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Tastes of Christmas Past: 6 Canadians Share Their Holiday Memories

We all have fond memories of celebrating Christmas, and what the holidays mean to us. Take a trip down memory lane with six well-known Canadians as they share their personal stories of Christmas past.

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Find out what Christmas means to six well-known Canadians as they reminisce about their favourite festive memories.

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David Suzuki, environmentalist

David Suzuki, environmentalist

“I am not a Christian, but I find Christmas is a time to reaffirm family, friends and community. My wife Tara’s parents live upstairs and prepare the Christmas pudding and cake. Tara’s brother brings candied yams, while my specialty has become stuffing and the turkey itself. We have rituals around the entire holiday period: a pageant put on by the children, reflections on friends absent and gone, games and jokes, welcoming stray friends with no home to come join with our family. Then comes shogatsu, the New Year’s celebration that is a high spot of Japanese culture, which has become a time for Tara and me to display our skills at preparing Japanese food. Friends and family drop in throughout the day.”

-David Suzuki, environmentalist

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Chandra West, actress

Chandra West, actress

“Being the youngest it was always really fun for me at Christmas to watch my older brothers and sisters with their friends, because they seemed so grown up. The food and drink tradition in our family has always been the same-never wavered. My mom would make a big bowl of punch for the kids, made of cranberry juice, ginger ale, lemon juice and cherries. My sister and I would always fight over who would get the most cherries (which is funny because now as an adult I don’t even like them). And the meal has always been tourtière/meat pie (a very French-Canadian tradition started by my Auntie Lise), cabbage and apple salad, and my apple crisp. My mother is an amazing cook, but I’d have to say that this particular meal is her standout. Very, very yummy.”

-Chandra West, actress

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Jonathan Goldstein, CBC radio host of Wiretap

Jonathan Goldstein, CBC radio host of Wiretap

“Someone, probably a Canadian, once said of vacations that while Americans have Europe, Canadians have Plattsburgh. And when I was a kid in the 1970s, going to Plattsburgh, NY, really did feel like a vacation. Especially around Christmas time. That was when the malls were rife with all the neat new toys, games and Christmas-themed candies you could only get in America. And for my mother and all the other moms in our neighbourhood, it was a time of discount turkeys. One particular Christmas, we made the trip down there because Price Chopper was selling Turkeys at 29 cents a pound. But on our way home, word came back through the Canadian-border-shopping grapevine-this in a time without cell phones or Internet-that border guards were searching cars for turkeys. And so as you drove north along Route 87 towards the border, you could see families, just like ours, all pitching turkeys out of car windows, like cigarette butts.”

-Jonathan Goldstein, CBC radio host of Wiretap

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Tony de Luca, chef

Tony de Luca, chef

“I remember the last Christmas my family ever celebrated in Italy: I was just four years old, and my dad, who was working in Switzerland, sent me a long air gun, which my mother hid under the bed. I also recall being very mischievous around Christmas, stealing pies left by an open window to cool. I’d take a pie, run to a hiding place, devour the whole thing, then run back for another. No wonder I was so naughty, with all that sugar pulsing through my veins.”

-Tony de Luca, chef

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Anne Murray, singer and author

Anne Murray, singer and author

“I remember coming home from midnight Mass to the smell of partridge cooking. My father and my three older brothers would hunt the partridge, which was a delicacy for us. Everybody got a small portion, but even then, you had to chew it carefully-it was not unusual to find yourself spitting out buckshot at the table.”

-Anne Murray, singer and author

 

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Camilla Gibb, author

Camilla Gibb, author

“Christmas was not a big celebration in our house when I was growing up-some years, there wasn’t even the bother of a tree. But all that changed the year my mother met the man who would become her husband. Being Jewish, he had always envied the rituals and gift-giving of the season. Suddenly our house was full of twinkling lights and shiny packages and the smells of mulled wine and tourtière and turkey. Every year I give thanks to my stepfather for being the Jew who gave us Christmas.”

-Camilla Gibb, author