By John Charles Corrigan

'The Queen of Christmas' by John Charles CorriganOne friend of ours called my wife, Donna, “The Queen of Christmas!” It being her favourite holiday, there were a series of events planned each year to celebrate. To commence Holiday preparations, the annual Bring Your Own Cookies (BYOC) party, or as she called it, “The Cookie Exchange”. This would take place in late November. Based on the number of participants, each person would be asked to make that many dozen cookies, leave one dozen at home and bring the rest to the exchange. When asked, one former participant said, “I recall being asked to bring six dozen cookies of the same type. The other people did the same. We would each go home with six dozen that we didn’t make to add to our variety on our Christmas trays. We had mulled wine, snacks and socialized as well.” The Queen and all her friends eagerly anticipated this event each year.  

Next came the Queen’s “Tree Decorating” party. Prior to the Royal wedding, the attendees were myself and the Royal Jester, Prince Terry. After our nuptials, four to six couples would be invited to attend. This always took place on the first Saturday in December. The castle would be decorated in advance and the tree would be set up, sans ornaments, lights or tinsel. Two large tins of the Royal Ornaments were brought out and set by the naked tree, awaiting company to arrive. After the guests were properly welcomed and offered refreshments, the tree decoration process began. Once the decorations were on the tree, (no matter what they looked like), that’s how they would remain for the entire Christmas season. One year a guest hung his empty beer can on the tree. His wife scolded him and told him to remove it, but the Queen said, “No, there it shall remain!”

Once all the decorations were on the tree, I would tell the story of how placing an angel on the top became a Christmas tradition. As the story goes,

“Things were not going well at the North Pole. With Christmas Eve just hours away, there were so many problems, BIG PROBLEMS! The lingering effects of the Elves’ strike in November meant delays in toy production and shortages of gifts suitable for children ages five to nine years old – perhaps the most demanding group of recipients! Santa’s sleigh remained in the shop awaiting a shipment of replacement runners. To make matters worse, some of the reindeer were sick. Santa had reason to be concerned, as he might have to make do with less than his full compliment of eight. To say the least, Santa felt stressed. He wanted some time alone to decompress and requested not to be disturbed under any circumstances for the next hour.

“Shortly after he closed the door an angel came into Santa’s workshop with the most beautiful Christmas tree. ‘Where’s Santa?’, the angel asked, ‘I want to show him this wonderful tree that I found. I know he will love it.’  The head elf, Ricardo, warned the angel not to bother Santa, “He’s really stressed! I’ve never seen him so frustrated! You definitely don’t want to go in there now.’ But the angel would not be deterred. He opened the door, dragged the tree in with him and asked, ‘Hey Santa, look at this beautiful Christmas tree! Isn’t it amazing? Where would you like me to put it? Santa glared at the angel; his face much redder than normal. Angrily he roared, ‘You can take that f…ing tree and stick it up your f…ing ass!’ And that’s why we place an angel on top of the Christmas tree!”     

At first, invited guests would bring the Queen and I Christmas ornaments as a “Thank You” gift for hosting. Her Royal Highness, in her wisdom, decreed that this practice should not continue. She pronounced instead that there would be an ornament exchange among all attendees. As the last activity of the evening, everyone would place the wrapped ornament they brought in a central location, usually a coffee table, which they would then gather around. Everyone would pick a number. The person with the lowest number chose first. They unwrapped and displayed the gift they selected so everyone could see. Then, the player with the next lowest number could either picked another gift or steal the previous player's unwrapped gift. At any point in the process, if your gift ended up being stolen, you could choose an unwrapped gift or steal one from someone else. However, there had to be a limited to how many times any one gift could be stolen – generally this would be three times. Occasionally this would result in a loud ruckus! I recall a time when the Queen called the Queen Mother a “bitch” for stealing an ornament she fancied – all in fun of course.

Before we married the Queen resided in Bowmanville Castle. North of that Royal Residence, existed an area of about eighty estate homes on the Old Scugog Road. Back in the 1980’s, one of the residents, (an executive at Noma), set up a massive Christmas light display at his home. Over the years, other houses in the area did the same. Eventually every home in the subdivision had an impressive display. People would come from miles away to drive up and down the street. They’d proceed in and out of the cul-de-sacs at a snail’s pace. That became a Christmas Eve tradition for us until we came to live at Quinte Castle.

As the Queen and I were “DRINKs”, (i.e. Double Royal Income, No Kids), when we woke on Christmas morning, we would open the presents we bought for each other. This usually took quite some time; Her Majesty being such a thoughtful and generous gift giver.  After all our gifts had been unwrapped, the Queen would call members of the Royal Family and some of our closest friends to wish them all a Merry Christmas! Usually we traveled to someone else’s Castle for Christmas Dinner to spend quality time with other members of the Royal Family.

While not of true “Royal blood”, when it came to Christmas, Donna truly was the Queen.   

Best wishes,