Somewhere between the mouldy pumpkins of November and the hangovers of January, something magical happens.
Lights are strung up to shun the darker days and many in Squamish gather to revive family traditions and ring in the season together.
For Kelly-Anne Woods and John McLellan, this is their busiest time of year. Not only do they have a toddler, they also have a bustling business, Gillespie’s Fine Spirits.
“The great thing about Christmas is that if you don’t commit to any major plans, all these wonderful, magical things appear. We’re lucky to live in a community with pretty incredible people; if we decide to lay low, we’ll be invited to something awesome.” says Woods.
This year Woods found her grandmother’s recipe for Christmas Cake. It didn’t include any spirits. She soon made the essential change.
Kelly’s Grandma’s Christmas Cake Recipe
(from Mom Woods – 1973)
2 lbs. brown sugar
1 doz. Eggs
½ c. dark molasses
½ c. suet or butter
½ grated carrots
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. salt
4 c. buttermilk
1 tsp. baking soda in last cup of buttermilk
1 jar cherries with juice
1 large box mixed fruit
3 tbsp. currants
3 tbsp. raisins
1 lb. walnuts
1 tsp. each cinnamon, cloves, ginger, nutmeg & allspice
2 c. flour
Mix all in a big bowl.
Add these spirits in measures to your liking: Every time you feed it it needs:
A full measure of Aphro Vodka
Half a measure of Limoncello
Quarter measure of Carte Blanche Whiskey (all of which are available at Gillespie’s)
Also feed these amounts every time you feed the resting baked cake.
Bake at 250 degrees for two hours in a 10” springform pan. Use the toothpick method to test for readiness.
Let cake cool and wrap in cheesecloth and then foil.
Brendan Waye is The Tea Guy in Squamish. He moved his business to Squamish from North Vancouver a few years ago because he loves the community.
His Christmas celebration always includes him preparing a big organic turkey dinner for friends. His mom always had a house full. Waye grew up on Baffin Island in the High Arctic with the Inuit. His dad was an educator and school principal who was working to take the school system out of the English system to the Inuktitut system.
“The Inuit went off at Christmas like you’ve never seen. It was like the Twelve Days of Christmas! The town shut down for 10 to 12 days. There were indoor and outdoor games all day long, there were huge feasts every night and square dancing into the morning and then it would start all over again,” he said.
Traditional Inuit food made up the fare of the feasts. The hunters would bring back game like caribou, seal and polar bear, skin the carcasses, cut them up and drag them on cardboard mats into the gymnasium. Everyone would bring their little knives, Ulus, and begin carving off thin slices of choice meat. Then the meat would be cooked and served up. The sweets were any Duncan Hines cake mixes they could get their hands on.
Mark and Gerrie Goodwin, owners of House Sound Home Inspection, have been thriving in Squamish for years.
Both came to Canada from the U.K., have been married for 32 years and have two grown kids.
With their business, they have been in a unique situation to meet many newcomers to Squamish.
“The lovely thing about Squamish is that people can live where they want to do their sports,” said Gerrie.
They have taken on the Canadian tradition of making a roast turkey for the main holiday meal. Their stuffing includes chestnut puree, ground pork and breadcrumbs and they stuff the neck cavity if the bird. The bird cooks better that way, apparently.
Of course, a British plum pudding caps off the feast, which they get from Marks and Spencer’s. They both recall their youth when children would root through the pudding for a precious sixpence.
“I think that’s what Christmas is all about. Being kind, with a spirit of goodwill to all people,” said Mark.
Squamish Mayor Patricia Heintzman’s holiday is all about travelling with family for the holidays.
The tradition started with her father’s dad, and continues to this day. The goal is to learn all about a different culture and to experience a different kind of Christmas celebration — one without gifts.
“When your consumable is sharing an experience or creating memories together, and not about buying the latest and greatest gadget, you have a different focus,” she said.
Her family has travelled to many distant shores: the Galapagos Islands, Cuba, Ecuador, Vietnam, Switzerland and Morocco – just to name a few.
A few years ago, her family came to Squamish for the holidays. A Squamish First Nation friend of hers taught everyone how to make a drum while sharing stories about Squamish Nation culture and traditions.
Her family tradition of the Christmas Pie is unique and charming. The centerpiece of the table is made up of some kind of container full of tiny gifts for each family member. They are each are tied with a long ribbon that ends at the place setting of the receiver. It can get to be a bit of a happy tangle, and the table looks amazing, Heintzman said.
Zoe Evamy is a popular local artist who has become quite well known in Squamish for her lovely Christmas cards, available at Inspire Squamish Art Gallery. In fact, this year she has donated a new painting that is on her newest festive cards to the Squamish Environment Society to raffle off as a fundraiser. The image is done in acrylics of a scene from the top of Mount Garibaldi.
It is snow that signifies the holiday feeling, she said.
“I do love the snow. That for me is really special because I grew up in the tropics. When the snow comes I’m usually the most excited,” she said.
Evamy’s dad was a geologist for Shell Oil. His work took them to Gabon and Nigeria. She recalls her mom barbecuing the Christmas turkey on the beach, as it was too hot to cook inside. Her mother loves the holidays. They always had a Christmas tree, Sherry Trifle, Christmas Cake soaked in brandy and listened to the Kings College Choir.
This year she’s off to Australia to visit and enjoy the warm embrace of family.