The Host Files: Christmas Markets

By Adam A., Visitor Host

This past Thursday was Oshawa’s annual Bright and Merry Market. The Oshawa Museum was able to participate in this year’s event, staffing a booth along Bagot Street by the Library. In our Victorian costumes we hosted ornament decorating and promoted the Museum’s Lamplight Tours, which will be held this year on December 3.

A table, covered with a black table cloth. There are wooden ornaments on the table and in a container, and in another container there are markers and crayons

The Bright and Merry Market is not the most traditional of Christmas Markets. It is an outgrowth of the City’s annual tree lighting ceremony, a tradition dating back over thirty years. Outdoor tree lighting ceremonies are a tradition that began in the 1920s when electrification was becoming widespread and became more widespread in the decades following the Second World War. Nonetheless, it still featured, food, song, dance, open air stalls, and ample festive spirit.

An illuminated evergreen tree, lit at night

Christmas markets are part of a much older tradition. The tradition of holding a festive market in late November or early December originates in southeastern Germany and Austria during the late middle ages (ca. 1300-1500). The practice became wide spread throughout the German speaking lands during the Early Modern Period (ca. 1453-1789). These “Christkindlesmarkts” would typically be held to usher in the liturgical season of Advent.

The large influx of German immigrants in the 1800s brought the tradition to North America. Accordingly, these German Christmas Markets can be found in many cities and towns across the continent. Here in Ontario, the most largest example of these more traditional Christmas markets can be found in Kitchener, which had been settled by Germans and was known as Berlin prior to being renamed during the First World War.

A close-up of a map with colourful pins sticking out of the map

Given the presence of a German community in Oshawa, it should be no surprise that a traditional Christmas market can be found here too. Club Loreley, the local German community’s cultural club, has held an annual Christmas market for over 50 years. This event will be running once more this Sunday, November 20.

Club Loreley, originally the German Canadian Club Oshawa, was established in 1955. Its members purchased a plot of land in 1957 upon which their clubhouse would be built and opened in 1961. Since then they have been regular participants in Oshawa’s Fiesta Week tradition and hold all manner of German cultural functions, of which the Christmas market is just one, through out the year.

To learn more about the influx of German immigrants and other groups into Oshawa following the Second World War, stop by the Museum to view our Leaving Home Finding Home in Oshawa exhibit.


Sources:

https://www.clubloreley.org/history/early-history

http://clubloreley.org/images/stories/newsletter/2022/ClubLoreley-Jun-Jul2022.pdf

Merry Christmas from the Oshawa Museum

From us at the Oshawa Museum, we wish those who celebrate a very Merry Christmas.

Please enjoy this passage from the classic Victorian story, A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens

“There are many things from which I might have derived good, by which I have not profited, I dare say,’ returned the nephew. ‘Christmas among the rest. But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round—apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that—as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!”

Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

A Glimpse into the Holiday Celebrations of a Post-WWII Diaspora in Oshawa

By Mia V., Visitor Host

As I’ve discussed in previous blog posts, Oshawa’s post-WWII religious landscape had pre-war roots and was quite vast. The significance of this, of having cultural institutions built by and for one’s community, cannot be overstated, especially for the holidays. For many immigrants and their descendants – such as those in Oshawa at this time – intentionally connecting to one’s heritage was and is central to the celebration of Christmas. 

Christmas in the diaspora – many thousands of kilometres away from home and extended family – could not have been easy at first. However, a sense of community could still prevail, as newcomers were often embraced by members of their own community and adjacent communities. For example, for “Ukrainian” Easter, newer immigrants were incorporated into holiday celebrations of more established individuals. This point was shared for the museum’s oral history project, and it is also documented in the article “DP Girls Entertained by Oshawa Polish Groups” (March 23, 1948). This article, as you can read below, describes how newly arrived Polish and Latvian women from a German camp to Whitby were welcomed to an event at the Olive Avenue Polish Hall.

Left image: This Times-Gazette newspaper clipping describes how the women were welcomed, their reactions, and also that they will likely be welcomed at “festivities in connection with the approaching Easter season.”
Right image: Polish Alliance of Canada Hall on Olive Avenue, 2020

Despite this, the lead-up to the holidays would have been entirely different, marked with unfamiliar holiday habits and missing most of the familiar ones. For those that may celebrate different holidays or the same holidays on different dates, the resulting feeling might be that of disconnection from the cheerful hustle and bustle of the season. For instance, with Advent and the Nativity Fast in the Eastern Orthodox tradition, the official start of the Christmas season might actually be earlier than one would expect and lasts well into January, until Epiphany is celebrated on either the 6th or 19th. (You can read more about the difference in calendars here!) Whether or not individuals strictly participate in the entire fast, this period certainly drives up anticipation for Christmas – with all the delicious foods and treats that are associated with it.

Here is bandura player George Metulynsky, dressed in Ukrainian folk clothing which is customary for special occasions. Music, such as carolling, was another Oshawa Ukrainian diaspora tradition, as the article describes the church’s youth group partaking in. / Oshawa Times, “Ancient music heralds holiday for Ukrainians” (January 6 1981)

The Ukrainian custom is to have twelve dishes on Christmas Eve – or Sviatyi Vechir (“Holy Evening”) – representing the twelve apostles, as the Oshawa Times reported on January 7th, 1984. Kutia (wheat cooked with barley and race and other flavourful ingredients such as nuts, poppy seeds, and honey) is eaten at the beginning of the meal – and is not to be confused with the more savoury buckwheat that is also served. Other sweets include uzvar (a fruit drink) and baked apples. The side dishes and main courses include a kind of vinaigrette (from beets, carrots, beans, and boiled potatoes), vareniki (dumplings similar to pierogies), cabbage soup, pickles, borscht, pastries (which can also be sweet or savoury), stuffed cabbage rolls (or golubtsy), and vegetable stew.

Christmas Eve dinner with the Nabreznyj family. Seated at the far end of the table is Fr. Roman Nabereznyj, of St. George’s Ukrainian Catholic Church. It is interesting to note, that at least until very recently, both Ukrainian Orthodox and Catholic believers (especially in the diaspora) celebrated Christmas on January 7th.

Some other key Ukrainian customs include kolach, special braided bread – which is also similarly essential to many other traditions across Europe – along with a didukh, or carefully gathered sheaf of wheat. Kutia (or wheat cooked with barley and race and other flavourful ingredients such as nuts, poppy seeds, and honey) is also an important part of Christmas Eve dinner in Ukraine.

Ukrainian Christmas table set up for a display at the Oshawa Museum in the 1990s. The didukh is visible in the left corner, while the special bread and wheat are on the table (centre and right respectively). A018.6.282.

In Canada today, many of the holiday practices with which we might be familiar came from diverse origins around the world. One of the main ways in which these traditions came to be incorporated is by immigrants who brought them over from the old country. This post covers one small portion of those traditions, but hopefully you’ll have learned something new about the way the holidays were marked here in Oshawa!


Many thanks to Mia for researching and writing about many holiday traditions from Eastern Europe for the Oshawa Museum’s Holiday Blog! You can read about them by clicking through the links in the post, or by visiting:

https://oshawamuseumholiday.wordpress.com/

An Oshawa Yuletide

Amid the global pandemic, the Oshawa Museum realized holiday programming would look very different this year. We saw this as an opportunity to try something new and creative, and, in partnership with Oshawa based Empty Cup Media, we are excited to announce the premiere of An Oshawa Yuletide.

This short film, created in considerations of COVID-19 restrictions, celebrates the magic of a traditional Victorian Christmas experience! Follow Mary Cameron along as she helps the Henry family prepare for their Christmas celebrations in Victorian Oshawa.

“The OM made the difficult decision to cancel one of our most anticipated events of the year, the Annual Lamplight Tour,” says Oshawa Museum Executive Director Laura Suchan. “Christmas has always been a favourite time at the Oshawa Museum, and the spirit of this holiday is perfectly captured in An Oshawa Yuletide. We are very proud of this film and what was created by Colin Burwell of Empty Cup Media.”

The Oshawa Museum is pleased to present this short film to the community, and we hope you enjoy the film as much as we do.

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