When it comes to Christmas and the holiday season, undoubtedly, everyone has their own favourite memory or tradition. From our favourite food, drink, movie or TV show to a never-miss annual event or a die-hard tradition, Christmas will always hold a special place in our hearts. And Cindy Day, Atlantic Canada’s much-loved meteorologist, is no exception.
Like many of us, Day looks forward to the holiday season. “Christmas in the Maritimes is very unique,” she says. Originally from the Cornwall, Ontario area, Day has called Nova Scotia her home for almost 30 years. During that time, she has not only become an expert on the ever-changing Maritime weather (which is definitely no easy task), but she is completely immersed in the many and often quirky traditions and culture that make this area so different from other parts of the country.
“I love the fact that Maritimers include lobster into their family meal. We always had lots of pork and beef growing up on a farm in Ontario where we raised animals, but the first time I experienced a Maritime feast and they rolled out the lobster, I was hooked,” says Day, who adds she now brings it back to her family in Ontario every year, so it is something they have gladly adopted into their holiday festivities.
While lobster is certainly one of Day’s favourites, she admits one Christmas treat tops her list — fruitcake. Smirking, she says, “My goal is to convert all of the ‘non-fruitcake’ people in the world.” A lofty goal for sure, especially if you fall into the ‘I hate fruitcake’ camp, but Day assures that her tried-and-true recipe may be just the one to do it. “It is not your typical dry, white fruitcake. This one is dark, moist and full of bourbon and gooey batter.”
And by full, she actually means it is regularly dipped in bourbon just to ensure it soaks deep into the fruit and cake. “I found it 30 years ago and I have been making it ever since.”
In fact, if you are lucky enough to be on Day’s gift-giving list, you are probably already converted since she loves to give it to all of her friends and family this time of year.
Food aside, one of the big things that makes a Maritime holiday unique is music, says Day. “Maritimers have such a love for music. I am always struck by how much music is a part of Maritime life. I haven’t been in a home where someone hasn’t picked up a fiddle or guitar and started playing. It’s a real treat.”
And when it comes to Christmas music, Day also has her own holiday favourite — The Oakridge Boys Christmas. “It just reminds me of Christmastime … it holds a lot of good memories. I also think of Suzy Bogguss this time of year, though” she adds. “The first time I heard her was at Stanfest [The Stan Rogers Folk Festival in Casno, N.S.]. She is my boyfriend’s favoutite, so we listen to her a lot in December.”
For some people, the holidays are marked by a special event — one they look forward to all year. For Day, without hesitation, that event is the annual Christmas tree gift to Boston. “It is such a beautiful event that came out of such disaster,” she says, referring to the 1917 Halifax Explosion. “The holidays are about giving and this is a wonderful example of how giving Maritimers are.”
For any avid ‘Elf on the Shelfers’ Day says she had not heard of this tradition before coming to Nova Scotia, but the tiny imp does hold a special memory for her. One year, a Grade 5 class decided to put Day’s children’s book (Grandma Says — Weather Lore from Meteorologist Cindy Day) on the shelf with the elf and the two were intertwined for the rest of the holiday season.
Day also prefers multi-coloured lights, a real Christmas tree (none of those fake trees for the Day family) and finding gifts for her friends and family at the Alderney Landing Farmers Market. But we saved the most important question for last — will we have a white Christmas?
“No, unfortunately.” For you snow-lovers, don’t worry, it is the Maritimes after all, and the first thing you learn here is to ‘expect the unexpected.’
Cindy Day’s Bourbon Fruitcake
- 3 cups of sifted all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon of allspice
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- 1/2 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
- 1 cup of butter
- 1 1/4 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
- 3 eggs, lightly beaten
- 1/2 cup dark molasses
- 1/2 cup brewed black coffee
- 1/2 cup bourbon
- 3 cups of raisins
- 1 1/3 cup chopped red-candied cherries
- 1 1/3 cups chopped green-candied cherries
- 1 1/2 cups chopped citron
- 1 1/2 cups of dried pitted dates, chopped
- 3/4 cup candied orange peel, chopped
- 3/4 cup candied lemon peel, chopped
- 1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
- 1/2 cup currant jelly, melted
- 24 pecan halves
- 1/4 cup candied cherries halves
- Bourbon for soaking/ cheesecloth
- Preheat oven to 300°F. Grease two large (23 x 13 x 8 cm) loaf pans. Line bottom with waxed paper; grease the paper. Sift together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, allspice, salt and nutmeg. Set aside. Beat together butter and brown sugar in a large mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and flour mixture, molasses, coffee and bourbon. Fold in citron, red and green cherries, raisins, dates, orange and lemon peel and coarsely chopped pecans. Divide batter evenly between two pans. Bake on center rack of preheated oven for 2 to 2 1/2 hours. Remove cakes from pans to wire racks to cool. Brush with currant jelly. Arrange pecans and cherries on top to form a pretty flower. Wrap in cheesecloth soaked in bourbon. Seal and store.
PS: I like to make my cakes at least two months before Christmas. Then, every two weeks, I remove the cheesecloth from each cake, soak it in a bowl of Bourbon and wrap up the cake up again. I do this until Christmas.