For the past 24 years, Horsefly has been been celebrating Christmas in true Cariboo style: with their Old-Fashioned Christmas.
Bringing upwards of 200 people together, the community gathered in the community hall for a home-cooked Christmas dinner of ham, turkey and stuffing that tastes like what you remember your grandmother making.
On Dec. 9, two floors of the community hall were taken up by happy humans chatting and celebrating the season.
“It’s just an event that brings everybody together and it lets the kids see Santa Claus,” said John Hollan, one of the organizers.
As dinner finished, tables were pulled to the walls and the upstairs gallery was transformed into a concert hall, resplendent with a Christmas tree decorated onstage.
Local talent took to the stage to entertain the crowd with renditions of Christmas carols and even an ode to Horsefly itself. While the performers had the mic, music could be heard from all corners of the hall as the crowd joined.
The Old-Fashioned Christmas was started in Horsefly in 1993, when the school was unable to do a Christmas concert. Several local citizens took what had been the annual concert into their own hands and decided they were doing a Christmas dinner and concert for everyone instead.
“It’s good for the community spirit,” said Hollan, who has been involved since the beginning.
“You get a lot of support from people that you would never dream of and everybody is fantastic about coming out and doing their bit for it,” he said.
The evening takes about 25-30 people to run the event, which takes about four weeks to organize, thanks to the Horsefly Community Club.
To end the concert portion of the evening, the Kids Choir of Horsefly took to the stage to sing two Christmas carols: Santa Claus is Coming to town, and Jingle Bells — a Horsefly tradition to call in Santa Claus.
“The first year I was up here I thought the hall was going to collapse,” said Hollan of the young singers who have called in Santa since the beginning.
It took two tries at the song and a little help from the spectators before the children’s Christmas spirit called Santa and Mrs. Claus into the hall.
Every Horsefly child had the chance to whisper in Santa’s ear and come away with a goodie bag, while others prepped the second part of the evening.
Celebraters filtered out of the hall and towards the school yard, where a bonfire managed by the Horsefly Volunteer Fire Department was set up near the outdoor Christmas tree, wagon rides did rounds beyond the school and hot chocolate and apple cider were served as quickly as a kettle could boil.
Residents chatted, enjoying this year’s mild evening and gathering together in a tradition that is sure to continue as long as there are volunteers around to organize it.
“It’s the community organizations that make this place,” says Hollan. “It’s a fantastic community to live in. There’s no place better.”