A Christmas tradition that has long passed in Newfoundland and Labrador is the fundraiser known as ‘Calling the Tree.’ In communities throughout the country (now province) on St. Stephen’s Day church groups would host a fundraising event where the focus was the Christmas tree. In Scilly Cove (now Winterton, Trinity Bay) “the Tree” was one of the major fundraisers of the year.
A resident of Scilly Cove writing in January 1890 describing ‘The Tree’ wrote:
“St. Stephen’s Day in Scilly Cove has, for several years past, been a high day, that is, a joyous and lively time. The young people, especially, have then made up their minds to obtain all the fun they possibly can. To aid the young folks to better enjoy a pleasant day and evening, we have been permitted, by the aid of kind friends both here and in St. John’s, to get off a Christmas tree. On Thursday last we were up to the mark as usual, and by 2 o’clock the tree was in full swing, fairly bending beneath its load of prizes.”
The “tree ” was held in the school-room, and refreshments were served in the Fishermen’s Lodge, both apartments being most carefully decorated ; evergreens, interspersed with rose-buds and colored tissue paper, gave the rooms a lively appearance. Some exquisite Chinese lanterns presented a magnificent illumination.
While some visitors were making their purchases from the goods and toy tables down stairs, others were regaling themselves upon the luxuries and delicacies plentifully furnished by the refreshment tables in the lodge room. Choice soups, tea, coffee, cocoa and beverages of various kinds were bountifully supplied. Mr. Fred. Kelland and Miss Sarah Parrott disposed of an immense quantity of small articles by means of grab bags and wheels of fortune. Mr. and Mrs. Haddon, although not of the committee, assisted materially by donations and personal help.
The Christmas tree was the focus of the evening with each branch holding a numbered ticket. Everyone attending the event (for the small price of 20 cents) would purchase a ticket at the door and was then entitled to a prize from the Tree, bearing a corresponding number. A resident of Scilly Cove wrote:
“The Tree” contained a large number of useful articles of children’s clothing, being the outcome of the labors of The Ladies Sewing Circle during the past summer.”
Any monies realized from the Christmas tree were used to make purchases for the Church. In 1889 “we were able to purchase a first-class organ for our church, and also to pay a debt of “dues” to one late rector of twenty dollars.” In 1892 “a sufficient sum ($30 dollars) was realized to pay off our indebtedness for the carpet upon the floor of our new church.”
‘The Tree’ was a reason to gather during the Christmas Season, another tradition no longer celebrated.
In many communities the evening was referred to as ‘calling the tree’ the act of calling out the number that was purchased at the door that corresponded to the number on the Christmas tree.
Note: In 1912, Scilly Cove was named Winterton for Sir James Spearman Winter, former Prime Minister of Newfoundland.