Christmas is a time that brings joy and good cheer to a great many people. Frequently, people express the hope that they will have yet another “old-fashioned Christmas.” It is therefore interesting to reflect back to a woman’s remembrance of a traditional Christmas in Red Deer in the early years of the last century.
Harriet ‘Evelyn’ Brumpton was born in Red Deer in August 1894, the eldest daughter of Robert and Druscilla Brumpton. She was born in a small apartment above the general store that her father had built in 1892 on the southside of Ross Street, just west of Gaetz Avenue (now the oldest building still standing in downtown Red Deer).
Her father was an excellent businessman.
In 1901, he was able to move his wife and three children from the small apartment on Ross Street to a grand new brick house on the northwest corner of MacLeod (54) St. and MacKenzie (49) Ave.
Evelyn had many happy memories of her childhood in Red Deer.
She eventually wrote an autobiography of her early life which she titled Babs of the Foothills. She devoted a whole chapter of her book to a Christmas she remembered from around 1904.
One of the big annual events was the ‘Christmas Tree’, a special celebration organized predominantly by local churches and Sunday School organizations for young children.
The Brumptons were faithful members of St. Luke’s Anglican Church. Consequently, Robert and Druscilla Brumpton spent much of the day decorating the St. Luke’s Parish Hall on Gaetz Avenue for the Christmas Eve festivities.
Large numbers of evergreen boughs were hung throughout the hall, along with reams of red crêpe paper streamers. The main feature was a huge spruce Christmas tree, centered on the main stage.
It was covered in special red candles along with a number of other ornaments.
After supper, the children and parents made their way to the Parish Hall. The evening’s entertainment consisted of the Sunday School classes singing carols, reciting poems and performing short Christmas skits. The concert finished with one of the older boys reciting Twas The Night Before Christmas, which was followed by the assembled crowd singing Merry Merry Christmas Bells.
The children could then hear the sounds of sleigh bells on Gaetz Avenue.
This was followed by the grand entrance of Santa Claus. He was dressed with a long white beard, red suit trimmed with white fur and a red toque on his head. After the red candles were lit on the tree, Santa Claus invited each child to the front of the hall to receive a special Christmas gift.
After the evening was over, most people walked home as Red Deer was still a small town. A few, however, departed in cutters, with large buffalo robes or other fur blankets wrapped around them for warmth.
On Christmas morning, the Brumptons had little trouble getting their children out of bed. However, the parents insisted that the young ones eat their breakfast first.
The family then gathered in the house’s library for the gift opening. There was a large Christmas tree in the corner. In addition to the candles and ornaments, many of the presents were hung on the tree.
Evelyn and her sister Lenore were jointly given a child’s sewing machine. Each girl also got a doll, dressed in the same colour silk dresses as the girls had worn to the Christmas Eve celebrations at the Parish Hall.
After the exchange of gifts was over, the family made their way down the street to the beautiful sandstone St. Luke’s Anglican Church for the special Christmas Day church service which was held at 11 a.m. Again there was the singing of traditional Christmas carols. There was also a special sermon by Rev. C.W.G. Moore on the meaning of Christmas.
The service closed with the ringing of the bells in the church tower.