SELDOM, NL – In a two-story saltbox house in Seldom, Newfoundland, Hal Anthony pulls out a match and strikes it against the side of the box.
After the burst of flame dies down, he gently places it against the wick of a kerosene lamp.
The flame dances freely for just a moment before being encaged in the lamp’s glass chimney.
In one last act of defiance small puffs of black smoke begin to rise and Hal adjusts the tiny dial, just underneath the chimney, to shorten the wick and limit the flame.
And so, the Anthony Christmas Eve tradition, now in place for 52 years, continues.
By the warm glow of the kerosene light, Marie, his wife of more than 50 years, shares the story of how that tradition came to be.
It all started in 1965 after the two had left Fogo Island and moved to Canada’s largest city.
“Moving from a place with no indoor plumbing or electricity to Toronto, can you imagine the culture shock?” she said.
As the couple was preparing to spend their first Christmas away something was missing.
Marie had grown up celebrating the holidays in a home that was lit by the glow of the fire from the parlor stove and kerosene oil lamps.
“There were too many lights (in Toronto), it didn’t feel right,” she said.
Hal went out into the streets of Toronto on a search, hoping to make their first Christmas away feel a little more like home.
He succeeded, and in a city of lights the two ate Christmas Eve supper by kerosene oil lamp, just like the would have done if they were back on Fogo Island.
It’s a tradition that has been in place for the Anthonys ever since; a tradition accompanied by a salt fish and seafood chowder supper before heading to the evening church service.
“There’s just something warm about it, to have that loving glow from the lamps,” Marie said. “For me, Christmas Eve was always more special than Christmas Day.”
They’ve taken the tradition with them where ever they’ve gone, whether Toronto, Calgary or back home on Fogo Island – and at times there’d be a kerosene lamp for every room in the house.
As a result their daughters – Paula and Elizabeth-Ann — carry on the tradition.
“I am so proud they have kept it up,” Marie said. “It’s not Christmas without the lamps.”