Christmas with the Troakes

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Josh Pennell
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Sealer and advocate Jack Troake talks about holidays past and present

TWILLINGATE — With the holidays upon us, people in The Telegram newsroom started to wonder about the Christmas traditions of the people we speak with throughout the year.

Veteran sealer Jack Troake's life is steeped in history and tradition. His Christmas Eve and Day plans are no different.

Jack Troake, shown in a file photo, says of his Christmases as a youth, "I can see Mother. Mother would put the tree up and that tree would stay up until every last sprinkle would fall off it."

Mr. Troake lives in the 197-year-old house he was born in that his great-grandfather built. On Christmas Day, 14 or so people are expected at his house where he and his wife will have the Christmas Day feed cooked.

"The house feels right full," Mr. Troake says.

And what's the menu for the veteran sealer and his family?

"It won't be turres or duck or seal, which I like. It's going to be turkey. A different kind of bird altogether," he laughs.

If he had his way there would be some if that good game grub, but he says young people haven't got a taste for it anymore.

When Mr. Troake was young, there wasn't much extra for spending, but nobody was hungry.

"We weren't a rich family, but one thing we did have was tons of food," he says.

They kept animals and grew their own food. There would be no Christmas turkey, though.

"You might have a chicken or go chop the head off an old rooster or something," he says.

There could also be a stuffed eider duck.

"Mother would put the tree up and that tree would stay up until every last sprinkle would fall off it." Jack Troake

His father, who was a master mariner, wasn't around during Christmas or really any other time for Mr. Troake's childhood. He says he didn't get to know his father until 1972.

"I can see Mother. Mother would put the tree up and that tree would stay up until every last sprinkle would fall off it."

The traditional room for the tree was known as the parlour.

"The only time the parlour was used was if somebody died or the Christmas tree was put in there," says Mr. Troake.

There was also mummering, which Mr. Troake would take part in as he got older. He says they would go to religious people's homes and sing them hymns and gospel and try to find a drink through the threshold of other doors. When you found a place where somebody had plenty of homebrew, you stayed there for the night.

"They were much better (times) than there is now," he says.

Geographic location: The Telegram, Newfoundland

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Recent comments

  • Patricia (Troke) Green
    December 30, 2013 - 14:27

    My Grandfather Joseph Troke was born in Isle au Mort many years ago Do not know if there is a connection with the Troaks or not. Would be interesting to hear.

  • Patricia (Troke) Green
    December 30, 2013 - 14:25

    My Grandfather Joseph Troke was born in Isle au Mort many years ago Do not know if there is a connection with the Troaks or not. Would be interesting to hear.

  • Patricia (Troke) Green
    December 30, 2013 - 14:24

    My Grandfather Joseph Troke was born in Isle au Mort many years ago Do not know if there is a connection with the Troaks or not. Would be interesting to hear.