XMAS17 - Community comes first with Cardiffs
BY SHAWN LOUGHLIN
Christmas for the Cardiff family often comes after many other families in Brussels and the surrounding area have celebrated theirs, complete with meals from Cardiff Catering.
Jeff and Cathy Cardiff, along with their son Matt, often spend the weeks leading up to Christmas feeding families and friends throughout Brussels at their family celebrations or at community holiday gatherings. This schedule is so unwavering that, often, only a week before Christmas the family begins to focus on itself and its festivities for the holidays.
“Our focus is usually definitely on work before Christmas and then the kids get into a panic,” Jeff said.
However, despite panicked family members and a tight timeline, there has never been a problem pulling Christmas off without a hitch at the Cardiff house with all of its annual traditions.
This year, Jeff and Cathy’s daughter Emily is destined to be back in Huron County for Christmas (she is a nurse in British Columbia and isn’t always back for Dec. 25) which is something to which the family is very much looking forward.
That hasn’t always been the case due to the nature of Emily’s job, so there have been times that the family has celebrated at other times throughout December to assure that the entire family would all be together.
“This year Emily will be back a week before Christmas, so we’re really pleased with that,” Jeff said.
One thing that family has always done together over the holidays, which kicks things off in late November, is decorate the Brussels Agricultural Society’s float for the Brussels Santa Claus parade.
With the Cardiffs being synonymous with the society for decades through several generations, the family has always been at the centre of decorating the float for the annual village event. Jeff said the float has often included items from the Cardiff home farm as decoration, putting a little bit of home on display for the rest of the village for the holidays.
Traditionally, however, the family has a rather regimented schedule when it comes to the days surrounding Christmas.
For years, the Cardiffs have shared Christmas Eve with their long-time friends, the Schimanskis. That tradition will come to an end this year, however, as Frank and Jennie Schimanski have sold their funeral home and have now moved to Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.
For nearly 20 years, the families would alternate hosting dinner on Christmas Eve. One year it would be the Cardiffs and the next year it would be the Schimanskis and after dinner they would then alternate services for Christmas Eve between Brussels United Church and Melville Presbyterian Church depending on the year.
On Christmas Day, Matt said that for years the family was obliged to do chores before any Christmas presents entered into the equation. When the Cardiffs had pigs on their home farm, Jeff and Cathy would head out into the barns and do chores for hours while Matt and Emily had to wait in their beds, not able to come down the stairs, until the chores were done.
Matt remembers it being as long as three hours some years, which felt like torture.
Once down the stairs, however, all was right with the world and presents were opened, although Jeff said that they were never a present-heavy family. The holidays around the Cardiff home were always more about getting together with family than they were about giving dozens of gifts to one another.
Matt said it seems like right after the gifts were unwrapped and he and his sister were playing with them, there was brunch with eggs benedict and then it was onto making Christmas dinner, which was always at Jeff’s mother Betty’s house (and her husband Murray who passed away recently).
It was a relatively small gathering, Jeff said, with about 12 or 13 family members all over to Betty’s for dinner.
Those numbers pale in comparison, Jeff said, to Christmases when he was a young boy with his family. Often between 40 and 45 people would be at a family member’s house, which he said could get a little chaotic.
Cathy then always hosts her side of the family at her and Jeff’s home farm on Dec. 27. Over the holidays, Cathy will often make her Christmas pudding, a recipe that has been handed down by her Grandma Peel. Cathy said the pudding comes from a church cookbook of her grandmother’s, but that Cathy hadn’t attempted making it herself until her grandmother had passed away.
Another tradition that has followed the Cardiff family through the years is cutting their own Christmas tree every year from the farm. Some years, Jeff said, the tree has been better than others.
Matt says there have been some “Charlie Brown” tree years, where the tree has certainly looked better out in the field than it has in the house.
And while the family’s Christmas tree hasn’t always been the most full tree on the lot over the years, Matt said it has often been very tall. It’s gotten to the point, he said, that he often can’t trim the top even with a ladder, so he has to use the family’s tractor in conjunction with a bucket to reach the top of the tree.