Book Review, “Lanark County Christmas”

Just in time for holiday gift giving, Arlene Stafford-Wilson has released another fall reading classic, “Lanark County Christmas — Memories of a Yuletide Past.”

As in previous books that have showcased local families from Lanark County, and lists them alphabetically in an appendix for easy reference, this local author and genealogist includes many familiar names. But this time, there is a twist on her storytelling.

She offers chapters to others to tell their own personal tales of their Christmases in Lanark County. It’s a warm-cozy-hot chocolate-by-the-fire kind of book that is sure to have your own memories bubble to the surface.

More than 50 vignettes are shared by the sons and daughters of families who have settled in Perth and the surrounding area. They have brought to life their own holiday traditions.

From the 1940s to the 1980s, this classic will be one to pass down from generation to generation.

Who remembers making a Christmas wish list from the Eaton’s catalogue? Martha Craig does.

Dave Crosbie shares his memories of Christmas concerts at SS No. 1 in Lavant, or the Thurlow School.

Sleigh rides through the countryside — especially through the maple bushes of Lanark County — were popular among those who shared their Christmas memories, as was hunting for the perfect tree, shortbread and other Christmas cookie baking and, of course, watching the Perth Santa Claus Parade.

Christmases were spent with family — that is the common thread of all these heartwarming stories. Whether they came to Lanark County, or Lanark County visited from afar, the tradition of loved ones spending time together never fades.

Stafford-Wilson sets the stage with her own family memories. Her ancestors, who arrived here from Ireland in the 1800s, brought with them the tradition of Christmas cake, among other traditions.

“ … dried fruits were soaked in whiskey and rum, and more alcohol was added each day, as the fruit became increasingly plump and full,” she writes. “In preparation for ripening the cake, large square pieces of fresh clean cloth were dipped in hot water, then rubbed with flour to render them waterproof.”

Learn about the burning of the Yule log and its significance to Ireland. Wool socks were hung by the fire, and usually a toy made from wood and a ripe orange were discovered inside them on Christmas morning.

Stafford-Wilson said her father shared that it was a rare treat to get fruit when he was growing up, and an orange at Christmas was a juicy treat.

“The traditions and customs of our Irish ancestors were passed down through generations,” she writes, “from the very first settlers to present day.”

No matter how you mark the holiday season, may you find a little Christmas gift in your stocking by this author — it’s sure to pique the interest of many families in Lanark County.

“Lanark Country Christmas — Memories of a Yuletide Past” is available at the The Book Nook and Other TreasuresSpark Books and Curios, both in Perth; Mill Street Books in Almonte; or by contacting the author via her website at staffordwilson.com. You can also email lanarkcountybooks@gmail.com.

Laurie Weir : Editor of the Smiths Falls Record News and Perth Courier. Twitter @ljweir or IG @weir_on

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