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Christmas at York Factory

Yes, I still have York Factory on the brain.  I have many more photos and stories from our trip to share but those shall have to wait until the new year.  Instead I thought I'd share some of my recent thoughts on Christmases past, what was Christmas like during the fur trade?

Fortunately for me the HBC Archives has started digitizing some of the post journals, saving me a long trek through the snowy streets of Winnipeg to go and explore early journals from York Factory.  I found this gem on their website, written by James Knight in 1714, and you can see that Christmas day is just one little notation along with all the others.

A closer look, and a good squint to read his beautiful handwriting, reveals a rather nice message on the 25th:

I gave the men a hogshead of strong beer and some provisions extraordinary to enjoy themselves with this Christmas...prayers today and was celebrated with the [two words I can't decipher!]

Although I can't figure out those final two words, I think celebrating with a hogshead (a large cask, roughly 238 litres) of strong beer sounds like a pretty good way to spend the day!

UPDATE!  Thanks to my boss (Adele Hempel) and good friend and colleague (Amanda Crompton) I now know what those last two words are:

I gave the men a hogshead of strong beer and some provisions extraordinary to enjoy themselves with this Christmas...prayers today and was celebrated with the usual solemnity.

For more on Christmas during the fur trade check out this article from Canada's History, originally published in The Beaver in 1941.

Happy Holidays dear readers, and all the best in 2016!

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Amelia Fay

Curator of HBC Collection

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Amelia Fay joined The Manitoba Museum in September 2013. She received her BA in Anthropology from the University of Manitoba, an MA in Archaeology from Memorial University of Newfoundland (MUN), and is currently finishing her Doctoral degree from MUN. Amelia’s research has focused on Inuit-European contact along the Labrador coast, and her interests are continually expanding to explore Aboriginal-European contact throughout Canada during the fur trade era.

Amelia’s job as Curator of the Hudson’s Bay Company Museum Collection involves building the collection, responding to public inquiries, preparing exhibits, and conducting her own research. Her research interests centre on the interactions between Europeans (including HBC employees) and Aboriginal peoples as they negotiated space, material culture, and their daily activities. Amelia’s goal is to showcase this amazing collection, and highlight the important role that Aboriginal people played in the establishment of the Hudson’s Bay Company.