XMAS17 - Family is first at Nesbitt Christmas
BY DENNY SCOTT
Christmas has evolved several times over the past 53 years at the Nesbitt house just south of Blyth, however the focus has always been the same: family.
Lena and Carl, alongside their children Russ, Ron and Brenda, have welcomed members of their different families to the family home, be that on the 13th of Hullett or their current home on Cemetery Line, just south of Blyth, since Carl and Lena were married.
It started with Carl’s family coming on Christmas Day and, at its height, saw approximately 40 people attending the celebration.
“At one point, we probably had 22 people staying over once,” she said. “The Nesbitt family came every year until the families started getting older and holding their own Chrismtas celebrations.
That change was only the first over the past half-century of Christmas celebrations Lena and Carl have celebrated together.
“When the Nesbitt family stopped coming on Christmas Day, my family, the Dougherty family took over,” Lena said.
Carl pointed out that her family is from the Blyth area and everyone always seemed to end up at their home. Lena said it may have been because she was the best chef of the bunch.
Like the Nesbitts, however, the Doughertys stopped coming as well, after Lena’s mother Ruth passed away.
“After that, we were down to immediate family,” Lena said.
Immediate family Christmases were always a bit difficult to arrange, she said, explaining that son Russ’ shift work as a police officer would often result in him not being able to attend. One thing the family does always try to take in, however is a Christmas Eve church service, followed up by some traditional family time.
“We wake up on Christmas Day, put the turkey in the oven then head over to Brenda’s for a Christmas breakfast,” Carl said. “The children open their presents and then we come back home for dinner afterwards.”
One big change that has occurred very recently is the migration of the family Christmas tree outside of the house.
Carl explained that he traditionally picks up a tree from the Londesborough Lions Club, with which the family has a long history. The tree used to be in the house, but, with expanding families requiring more table space and Lena finding that room didn’t make a great home for a live tree, Carl started putting up the tree outside.
The tree is set up on the family’s lawn and is traditionally visible to traffic on County Road 4. Thanks to a large picture window, it’s also visible by the family when they sit down to Christmas dinner.
The family has also gotten away from a large number of gifts being given and received and turned their attention to local charities.
“I don’t need gifts,” Carl said. “I’d rather people give to charity.”
The Londesborough Lions Christmas dinner is also a long-time tradition going back 41 years for the community service group and the family.
Like the Nesbitts’ Christmas, it’s evolved over the years, including a “gift-stealing” game at one point and now taking a collection for a charity in the area. This year, the group is donating to the Ronald McDonald House children’s charity.
Christmas at the Nesbitt family has shrunk from a large family, to a medium-sized one, to Lena, Carl, their children and grandchildren but now it is starting to grow as the grandchildren bring their own guests to the celebration.
As far as funny family stories, the Nesbitts have plenty to share including the year that the family ended up eating 120 pounds of turkey for several months after Christmas.
“One of our neighbours was raising turkeys and I said, ‘Give me half a dozen,’ thinking they would be 15 to 20 pounds or so,” Carl said, with Lena adding that they planned on giving them to Carl’s staff at Nesbitt Construction Inc.
Unfortunately, the turkeys were delivered too late to get to their intended destination.
“When they showed up, however, they were 30 pounds each,” Carl said.
Ron explained that was in 1981 and said that, for at least three days, extended family was snowed in at the Nesbitt house, so they started to eat the turkey. Lena explained that, of the remaining turkeys, each was cut in half and for months the family, every two weeks, would cook another half turkey and eat it all week.
The family also has a long tradition with crokinole and cards. Lena’s mother in particular was known for enjoying time around the dining room table playing both.
“We used to play cards with my mom and we couldn’t get her to leave until she won a hand,” Lena said with a laugh, saying the family played euchre and other card games.
Ron, however, had a different memory of his grandmother with her not leaving until someone was able to beat her at crokinole.
Lena said her family has a long history with the game of skill and said the board played on every Christmas was in her family for generations and inspired some great games and rivalries around the holidays.