December 31, 2019

December 31, 2019

At midnight tonight, after shouting ‘Happy New Year,’ many will recite the well-known poem by Scottish poet Robbie Burns, Auld Lang Syne, written in 1788.  The tune to which it is traditionally sung is an old Scottish folk tune.

From us at the Oshawa Museum, have a wonderful New Years.


Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and auld lang syne*?

For auld lang syne, my jo,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll tak’ a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

And surely ye’ll be your pint-stoup!
and surely I’ll be mine!
And we’ll tak’ a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

We twa hae run about the braes,
and pou’d the gowans fine;
But we’ve wander’d mony a weary fit,
sin’ auld lang syne.

We twa hae paidl’d in the burn,
frae morning sun till dine;
But seas between us braid hae roar’d
sin’ auld lang syne.

And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere!
and gie’s a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll tak’ a right gude-willie waught,
for auld lang syne.

December 30, 2019

December 30, 2019

It’s almost New Year’s Eve, so many might be searching out their calendar for the new year.  In 45 B.C the Roman emperor Julius Caesar introduced a new calendar which shifted the date of the Roman New Year from March 25 to January 1. The Romans called the festival that began on this day “kalends.” The English word “calendar” comes from this old Latin term.


December 29, 2019

December 29, 2019

During the cold winter nights, many Victorians might have used hot water bottles to keep warm.

013.3.13 - Bed Warmer, OCM Collection

While coal-filled and ash-filled bed warmers were very popular, there was always the potential risk of fire. A safer and more portable option was the hot-water bed warmer or hot-water bottle.

A classic for centuries, the hot-water bottle is a simple and effective way to keep warm at night. Before more modern rubber bottles were invented, most people used sturdy copper bottles instead.

Copper Water Bottle, OCM Collection

Copper is rustproof and an easy conductor of heat, and so was the natural metal for manufacturing hot-water bottles. Copper was used for any vessel where heating was involved, such as pots, pans, kettles…and of course…hot-water bottles.

Copper hot-water bottles came in a variety of sizes and shapes. Most took the shape of pillows or cushions, having circular, oval or cylindrical profiles. These were easy to hold and compact in size.

There were numerous benefits to a hot-water bottle over a bedwarmer. To begin with, you could take the hot-water bottle to bed with you, and keep it with you all night. They were smaller and more compact, and they were safer and easier to use.

When cooper water bottles were filled with boiling water, the metal would heat up so fast that the bottle would be impossible to hold without burning your hands. One of the first things the owner of a copper hot-water bottle did was to make a bottle-cozy.

A cozy or a pouch/bag, was an absolute necessity to effective use of a hot-water bottle, and most of them were made at home, using available fabric and sewing-equipment. The fabric used for the bag had to be just right. If it was too thin, the heat would penetrate through it too fast, leading to burns. If it was too thick, then no heat would penetrate it, making it useless.

Once the bag was made, the bottle was placed inside it, and the bag was closed with a simple drawstring. The bag, with the hot-water bottle inside, could now be safely carried to bed, with minimal danger of burns.

For more ways the Victorians would have tried to warm up on winter days, check out our blog post HERE.

December 28, 2019

December 28, 2019

Although one may be hard pressed to recall all the 12 days of Christmas, the gifts sent by the ‘true love’ are:

12 Drummers Drumming
11 Pipers Piping
10 Lords-a-Leaping
9 Ladies Dancing
8 Maids-a-Milking
7 Swans-a-Swimming
6 Geese-a-Laying
5 Gold Rings
4 Colly/Calling Birds
3 French Hen
2 Turtle Doves
And a Partridge in a Pear Tree.

The lyrics first appeared in a 1780 children’s book, Mirth without Mischief, but as they appeared in this earliest record, the gift order is a little different.  In 1870, my true love gifted:

12 Lords a leaping
11 Ladies Dancing
10 Pipers Piping
9 Drummers Drumming

The same items, but in different quantities!

This carol has been recorded numerous times through the years; one notable Canadian recording was by the SCTV characters Bob & Doug McKenzie.  Bob & Doug tried to name the 12 days (Christmas Eve, Christmas, Boxing Day, New Year’s Eve, New Years Day, the weekends in between, and the “mystery days”); the 12 days actually refers to the twelve days starting Christmas day, or in some traditions, the day after Christmas (December 26) to the day before Epiphany, or the Feast of the Epiphany (January 6, or the Twelfth Day).

December 27, 2019

December 27, 2019

What did Christmas 1865 look like? As reported in the Oshawa Vindicator:

December 27, 1865, page 2

The hopes of those who contemplated sleigh riding would form a great source of enjoyment on Christmas day were doomed to disappointment.  The snow that fell on Friday caused the bells to ring out merrily on Saturday, and the overcast sky encouraged the hopeful to expect another fall, but the heat of Sunday was too much for that already on the ground.  Skating was left as the only recourse.  Throughout the day the rink was well patronized by skaters and lookers-on.  A large number performed the regular duties of the day, although divine service was held in their respective churches.  In the evening the Sons’ Hall was thronged by the members and their invited friends.  Poetry written for the occasion was read; Christmas Anthems were rendered, and with these were mingled addresses, readings, recitations and music.  At about ten o’clock, the social broke up, and as they wended their way home, several were passed, who, by their positions on the walk or the wayward steps gave evidence that they has not spent the evening soberly.  Now and then the sound of brawling was beard, and once or twice drunken men came to blows.  These gave evidence on the morrow, that their pains has dearly purchased their “Merrie Christmas.”

December 26, 2019

December 26, 2019

Dressed for winter, c. 1915; photographer was Oshawa based George Potter.  Photo from the archival collection of the Oshawa Museum.


December 25, 2019

December 25, 2019

Merry Christmas from the Oshawa Museum


December 24, 2019

December 24, 2019

A Visit From St. Nicholas, by Clement C. Moore, originally published in 1823.

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house.
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;

The children were nestled all snug in their beds;
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap,

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow,
Gave a lustre of midday to objects below,
When what to my wondering eyes did appear,
But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny rein-deer,

With a little old driver so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment he must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:

“Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”

As leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
So up to the housetop the coursers they flew
With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too—

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.

His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples, how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard on his chin was as white as the snow;

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke, it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly
That shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly.

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight—
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

December 23, 2019

December 23, 2019

According to Statistics Canada, in 2016, there were 6.5 million poinsettias (indoor potted plants) produced in greenhouses in Canada.


December 22, 2019

December 22, 2019

Today at sunset, the Festival of Lights or Hanukkah begins.  Because the Jewish calendar is based on the lunar rather than the solar year, the date of Hanukkah moves about on the calendar and can land anywhere between November 25th and December 26th.

Hanukkah commemorates the Jewish people’s successful rebellion against the Greeks in the Maccabean War in 162 BCE.  After the victory, a ritual re-dedication was to take place in temple.  Oil that was only expected to last one night instead lasted eight nights.  This was seen as miraculous, and to celebrate this miracle, Hanukkah began and has been celebrated for over 1500 years.

Iconic of Hanukkah is the menorah, a nine branched candelabrum; on the first evening of Hanukkah one candle is lit and special prayers are said. On the second evening two candles are lit, and so on. The rest of the evening is spent singing songs, playing games, telling Hanukkah stories, and enjoying special holiday foods.

Children may also celebrate Hanukkah by spinning the dreidel, Each side of the dreidel bears a letter of the Hebrew alphabet: נ (Nun), ג (Gimel), ה (He), ש (Shin), which together form the acronym for “נס גדול היה שם” (Nes Gadol Hayah Sham – “a great miracle happened there”).

Happy Hanukkah!