Experience Christmas Circa 1911


December arrives tomorrow and with it, the holiday season.  With so much to do over the coming weeks, we’re inviting you to take a few hours to slow down and experience the holidays in a way you have never experienced them before —early 1900s style.

Drop by the iconic Rutherford House on Dec.11 from noon to 4 p.m. for the annual Christmas Past event to experience a traditional Christmas much as Alberta’s first Premier, Alexander Cameron Rutherford, and his family would have. With the halls decked and the air filled with the sights and sounds of Christmas, there’s much to see and do.

Christmas then and now

Cacti instead of trees?

Seeing the differences between Christmas traditions in 2016 versus the Rutherfords’ holiday traditions in 1911 might be a surprise! For example, traditionally, the Rutherfords never hosted a Christmas tree in their home because Mr. Rutherford felt so strongly against cutting down trees that he even instilled a tree planting component to every University of Alberta graduation ceremony! In lieu of a pine tree in the house, the Rutherfords had a Christmas cactus which produced pink flowers just in time for the Christmas season.  Today at Rutherford House, there are several Christmas cacti — all descendants of the original — which have just started to bloom!

Two presents for Christmas

The Rutherford children received two Christmas presents each year — one large, and onechristmas-pie1 smaller. The smaller present was retrieved, after the Christmas day meal, from a basket in the middle of the dining room table known as the ‘Christmas pie’. This Christmas pie contained a present for each member of the family, with a ribbon leading from that person’s place at the table to the present which belonged to them. Mr. Rutherford’s ribbon invariably led to a book inside the pie! Before the Christmas meal, the family enjoyed opening their Christmas crackers, which Mrs. Rutherford made herself!

On the other hand, some things were not that different. Both Mrs. Rutherford and her eldest daughter, Hazel, were avid piano players, and each Christmas the house would be filled with the sounds of Christmas carols and Christmas hymns. Of course, everyone would gather to enjoy and share a lovely Christmas meal.

For more information about Rutherford House events, hours or location please visit the website. You can also stay in touch with Rutherford House on Facebook.


When: Sunday, December 11 from noon until 4 p.m.

Where: Rutherford House, 11153 Saskatchewan Drive (University of Alberta campus).

Admission: $7 for adults, $20 for a family, $6 for seniors and $5 for youth aged 7-17. Children six and under are free.

For more information, please call 780-427-3995 (or dial 310-0000 for toll free access within Alberta), email us at Rutherford.House@gov.ab.ca, or go to the website.

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