to the comments.

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