In 1890, this Kelowna family’s Christmas looked much different | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source
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In 1890, this Kelowna family’s Christmas looked much different

The Whelan family, in 1886, in front of their Ellison district log home built by George Whelan about 1875.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Bob Hayes

It was 1890 and all through the house, a few creatures were stirring, quite possibly a mouse.

The home, in Kelowna’s Ellison neighbourhood, was owned by the Whelan family, relatives of Kelowna historian Bob Hayes.

READ MORE: First Christmas celebration in the Okanagan was bleak

Hayes’ great-great-grandparents, Lucy and George, and their children Nellie, 7, Maggie, 6, Hayes’ grandmother Laura, 4, and Minnie, 3, were all preparing for Christmas in their log home.

It was a simpler time, Hayes said. Their Christmas tree wouldn’t have contained any flashy, colourful lights and would have most likely been cut down on their ranch.

“At that point, there was no Kelowna, it didn’t exist. Christmas was pretty isolated at that point in about 1890. In Ellison, there were probably about eight families,” he said.

The Christmas tree would have been decorated with local berries, popcorn chains and paper chains that were very basic. Candles may have been added to the tree.

"During the Great Depression, trees were typically hung with tinsel, popcorn garlands, and handmade ornaments. By the 1940s, the hand-made was beginning to be replaced by the store-bought, with glass baubles made by the Shiny Brite Company being some of the most popular ornaments of the decade," according to Gwyn Evans, with the Greater Vernon Museum and Archives.

A Christmas tree from 1900.
A Christmas tree from 1900.
Image Credit: Wikipedia Commons

“Because they didn’t have any place to go,” Hayes said. “Christmas dinner was probably venison and it was a very quiet Christmas."

Lucy read the Christmas story from the big Whelan bible she brought from England in 1882. It was a Christmas tradition for the family, to read the story every year.

With no school, Hayes’ family would have been taught by their mother, right out of that bible.

“They probably would have had a few Christmas treats that night,” he said, adding his great-great-grandmother Lucy was a cook from London, so they likely had a few mincemeat tarts.

“Then the father George got out his violin. The only trouble is that he couldn’t play so he’d just strum the bow and the four daughters would dance and sing and laugh and they thought this was wonderful,” he said.

The parents would have told their children about Christmas in London, Hayes said.

“It was such a special family time and that's what Christmas is,” Hayes said.


To contact a reporter for this story, email Carli Berry or call 250-864-7494 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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