Historically Speaking: Old time excitement at Christmas time
Children were always excited when the Holidays were near, anticipating the days of Christmas vacation and the holiday excitement! Gifts were usually hand made by members of the family or one gift was bought for each family member. Gifts were decided on early in the season, sometimes even the summer before, and time was set aside for work on these gifts. I especially remember one Christmas when I was around six or seven years old. We were snowed in and no hope of being plowed out so my parents decided my father, brother and I would cross the river on skis, then on Hwy. 47 we would surely get a ride with a neighbor into town, buy the few gifts we had on our list and find a way back home. Just as a neighbor kindly stopped, my father realized he did not have his billfold. He told us to go on and he would go back for his money, catch a ride and meet up with us in town. I felt terrible but accepted the ride. Soon we met up with my father. We shopped for the desired gifts and I bought two Christmas tree decorations that I have to this day; a shiny Santa Claus and a blue and gold sparkling half ball.
For decorations in the house we picked ground pine for making wreaths and stringing around the windows and doors. One year our Christmas tree was cut down on our land by my father when he was done with work. Even though it was cut in the dark, it was the most beautiful tree we ever had in our home! In the winter we heated the living room where our Christmas tree had an honored place and we could spend many hours near it playing games, enjoying gifts and reading books.
We made homemade decorations for our tree and used store bought ones. Empty walnut shells were covered with tin foil and a small hanger attached. We made cookies flavored with anise, cut-outs shaped like various animals were frosted and gingerbread figures were also decorated and placed on the tree. An angel with gossamer wings was at the top of the tree and I now use this beautiful angel above my own nativity scene. Real candles were placed in tin holders that fit around the branches – they were carefully lit for a few moments on Christmas Eve. One of the highlights of the Christmas preparations was an annual trek to the McNaughton store. Here we purchased special candies for decorations on the tree, cherries on a wire and pink sugared strawberries.
I must have been around five or six and believed in Santa Claus when my whole world tumbled down. My parents taught us the real and sacred meaning of Christmas, but in school I had picked up the idea of “Santa.” My parents were from Denmark and had explained to me the Christmas Nisse. However, my father went along with the American fun of “Santa” and on Christmas Eve we were told to stay in the kitchen as our gifts were arriving. My brother suggested that I peek through the keyhole and as I heard this gruff voice say, “ho, ho, ho,” I saw to my dismay my father coming in the porch door with packages. I was confused, and you can be sure my brother was scolded for his part in my confusion.
Food at Christmas time was the greatest of all! My mother made fruit cakes and gave these as gifts to neighbors and friends. There was a favorite fruit cake called her “yum-yum” cake which she made each year. I now make this cake for my family. Christmas dinner usually consisted of venison or roast beef complete with cranberry sauce, a dressing made with prunes and apples for a special treat, and Danish sweet and sour cabbage. Holiday dinners were a special treat with so many of our favorites all in one meal. As a child, we never realized how we would look back on our childhood in later years and savor the feelings, sights, taste, smells and atmosphere in general associate with the special way our individual families celebrated the Christmas holidays. Enjoy your own memories of the past, and Christmas 2014!