We Contribute to Communities, Together.
For the past month, Parkland residents have come together once a week to design a tree for the Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia’s 30th annual Forest of Trees happening November 20-27. Residents are thrilled to be giving back to the community and helping raise funds for mental health services and initiatives in Nova Scotia.
Inspired by a line in the song “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree”, the tree concept creates a “sentimental feeling”, using a “new, old fashioned” design that was designed by residents titled “A Classic Christmas” and is shared in memory of Kai Matthews.
Here is a collection of the holiday memories, stories and traditions from Parkland residents who decorated the tree.
Since she was a child, Anne and her family had a tradition of cutting down a tree on Christmas Eve and decorating it the same day.
In the 1940s Anne said she remembers one occasion when her family had just brought home the perfect tree. “My father, who had a heart condition was lugging this tree and my mother who stayed at home came rushing out, very concerned because he was pulling what she had thought was a very heavy tree,” said Anne. “My mother then picked it up and it was like a feather in her hands,” she said with a laugh. “That’s a happy occasion to remember.”
Cutting down a tree on Christmas Eve became a tradition she would eventually pass onto her children and has many fond memories doing it with them while they were growing up.
“We went out into the woods every year to find a Christmas tree farm and one year my husband, children and I couldn’t find one. We drove for hours and hours and hours,” said Anne. With the kids in the backseat feeling restless, Anne said her husband turned around to tell them to behave. “The car then promptly went in the ditch,” she added. Everyone was OK, but by the time their car was taken out of the ditch it was too late to find a Christmas tree farm. “We went to a Christmas tree lot and bought a tree and along with the price of towing – it was the most expensive tree we ever had,” she said with a smile. “It was quite an experience, but it was very memorable.”
Anne also has special memories of the beautiful and traditional decorations that dawned on the tree during that time – some of which are featured on the tree she helped design for the Festival of Trees.
“I remember when I was a little girl in Korea, we had candles on the tree and that was very exciting,” said Anne. “On Christmas Eve, my parents would have the room in darkness and they would open the doors and all of us would rush in and there was the tree with the candles on it – breathtaking!”
Anne has lived at Parkland for eight years and loves spending time with her friends that live in the community. For the past four weeks, Anne has helped bring the classic Christmas tree to life.
“Everybody has enjoyed it and it’s been great to see the skills that other people have,” she said “It’s been great fun!”
For Dolores, many of her favourite holiday memories were made in the kitchen and has memories of helping to make a wide variety of dishes.
“On the Italian side, it was roasting chestnuts – we did a lot of that. I can still smell them!” she smiled. “My grandmother would make jars of antipasto and I would be able to cut up all the little things that go in it. For the French, it would be tourtières and I have a recipe for fruit ketchup,” said Dolores, noting that she still uses that recipe today.
When Dolores had children of her own, her favourite part of the holiday season became making it a special experience for them.
“With our four daughters, it’s just the magic of prepping things for them and hiding things before the tree is up and of course the tree is a big thing,” said Dolores. “They all had to have their decorating role. One did the tinseling and the others would judge,” she laughed.
Today, Dolores has eight grandchildren. One tradition that has been passed onto them is the reciting of a Christmas classic. “I have a picture of my husband Harold reading “The Night Before Christmas” to our four daughters with them all cuddled up around him. Now, they’re in their 50s and the last few Christmases, one of our daughters phoned Harold and got him to read the story. So they still remember that,” she said lovingly.
Dolores has been living at Parkland for seven years and loved being part of the decorating committee for the Festival of Trees.
“It’s been so much fun,” said Dolores. “For the last 10 years we would spend Christmas with one daughter, New Years with others so we’d never get to have our own big tree – so it’s fun to get back to that.”
When Susan was growing up, she always looked forward to her grandmothers’ Christmas plum pudding. With memories of her cooking it over the stove, with a wooden spoon in her hand – it continues to be one of her favourite recipes and holiday memories.
“My grandmother’s pudding was just the best. Especially with the hard sauce. It was so yummy!,” she said with a smile. “I found her recipe book about five years ago and low and behold there was her Christmas pudding recipe,” said Joan. “I’ve made it successfully a couple of times. It’s wonderful. It just totally reminds me of my grandmother.”
For Susan, the holiday season is all about being surrounded by the ones you love. This year, two of my three daughters are coming back,” said Susan. “Having my girls around is the best part, always.”
The tree that she has been working on with other residents has been bringing her back to when she was a child. “I remember very large ornaments compared to what we have these days – about two or three times the size, beautiful reds, golds and greens,” she said. All of which can be found on the tree for the Festival of Trees. Susan has had a great time socializing and getting ready for the annual event. “It’s always fun with all the ladies,” she said. “More hands make it easier, I love doing stuff like this!”
On Christmas morning each year, when Joan was raising her five children, she would always start the day by making a delicious breakfast.
“I used to make a frittata every Christmas morning,” said Joan. “We also went to church on Christmas morning and one year the whole family did the service and that is a beautiful memory,” she added.
In addition to cooking and baking the day of, on Boxing Day Joan said she would always host her niece and nephews, adding five more plates to the table. Today, her children, niece and nephews are scattered across Canada and in Switzerland. “It can be hard to continue those traditions, but we’re close and have all sort of ways to keep in touch over Christmas,” said Joan.
Always one for making homemade holiday crafts, the tree that the residents created has brought back a lot of great memories for Joan. “It’s fun doing these handmade crafts,” she said.
For Joan, decorating the tree for the Mental Health Foundation is a cause she holds very close to her heart. “I’m very happy to participate in this fundraiser. I think it’s an absolutely wonderful idea,” she said, noting how much she loves connecting with other residents and looking back at their favourite holiday memories.
Amazing connections are made in our communities each day. Learn more about life at Parkland.