Prompt: Did your family ever volunteer with a charity such as a soup kitchen, homeless or battered women’s shelter during the holidays? Or perhaps were your ancestors involved with church groups that assisted others during the holiday?
My children are still too young to really understand volunteering with a charity but it’s something I would like to have them involved in some day. Until then, we help support our local food bank by getting out to Canadian Pacific’s Holiday Train. The train came to town for the 12th year last night and we all bundled up and headed out to watch it. The train itself is quite spectacular.
There is a stage car in the middle of the train – it’s a converted boxcar rigged for sound and light. Santa comes out and greets the crowd and does a little song and dance. Then there are cheque presentations for the local food bank. Finally, there is an outdoor concert with both original music and Christmas carols.
The trains – there are actually two - run across the Northeast and Midwest US and across Canada from Montreal to Vancouver. They make over a hundred stops at towns and cities along the way and it is well worth getting out to see if you happen to be in the area. The food bank or pantry in each location are set up to accept cash and food donations and everything donated in a town stays there.
As for my ancestors, one of my great-grandfathers was a Methodist (later United Church of Canada) minister. All three of his children were quite involved with the church as a consequence. Unfortunately, however, I am not aware of any specific activities they might have been involved in at Christmas time.
Excerpt from Where the Saints Have Trod, Judith St. John, 1974 (Oxford University Press). The book is based on the author’s childhood memories (ca 1914-1924). She was my great-aunt.
“The carpenter was home when we arrived. My brother bumped the carriage up the step and into the shack. The mother began to sob again when she saw the baby carriage, the shawl, the wood and the food. We didn’t say anything but ‘Merry Christmas’, but I knelt by the baby in the soap-box.
“ “Come, Janie,” Elizabeth said.
“ “Thank you, God bless you,” the carpenter said. As I went out the door, I heard him say, “Stop crying, Mary.”