History of Christmas In Canada | Canadian Christmas Markets (1874)

My being for a length of time in a town showed me new features of our colonial life which should in vain have looked for in the country. In many respects I might easily have forgotten I was in Canada at all, for you might as well speak of getting a correct idea of England from living in a provincial town, as of Canada by living in the streets of Toronto.

The dress of the people is much the same as in Britain. Hats and light overcoats are not entirely laid aside even in winter, though fur caps and gauntlets, after all, are much more common. The ladies sweep along with more show than in England, as if they dressed for out-of-door display especially; but they are, no doubt, tempted to this by the clearness and dryness of the air, which neither soils nor injures fine things, as the coal-dust and the dampness do in English towns. The most plainly-dressed ladies I used to see were the wife and daughters of the Governor-general.

The markets at Christmas were usually a greater attraction to many people than they used to be in England. If the weather chanced to be cold, you would see huge files of frozen pigs standing on their four legs in front of the stalls, as if they had been killed when at a gallop; countless sheep hung overhead, with here and there one of their heads carefully gilded, to add splendour to the exhibition. Some deer were almost always to be noticed at some of the stalls, and it was not unusual to see the carcase of a bear contributing its part to the general show. As to the oxen, they were too fat for my taste, though the butchers seem to be proud of them in proportion to their obesity.

The market was not confined to a special building, though there was one for the purpose. Long ranges of farmers’ waggons, ranged at each side of it, showed similar treasures of frozen pork and mutton, the animals standing entire at the feet of their owners, who sat among them waiting for purchasers. Fiozen geese, ducks, chickens, and turkeys abounded, and that household was very poor indeed which had not one or other to grace the festival.

Source: Life in the woods, by C. Geikie, 1874

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