Notes from BC Christmases Past

Posted by Howard on Dec 20, 2013

In 1884 a shipment of mandarin oranges in Vancouver arrived from Japan intended as a reminder of home for Japanese people living in the province. The small, sweet oranges were quickly adopted by non-Japanese residents and became as much a part of the Christmas season as candy canes, poinsettias, even Santa Claus himself. Mandarins are grown in other places, including Morocco and China, but the Japanese variety, locally known as “Japanese Oranges”, remains most popular in BC, making Canada the largest market for Japanese mandarins in the world.

In 1921 Daniel Cranmer, a Namgis chief from Alert Bay, established himself as perhaps BC’s all-time champion Christmas gift-giver by inviting 300 guests to his wife’s family home on Village Island and giving them canoes, motor boats, pool tables, oak trunks, violins, guitars, sewing machines, gramophones, bedsteads, bureaus, washtubs, crockery, cash, a thousand sacks of flour and 30,000 blankets. Local Indian Agent William Halliday earned standing as BC's all-time grinch by deciding the event had less of the Christmas spirit than that of the outlawed potlatch ceremony and clapped the would-be Santa in jail for his pains.

The tiny community of Seton Portage, 65 km east of Lillooet is rarely heard from today but it once had a very special role that brought it to prominence every Christmas. It boasted a very fine orchard that for many years produced the Canada's annual Christmas gift to the Queen: a box of Macintosh apples.

Best wishes for a merry Christmas and Happy New Year!