Christmas Eve wasn’t like it is today Frank Murphy recalls. When he was a boy some families had as many as 12 kids. Times were harder back then but he said there was still excitement on Christmas Eve. And people always shared what they had.
Frank’s grandparents lived in St. John’s and every year they would send a large barrel to his family in Parker’s Cove. Christmas Eve he says he knew there was a barrel somewhere but where was it? He and his siblings would search but couldn’t find it. So every year they would be anxious because they always wondered, “Did we get it?”. This barrel had to be brought on the steamer to Baine Harbour and landed at John Rodway’s wharf. If you went to the wharf you knew the barrels were there because you could smell the apples and oranges. That smell of apples and oranges wasn’t in their home so where was the barrel? Yet Christmas morning when he awoke the barrel would always be there. They would all get an apple and an orange and you might get something used like a pair of skates.
Though the barrel provided most of the gifts, food for Christmas depended on local provisions and little choice was available. Usually mutton was the Christmas day meal but when that was unavailable, you took what mother nature could provide. Frank tells of one year when his father snared two rabbits on Christmas Eve. He recalls appreciatively “that’s all we wanted for Christmas… and they were some good”.
His wife, Ann, fondly remembers Christmas as a young girl. In her home, Santa would come three nights…Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve and Old Christmas Eve. Though little was received there was much joy in the memories of what Christmas brought.