XMAS17 - Armstrongs decorate angel tree
BY DENNY SCOTT
Christmas at the Armstrong family house north of Brussels is a tale of family, volunteering and three Christmas trees.
“I guess it’s all about family,” Elaine Armstrong, 2017 Citizen of the Year Award winner said. “We enjoy Christmas meals together and attend church at Melville Presbyterian Church.”
Christmas for Elaine starts weeks in advance as she is involved with several different church initiatives focused on giving at Christmas.
“I co-ordinate the Samaritan’s shoeboxes which are sent to children in need and set up the mitten tree for our church, which goes to the Huron County Christmas Bureau.”
Armstrong explained that the shoe box initiative, called Operation Christmas Child and run through Samaritan’s Purse, sees packed shoe boxes delivered to children in third-world countries, as well as closer to home.
“We also work with the Huron County Food Bank,” she said. “I also run the Sunday School Christmas concert. I get the plan ready for them.”
Her involvement at the church keeps her busy right up until Christmas Eve when she and her family attend a Christmas service.
Armstrong’s family includes her husband Brian, son and daughter-in-law David and Stephanie and their children, son Chris and daughter-in-law Holly and their children, son Richard and daughter-in-law Stephanie and their children and daughter Laura and son-in-law Peter.
When it comes to Christmas, the Armstrong family goes “all in” according to Elaine, and said that one of their first traditions, when her children were younger, was that each would receive a new ornament every year. That tradition has continued with the grandchildren putting one ornament per day on the family’s ‘Advent’ tree.
“They aren’t here every day, so sometimes we need to do some catch-up, but it’s fun,” Elaine said. “We would also read The Night Before Christmas.”
The Advent tree is only one of three special holiday trees put up for Christmas. The second tree, a traditional tree with ornaments marking family events and cherished memories, is now put up by Elaine’s daughter Laura.
Elaine’s angel tree also goes up, featuring her collection of different angels she has acquired over the years.
“The first angel I bought for our first Christmas as a family cost $2.27 which wasn’t inexpensive,” she said.
Elaine also has a family tradition revolving around Christmas clocks that she sets up throughout the house.
“My children don’t like it, but my grandchildren think the set-up is great,” she said.
Elaine explained that she sets up three different kinds of clocks: one that chimes, one that plays Christmas carols and one that plays the Nutcracker ballet theme. She staggers the times on the clocks to make them go off consecutively, on the hour.
“We get three clocks chiming one after the other,” she said. “The grandchildren love it. It’s a funny little thing we love to do.”
Another tradition includes a small ornament that Elaine received when working at University Hospital.
“I received a bird from a co-worker there a number of years ago,” she said.
The bird was usually hidden on the tree or somewhere throughout the house to startle the children and grandchildren, however recently, as part of putting the tree up, Laura has been hiding it.
“She takes the bird and puts it somewhere to give me kind of a start,” she said. “It’s not always in the tree. Last year, she put it in a wreath and I must have looked at it half a dozen times before I recognized it.”
Elaine said these practices are to honour the past.
She pointed to a table that her grandfather had made for her grandmother that now hosts items from her grandchildren and recipes that are part of Christmas that have been passed down through families.
Her family, for example, loves pickles, especially those she makes with her mother-in-law’s recipe.
As for specific celebrations, Elaine’s family, the Jacklins from the Molesworth area, celebrate on Christmas Day, while Boxing Day marks the Armstrong family Christmas.
“Depending on the day, we may feed between 25 to 40 people,” she said.
All the cooking is worthwhile, however, as she said her grandchildren love her cooking, earning her accolades like “number one cook.”