It Always Snowed On Christmas Eve: Memories of a Christmas Past

As a kid growing up in the eighties, in the time of wood-paneled walls and party lines, Christmas held a special place in my heart. The holiday season, with its sparkling lights and the excitement of Santa’s arrival, was pure magic.

The anticipation of Christmas, for me, always began with the arrival of the Sears Wish Book. I remember lying on the floor, flipping through its glossy pages, circling my most desired toys with bright-colored markers. And with three older sisters in the house, we’d all write our names next to each toy making sure Santa knew exactly what to bring each of us.

In our quaint, little village, the holiday season officially kicked off with the Blackville Fire Department’s annual Santa Claus Parade in early December. The entire community would line the streets, waiting for the colorful floats and fancy cars that would drive by. Santa, always on the last float, would yell “ho, ho, ho’s” from atop his sleigh, spreading joy and excitement throughout the crowd.

After the parade, we’d park near the fire hall, which would be filled with kids, eagerly awaiting the chance to sit on Santa’s knee to share their Christmas wishes. He’d hand us a brown paper bag filled with mixed chocolates, shelled peanuts, a barley toy, and candy cane and occasionally an apple or an orange. I couldn’t help but notice that, in my young eyes, Santa bore a striking resemblance to one of the firefighters, Junior Mersereau, though I didn’t think much more about it at the time.

At school, December was a magical month. We’d watch holiday movies and spend mornings coloring Christmas activity sheets and making paper snowflakes to hang from the ceiling above our desks. The sounds of the school band practicing Christmas carols would fill the long halls of Blackville School. Our teachers would have us practice little skits and songs for the Christmas program in the school cafeteria, where we’d later sing our hearts out while glancing through the audience to find our moms and dads who’d be watching with big smiles on their faces.

The week before Christmas break, we’d enjoy a special Christmas dinner in the cafeteria, feasting on hot turkey with all the trimmings and a festive dessert.

The last day of school before the holidays was always filled with anticipation as we looked forward to a break filled with lots of snow and family time. That night, we’d head out to the Metro or Hi-Way Market looking for the perfect Christmas movies to rent. Ernest Saves Christmas and Gremlins were a couple of my favourites.

The snowy wonderland of my childhood was best enjoyed at my Gram’s house in Keenans. We’d play in the deep, packed snow, sliding down the side hill with joy and carelessness until dark. As the warm glow of the painted Christmas bulbs lit up the yard, we’d head inside for hot cocoa and homemade sugar cookies – the ones with a dallop of jam in the middle. Gram, with her straw broom in hand, would meet us on the front porch and gently brush the snow from our clothing before letting us in the house, where we’d giggle and thaw by the crackling fire. We’d take the linings from our boots and place them near the woodstove to dry, along with our knitted mittens and hats.

The classic country western tunes by Jessi Colter and Charlie Pride, playing on the 8-track player that sat in the corner of the room, were swapped out for the holiday melodies of Bing Crosby and Andy Williams. The doorways were lined with Christmas cards and tiny red beads and the ceilings were draped in shiny garland that would hang from corner to corner and meet in the middle of the room.

My aunt Louise would always host a party at her house in the weeks leading up to Christmas, and the whole family would gather there, sharing laughter, food, and gifts. The house came alive with the sounds of us kids playing and the cheerful conversations of our parents.

Just before Christmas, the annual candlelight parade in Blackville would draw a huge crowd. I remember waiting in line outside of the old police station to receive my candle from Arthur Gillis. He would hand us the tall white candle, wrapped in a bright red transparent holder, and we’d take turns lighting each candle until a sea of flames began to flicker throughout the crowd. Together, we walked up Main Street towards St. Raphael’s Church, singing Christmas carols like “O Holy Night” and “Oh Come All Ye Faithful.” Following the blessing of the Creche, we’d walk over to the Church hall for hot chocolate and treats.

On Christmas Eve, I portrayed Joseph in St. Raphael’s telling of the Christmas story, while Vanda Donahue played Mary. We sat on the altar in front of a small wooden stable while Father McGowan gave his sermon. The church was adorned with bows and holly, and the choir, led by my school music teacher Miss Frenette, sang sweetly to our right. After Mass, we’d exit the church and stop at the creche that stood just outside the front door. It was lit from inside and surrounded by trees draped with multicoloured twinkling bulbs. I remember staring inside to see the nativity as snow began to fall. It always snowed on Christmas Eve, or at least that’s how I remember it.

Later that night, we’d head to Gram’s house. The living room would be filled with laughter, and the sounds of Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton’s Once Upon a Christmas album playing in the background. The warmth of the ever-burning wood stove made it feel extra cozy. Gram would bring out her fresh-baked molasses cookies and cinnamon rolls. We would all sit around the tree, a real fir tree, trimmed with strings of silver tinsel, red ribbons, and mismatched bulbs, and watch Gram open her presents. She’d act surprised opening each gift, even though she knew very well that she and I had peeked in most of them beforehand.

When it was time to leave, we’d hug Gram goodbye and drive home. We’d put out cookies and milk for Santa before mom and dad would tuck us in bed. On Christmas Day, we’d wake up early to unwrap our presents and stockings, spending the day playing with our new toys and watching Christmas specials on TV or a VHS tape of E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial.

In the days following Christmas, we’d visit family, the Keenan’s and McLaughlin’s, and I often found myself at my cousin Jonathan’s house. Every year, my uncle Jerry would build the perfect sliding hill that stretched from the old railway tracks across from their house up to the Blackville Mill property. I have so many fond memories of that place, but that’s a story for another day.

When it was time to take down the tree, we’d pack up all the garland and ornaments and pack them away for next year. We would take the tree down to the old mill property, where Blackville Park is now, and the fire department would light a big bonfire.

When the holiday season wound down, we’d reluctantly prepare for the routine of returning to school, yearning for those magical Christmas days to slow down, if just a little bit.

As I look back on those treasured moments from my childhood, the Christmases of the eighties and early nineties remain a source of deep nostalgia and joy. The traditions, the love of family, and the spirit of the season all hold a special place in my heart that’s as warm and bright as those holiday lights. Those cherished memories, both big and small, are a reminder of the magic that surrounds us during this special time of year, and they continue to shape the way I celebrate and appreciate the holiday season today.


  1. Allie Colford on December 31, 2023 at 12:38 pm

    Thanks for sharing. Love this.

  2. Linda Keenan on December 30, 2023 at 5:03 pm

    What a beautiful write up. They were the great old Christmas.

  3. Dawn Brophy Dunn on December 30, 2023 at 10:20 am

    I love this Les!! We are so blessed to have been born into Grams family, I have a lot of these same memories, the family together every Sunday, at Christmas and of course the best molasses cookies
    ever! Each and every Christmas at my house begins with Kenny and Dolly while I decorate the tree. Great memories, thank you Les.

  4. Wendy Astle on December 30, 2023 at 10:20 am

    This brought back so many memories. Thank you Les. This was special.

  5. Rita MacLeod on December 29, 2023 at 4:29 pm

    What a beautiful story about your childhood. I am originally from Newfoundland and now live in Nova Scotia with my husband. We enjoyed this thoroughly. Even though I am in my late seventies, I connect to a lot of what you tell in your story. I am thrilled to have found this page and I look forward to reading more.

  6. Wanda Keenan on December 27, 2023 at 11:03 am

    Absolutely beautiful Les, brings a tear to my eye as those were the Christmas traditions that we try to carry on for our kids. Growing up in Keenan’s, spoiling you and Jen like my own, were the best memories! Gram’s sugar cookies were the absolute best next to gathering with all our cousins to celebrate the holidays with. Love you and you truly have a gift of story telling.

  7. Elaine McKenzie on December 26, 2023 at 2:04 pm

    Merry Christmas. I think yours is different from our Christmas. Love you all. Pray you are healthy.

  8. Maizie Nash on December 26, 2023 at 2:02 pm

    Very interesting and when reading it you can so imagine being there in those times. So realistic. Thanks, Les. And Merry CHRISTMAS.

  9. Kerry J McKenzie on December 26, 2023 at 2:02 pm

    Merry Christmas

  10. Rose Fairley on December 26, 2023 at 2:01 pm

    Great Memories Les. Thanks for sharing. Merry Christmas.

  11. Lucy Lockwood McKenzie on December 26, 2023 at 2:01 pm

    Merry Christmas Les. Give your Mom and Dad a hug from us.

  12. MaryAnn Vickers on December 26, 2023 at 2:00 pm

    Love it!

  13. Helen Muck Keenan on December 26, 2023 at 2:00 pm

    It made me cry Les. Thanks. Miss those years also in Keenans.

  14. Michelle Greene-Arbeau on December 26, 2023 at 1:59 pm

    Merry Christmas!

  15. Mary H. Arbeau on December 26, 2023 at 1:57 pm

    Love reading this Les, Merry Christmas

  16. Tracy Hallihan on December 26, 2023 at 1:57 pm

    This brought tears to my eyes…..oh to have those times back again??

  17. Kelsey Alisha on December 26, 2023 at 1:56 pm

    I love this Les! I still have great memories of Christmas time at Grammy Keenan’s and remember a time she peeked in her gifts, and convinced me to peek in mine as well

  18. Ashleigh Reynolds on December 26, 2023 at 1:56 pm

    I read this in the Giver, lovely ??

  19. Sue on December 24, 2023 at 11:16 pm

    Wonderful memories Les <3 I love your stories!

  20. Kim keenan on December 24, 2023 at 8:47 pm

    Very lovely memories. I too got to see a lot of the traditions in Blackville and my favorite of them is going and watching Grammy Colford (Goldie) opening her gifts every Christmas Eve after Susan Keenan’s dinner. Oh I love these memories <3

  21. Nicole Drost on December 24, 2023 at 4:07 pm

    Wonderful Memories Leslie Thank you for sharing and taking me back to the 80s Christmas’s!

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