Cha robh Samhradh riamh gun ghrian;
Cha robh Geamhradh riamh gun sneachd;
Cha robh Nollaig mhòr gun fheòil;
No bean òg le deòin gun fhear.
Summer ne’er was without sun;
Winter never without snow;
Christmas never without flesh;
Nor willing woman without man.
Our Gaelic ancestors in Cape Breton celebrated the Christmas season differently then we do today. Many common traditions, like putting up the Christmas tree and lights around the house were not adopted until well into the 20th century.
For many Gaels in Cape Breton during the holiday season they celebrated Feasgar nam Bonnag | Evening of the Bannocks which happened on Christmas Eve, and Latha nan Trì Rìghean | Day of the Three Kings took place 12 days after Christmas Day.
If it was possible they would make their way out on the cold winter nights, whether by horse and sleigh or by foot to attend a Christmas service with their families. Christmas gifts were mostly likely small, homemade and often items people needed like clothing or wooden carved tools. This time of year can be remembered as a time our Gaelic ancestors spent visiting with family, friends, and neighbours, enjoying food, telling stories, music, and dance.
On the Highland Village Museum website visit ‘Our Stories’ to learn about early Christmas in Iona as recalled by the late Mickey Bean Nilag MacNeil (Migi Mac Bean Nìlleig Ruairidh Eòin a’ Phlant).
Do you have any family stories handed down of Christmas in Cape Breton? Feel free to share them with us.
Nollaig Shona agus Bliadhna Mhath Ur dhuibh | Merry Christmas and Happy New Year