Muskoka Traditions And Seasonal Activities

In any country or community, there are Christmas and seasonal holiday traditions and activities that make December special.  In Muskoka, we are blessed with a climate and topography that contribute, to many of these indoor and outdoor traditions and activities.

Thanks to those of you who responded to our promotional request for pictures. Here we present a few shots of seasonal exhibits and offer you this piece to enjoy. In particular thank you to the folks from Eurovinyl Windows & Door featuring BlackBirch Cottage on Drag Lake, Haliburton. (Above) Image by: Christopher Meiorin .

Christmas Trees

Well before the dawn of Christianity, trees that annually remained green, had a special meaning for people in winter.  As folks today decorate their cottages and homes during the festive season with pine, spruce, and fir trees, former customs were to hang evergreen boughs over doors and windows.  In some cultures, it was believed that evergreens would keep away ghosts, evil spirits, witches and illness.  Sounds like the making of a good bedtime story for the children!

The origins of lighting Christmas trees is well documented from Germany in the late 16 century.  Hung from ceilings, illuminated with candles, traditional apples and assorted goodies were attached to their trunks.

As time passed into the 18th century, Muskoka residents developed traditions which came from Europe, through Britain, and into our fair land.  In many cases trees were tiny and would be located on a table in the living room.  Paper ornaments trimmed the small trees, while nuts and fruit, gifts and sweets were placed at the bottom under the branches.  Candles were of course, quite dangerous, so Muskoka families lit them only at Christmas Eve when the tree was revealed to the children for the first time.  In wealthier homes, incredibly, each family member had their own little table-sized tree.

Historically, Queen Victoria and her German Prince, Albert, were sketched in the Illustrated London News standing with their children around a Christmas tree.  Victoria was very popular, and what was done at court quickly became fashionable, not only in Britain, but with fashion-conscious North America. The Christmas tree had arrived!

Back in Muskoka, by the turn of the 19th century, the tradition had evolved to a single, large tree in the cabin or home. Christmas trees displayed publicly, and illuminated with electric lights, only became popular in the early 20th century.

Traditions: Food and Beverages

At this time of year, what does not occur outdoors will certainly center around the creations from the kitchen and the bar.

In earlier times, as soon as the weather turned cold, beef, pigs and poultry were ‘prepared’ to supply the family with a stock of inventory for the festive season and long winter ahead.  Different cuts were primed for storage.  Often food was buried in snow or placed in a cold room or ‘root cellar’. Turkey where possible, was stored in ‘air tight’ containers. Like today, traditional recipes were passed on from generation to generation, but without computer files and email transport! Not unlike today, adults would prepare for weeks, readying for a holiday feast, even if the meal for those less fortunate, was understated.

Beautiful Holiday Decorations Inside Muskoka Home

Favorite beverages were mulled wine, mulled cider and even mulled beer (‘mulling’ added sugar and various spice to a beverage for taste).The beverage was then heated to sooth during the chilly months. Eggnog made it way to Canada in the 18th Century and continues for many to be a seasonal favorite, often with some coffee liquor added.

Today we are very fortunate to have the incredible selection of food to choose from. Turkey and other fowl, ham, beef, salmon, all in many forms and prepared cuts, often grace tables at this festive time. Seafood, such as shrimp, lobster and fresh oysters are in high demand in December, leading to the solstice and New Year.

Popular cocktails include Old Fashions, Martinis and Manhattans, as well as Champagne and a variety of sparkling want-to-be’s.  Now with a special selection of local craft brewers, we also have a few seasonal beers to enjoy.  While vodka and orange juice remains popular, it was in 1921, that an American bartender in Paris invented the Bloody Mary.

Gingerbread, and the elaborate cookie walled houses originated in 16thcentury Germany while shortbread was a medieval offering that transformed in Scotland.  Bread roll, was originally twice baked, and dusted with sugar and spices.  Later the yeast was replaced by butter. Back in the day, other popular items included mincemeat tarts, fruitcake, plum pudding and distinctive seasonal trifles.  Cookie recipes by the thousands can be found on line, but rarely do they compete with Great Gramma’s special brownies.

No wonder, the fitness clubs, and ‘wonder diets’ come into vogue so soon in January!

Activities

In Muskoka, we are a hearty breed.  Long ago much time was taken up with activities based on survival.  Sports and games were a luxury. Felling trees and chopping wood, ensure a warm cabin for the family was a priority.  Hunting, trapping and fishing for many, provided work and sustenance.  Sleigh rides, by horse or even by a team of hearty dogs provided serious transportation and delight for young ones.  Snowshoes were considered a ‘must-have’ rather than an alternative to getting the heart rate up for exercise.

Today, like in the past, skating on the lake or river is as rare as ever due to inconsistent weather, but hockey rinks abound and new outdoor skating attractions such as Arrowhead Park in Algonquin have become wildly popular.

Simplicity reins in Muskoka as a campfire providing warmth, beauty and the opportunity to roast marshmallows is often enough to enjoy the fresh air and a boundless starry night.  While Cross country skiing originated in Scandinavia, the sport first appeared in Canada around 1890.  Tobogganing, and downhill skiing round out what is often most overlooked today, and that is just a lovely walk, hand in hand, in the great outdoors.

Curling, a staple of the north, was brought to Canada by the Scottish and first appeared in Canada in 1807. Muskoka has many popular curling clubs that bring communities together for bonspiels and weekly mixed events.

The skills of ice fishing in Muskoka were passed along from various First Nations Peoples.  After chipping a hole in the ice, a variety of spears, hooks, nets and decoys were used to catch fish.  Today in Ice fishing has become part of Muskoka’s tourism engine with many modern conveniences for comfort.

Whether you celebrate Hanukkah, or Christmas, we cannot do the season justice without mentioning the importance of music, song and dance.  Jacques Cartier wrote about Canada’s Aboriginal People’s dancing culture as early as 1534.  And in Muskoka doing a jig to a violin, harp or fiddle brought families together and smiles all around.  Carol singing and a variety of church services bring communities together in December, reminding us of our past.

And finally, no written piece on seasonal traditions would be complete without jolly old Saint Nick!  Little in the world today reminds us of our youth, and our traditions more than Santa Claus.  As we decorate our homes and trees to welcome our families for the holidays, one traditional visit we can expect to grace our home is from the ol’man himself with a big bushy beard, a red suit and a team of reindeer!

We sincerely hope that this Muskoka perspective finds you and your family thankful for the traditions and activities we have the opportunity to enjoy. May your holidays be merry and your travel be safe.  Where ever possible be kind and generous to others.

The Virtual Tour Is Live – Visit Our Showroom Of Specialized Windows And Doors

Attractive Vinyl Window Designs, Trusted Manufacturers, Competitive Prices

Looking for a variety of exciting windows and doors for your Cottage or Home?  Our on-line virtual tour provides an amazing glimpse into the various styles, materials, and functions of the key products we offer in our Muskoka showroom in Bracebridge, Ontario.  Once you’ve been able to browse around our site digitally, we highly recommend that you call us to discuss your plans, and visit our showroom to see, touch and operate the products first hand.

From our experience, while planning a renovation or new build, your ability to see our products close up, and experience the operating functions of the products is very important.  You’ll be pleasantly surprised to see how new technology has impacted window functions and large door openings.  We have several options to demonstrate hidden screens and blinds that join your indoor lifestyle to refreshing outdoor elements. New electronic and digital security options for windows and doors have also become popular features to protect your investment.

By clicking around our showroom on the virtual tour with your mouse, arrow keys or touch screen, you’ll get an excellent idea of what you’ll be able to actually operate once in the showroom with us.

Take The Tour Now

Our helpful and professional showroom staff will help explore your options and answer all your questions. We then will help simplify the process by making recommendations that fit your architecture and style preferences.  Over the last 30 years, we have built our reputation on satisfied customers. Count on us to find the perfect windows and doors for your investment, and most importantly, the perfect installation for your new build or renovation project.

  • Access to a variety of Window and Door Manufacturers

Inside of Our Large Vinyl Window Showroom

As authorized suppliers of well-known manufacturers from around the Globe, you will enjoy easy access to a variety of specialized products: Andersen, Western, Ostaco, Dashwood, Centor, Synergy, Camwood, Euro Vinyl and more. This team of supplier partners translates into a variety of options financially. From substantial new cottage builds to smaller often isolated cabins, we understand that window and door budgets can vary dramatically.

As you browse around our virtual showroom on-line, you’ll be able to view many of these supplier / partner logos.

Our clients across Ontario’s cottage country are appreciative of our attention to detail and our professional approach to every step of the replacement, renovation, or new build process.  We’ll work with you directly, or in partnership with your builder and / or architect.

  • New Windows Save Energy

In today’s landscape of rising energy costs, we are very sensitive about our customer’s desire to reduce energy costs. Being a registered ENERGY STAR® Participant, we offer several options to save energy and ultimately enjoy a financial return on your window and door investment, long term.

EXPERT INSTALLATION BY TRUSTED MUSKOKA WINDOW AND DOOR CENTRE

Outstanding Supplier Warranties backed by our expert installation.

If you are considering replacing your windows, this is an excellent time to do so this winter, when the savings will be effective immediately. At Muskoka Window and Door Centre, we specialize in window and door replacement, renovation and new construction installation. Our craftsmen are renowned for custom fits and flawless installations which eliminate many common operational issues. Professional installations also optimize the life of your products and importantly, protects your warranties.

We are proud to offer a 5-year workmanship and materials warranty on any of our new installations. This assures you of our quality work and peace of mind.

Take a Virtual Tour Now! Then Contact us to discuss your plans, and we’ll offer you a quote in writing.

Give the experts at Muskoka Window and Door Centre a call today. T: 705.645.3057 | Toll Free: 800.461.5495.

“Our Business is Satisfied Customers”

Meet The Owners Of Muskoka Window And Door Centre

Jeff Hodges

Father of two, Grandfather of five
Born in Chatham, Ontario
After previously managing 2 business’, Jeff moved from the GTA to Muskoka.

 

Started: Muskoka Window And Door Centre in 1988 from scratch, knowing there was a market for a local professional who focused on quality window and door products with great customer service. Muskoka’s cottage and local home building industry was expanding so: “We saw the opportunity, and filled that need in the Muskoka community” says Jeff.

Location: “15 Robert Dollar Drive is our third business location. We outgrew the previous locations, so we’re here to stay, especially after adding a significant warehouse building at the back of our showroom. We’re very proud of our showroom. The attention to detail; It’s quite amazing really!”

Community: As you will read, Jeff along with his family and staff are tightly knotted to the fabric of Muskoka:

  • South Memorial Hospital – Sat as a Board Member on the Hospital Foundation
  • Muskoka Builders Association – Founding member
  • Chamber of Commerce
  • Rotarian – Founding member of the Muskoka Lakes Chapter
  • Hospice
  • Habitat for Humanity – Plus many local charities

Enjoys: Family and friends foremost, plus Golf, boating, travel. Did we mention Golf??!! Billiards, backgammon, euchre, a great BBQ with a Jack Daniels or tasty scotch.

Music: Eclectic mix from the 50’s and 60’s. Loves Motown and Country.

Favorite Movie: “Chisum” with John Wayne.

I Relax by: “Not often enough, but we enjoy a good show, and chilling on the deck”.

Randy Hodges

Randy Hodges on motorcycle

Father of two, husband of one
Born in St. Marys (“near Stratford”), Ontario

Started: The special relationship my father and I have has kept me in the family business. Family-business relationships don’t often work well, but we get along great and we’ve grown together.

Location: 15 Robert Dollar Drive – “home away from home, but I am often ‘on the road’ meeting with new customers, quoting jobs, monitoring installations. I know the Muskoka communities well, and an incredible number of the cottage back roads!”

What you might not know about me:
“I started my working career as a professional wilderness guide. Winters were all about caring for and training an expedition kennel of 260 dogs. We taught folks to drive their own team of dogs. Everything from a few hours to the more popular overnight trips into the bush to camps of canvas tents. Trips took us deep into Algonquin Park, Temagami, and semi-annual trips from Cochrane to Moosnee for the experienced return guests. Spring and fall were filled with whitewater paddling trips down many Ontario historic and beautiful waterways. Summers of flat water trips through Algonquin and Kilarney parks still tickle my day dreams of beautiful scenic vistas and sunsets.”

Community:

  • South Memorial Hospital – “By example, we encourage all our friends and business colleagues to support our hospital”
  • Muskoka Builders Association – Board member
  • Scout Leader, soccer coach, BMHA (Minor Hockey coach and Board member) – “I enjoy being involved with my kid’s interests. Wonderful memories, lots of fun, great people”
  • Chamber of Commerce

Enjoys: Muskoka Harvest Bible Chapel. Family and friends of course. Motorcycle trips with my wife and friends, riding my Suzuki GSX 1255 FA putting rubber to any twisty and well landscaped road or highway. Ontario has many special routes. I still enjoy dog sledding, white water canoeing and hiking.

Music: Classic Rock – Rush, Credence Clearwater Revival “and Lauren Daigle’s voice haunts me – in a good way”.

Favorite Movies: “Eight below” (with Paul Walker). “Hidalgo” (with Viggo Mortensen and Omar Sharif)

I Relax by: Riding and maintaining my motorcycle.