Hurrah for the Pumpkin Pie! Thanksgiving Day Postcards in Oshawa Archives Collection

By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement

Since 1957, the second Monday in October has been observed in Canada as Thanksgiving.  The history and lore of American Thanksgiving is well known, that it is a celebration of when the Pilgrims and Native Americans came together in the 1600s and shared a meal.  The origins and basis for Canadian Thanksgiving, in turn, isn’t as well known.  It is frequently tied to the story of Martin Frobisher who was one of many to search for the Northwest Passage.  He made three attempts, and on his third in 1578, there was a celebration on what is now known as Frobisher Island.  Another possible origin could be the harvest celebrations that occurred in New France in the 1600s.  The popularity of Thanksgiving increased in the late 1700s/early 1800s upon the arrival of United Empire Loyalists.  While ‘Thanksgiving’ was being celebrated, it was informal, being recognised by those celebrating and not as a publicly recognised holiday.

The first time Thanksgiving was formally recognized as a civic holiday after Confederation was on  April 5, 1872.  Prince Edward, later King Edward VII, recovered from a serious illness, and Thanksgiving was marked to celebrate this.

In Canada, Thanksgiving Day has been observed every year since 1879.  Initially, Thanksgiving was held on a Thursday in November, but in 1957, it was officially declared to be the second Monday in October.

 

The following are a selection of postcards from the Oshawa Community Archives’ collection.  From the staff and volunteers at the Oshawa Museum, we wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving!

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Making the Christmas Pudding

By Lisa Terech, Youth Engagement / Programs

For many, many years, our holiday interpretation of Henry House has included the making of the Christmas Pudding, a tradition of the Victorians, and one that has continued for many people to this day.  My grandmother every year makes a Christmas Pudding and insists we sing ‘Now bring us some figgy pudding’ as it is carried through to the dinner table, a brilliantly blue flame encircling the rich pudding.

Making the Christmas Pudding
Making the Christmas Pudding

In Henry House, the recipe we use appeared in the Oshawa Vindicator in 1860, Mrs. Wagstaff’s Christmas Pudding.  It is a fairly standard pudding recipe, calling for flour, bread crumbs, spices, eggs, milk, sugar, candied citrus peel (or ‘sweetmeats’), raisins, currants, and suet.  What exactly is suet?  Well, it’s raw beef fat… doesn’t that sound absolutely delicious in your Christmas dessert?!

The plum pudding being stirred together
The plum pudding being stirred together

This year, we decided to give this recipe a try.  The recipe calls for boiling the pudding for 4 hours; we have very limited kitchen capabilities at the Museum, but we can boil water!  We mixed the ingredients together and tied it in a cheesecloth.  Trick we picked up after making it a number of times: tie the cheesecloth TIGHTLY around the pudding, otherwise it will not keep its shape when boiling.  As well, the recipe calls for boiling for 4 hours, then boiling again for another 6.  I found that a lot of the fruit flavour was lost on that second boil.  Boiling it for 4 hours was sufficient.

Christmas Pudding, anyone?
Christmas Pudding, anyone?

So, after stirring and boiling, how did the Plum Pudding turn out?  It was surprisingly raisin-y and currant-y.  Those were the dominant flavours that came through.  We did not have our pudding sit and ‘get drunk’ in brandy, as most puddings do in the weeks leading up to Christmas.  It is the alcohol that burns off when the pudding is set on fire, and the alcohol, of course, brings new flavours to the pudding which ours didn’t have.  We also found out that boiling something which contains suet brought, well, a whole new sensory experience to this traditional dessert.  It was not one that is easy on the nose…  Ultimately, it looked good, and tasted good and we were excited and proud to say that we were able to successfully bring a recipe from 1860 to life in 2013!

“Mrs Cratchit left the room alone — too nervous to bear witnesses — to take the pudding up and bring it in… Hallo! A great deal of steam! The pudding was out of the copper which smells like a washing-day. That was the cloth. A smell like an eating-house and a pastrycook’s next door to each other, with a laundress’s next door to that. That was the pudding. In half a minute Mrs. Cratchit entered — flushed, but smiling proudly — with the pudding, like a speckled cannon-ball, so hard and firm, blazing in half of half-a-quarter of ignited brandy, and bedight with Christmas holly stuck into the top.”

~Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

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