Community is so important!
The phrase ‘country social’ probably hasn’t been used for long time. It used to mean a gathering or event for neighbors to get together, and was usually some kind of celebration.
For any country farm, the neighboring community is so important to its survival. Community meant a neighbor lending a hand, going into town to purchase needed groceries or supplies. It also likely included selling produce, wood (in the old days) or grain. It could be visiting cousins or other neighbors in the community and helping on community projects. There was a lot of hard work, but also taking time to share the joys and tribulations through social visits and community events was very critical to the community.
We were fortunate enough to live about 20 miles from a lake in south east Saskatchewan. Here’s a picture of my grandparents and aunts/uncles on one of their social outings. What a lovely day it must have been!
My mother talked about the New Finland dance hall where they had many events in the good old days. Pioneer Life back then included gathering together with family and neighbors whenever you could.
Our farm was in the ‘New Finland’ community, a settlement of about 150 families who immigrated to Canada from Finland. Part of that community was of course the New Finland Lutheran Church and annual Midsummer events. The annual church picnic, also known as St. John’s picnic or Juhannus picnic was always memorable. It was a day full of hotdogs, kids games and baseball, ending with fresh Saskatoon pies and on some years a Kokko (bonfire)!
The church was and still is the center of the community, although with the size of farms being so large these days, there is definitely a smaller number of Finnish families living there still.
Of course, every country community has a graveyard or two. All of my ancestors who came over from Finland and their children, and my parents are buried in the either of the two cemeteries in the community. Some day I will join them!
We are all immigrants
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that our farm was one of many homesteads provided to immigrant families under the Homestead Act. The land was originally Indigenous territory taken over by the federal government, at least 30 years before my family arrived in Canada in 1902. It saddens me that growing up we were not more aware of the history, as well as what was going on under our very noses in local residential schools. Hopefully after all of these years some healing can take place once the full extent of those atrocities are investigated.
The one room school house was an important part of country life for children. Many did not graduate all the way from Grade 12, including my father. My mother didn’t quite finish her Grade 12 at the country school, but finally graduated as a an adult.
Schools were an important part of the community and brought neighbors together. They even had track and field events for the country schools to compete against the town schools.
The history of the Finnish community in Saskatchewan is well documented including family stories. As well, our relatives in Finland have also well documented lineage lines and family stories.
Since the farms were so close together in those days, it made sense that they visited each other regularly, helped each other when needed and often the families children married. My parents both went to the same country schoolhouse, and lived on farms 2 miles apart.
I always knew my relatives travelled through Ishpeming, Michigan, but never knew how many relatives I had there. Turns out I am related to probably 500 cousins in that area! Hopefully I can make a trip there sometime as there is a lot of Finnish history in that area.
I have also been researching my connections to Finland, and have made several trips to Finland over the last 30 years. There, I was able to connect with relatives, participate in reunions, practice my Finnish and explore the culture and country of Finland. If you haven’t already, I recommend gathering as much information as you can while relatives are still alive. This will allow you to make those connections, understand where you came from and even surprise you with facts you didn’t know!
My Finnish roots combined with my Country roots have definitely molded my view on what is important in life, family, connection to the land, good food, honest hard work and enjoying life!
More Country Social!
One of the country traditions that I miss is the ability to just ‘stop in’ and visit your neighbor. The coffee pot was always on, baking was always ready. If the visit lasted longer, a quick and easy meal was abundantly available. Who wouldn’t love a meal with all the home-grown vegetables, fresh poultry, beef or pork, or even deer meat (in season of course). Not to mention garden potatoes from the root cellar, and canned jars of fruit for dessert! If we were lucky our mom used to make her apple crumble. Here is my latest Finnish Blueberry Pie (Mustikkapiirakka) (also under Recipes).
I always remember our parents’ housewarming. About 25 cars just showed up at our ‘newer’ farmhouse on a neighboring farm recently purchased. Neighbors and friends brought food, drink and gifts, quite the celebration!
In our Finnish community we also had the annual Juhannus picnic, celebrating St. John’s birthday as many Finns do around the world. It is also the beginning of summer, another great reason for a Country Social!
I cherish my grandparents pioneer life and early beginnings on the farm and am grateful for the grounded and hardwork ethic it gave me. The country social events brought community and families together and will forever be special memories to me.