Christmas starts in some stores right after the school bells ring in the fall with displays of things to buy for the holiday, so how can it sneak up on us so fast and catch us unaware?
If Christmas seems different, it is in many ways. There are so many things happening everywhere. One wonders what Christmas will be a like a hundred years from now. Can you imagine?
A large number of things have changed over the last 100 years. I remember when my grandmother talked about how they celebrated "back in her day.”
The Christmas tree was never decorated until the night before Christmas Day, and it was set up in one of the rooms that were shut off in winter to save heat. Grandpa and Grandma decorated the real tree - no artificial trees back then - and because there was no electricity, they used candles on the tree. Grandma said the lighting of the tree was really something special, and the kids were in awe of the spectacular sight, which of course could only be lit for a short time because of the fire danger.
Strings of popcorn, cranberries and paper chains and a few very special ornaments were also added. Walnuts were opened carefully so they could be glued back together, and with room for a wire loop added they were made into an ornament and put on the tree.
In Denmark, the young children’s shoes were put on a ledge with straw inside to cradle the contents and served as their Christmas stocking. The items were often a piece of fruit, some homemade cookies or rock candy. I am sure I may have told the story before about how my Grandma Hanson had gotten an orange in her stocking. Then she thought, "This was really something, I will try that again." She did, and the next night there was an apple. Thinking this was good and it would go on forever, she tried again. The greedy little girl was surprised to find the head, bones and tails of the fish that they had ate for supper the night before.
It was both a Christmas and a lesson she was never going to forget, or the rest of us for that matter as we heard the story. Those gifts from over a hundred years ago are quite a bit different than the Barbie cars, bicycles, iPads, and TVs that many kids of this decade would like to find in their Christmas stockings now.
In my parents’ day things were a little better, though my mom said many of the gifts were homemade or things that were needed for everyday living. Staple items like socks, pants, scarves and mittens were common. Though she will always remember the life-size rubber baby doll my grandma gave her that she called Peter, because she called everything "Peter" - the dog, the cat, the bird or whatever. My mother reports that today’s market has never produced a baby doll that remotely resembled it.
Another special gift my mother received through the years was a wooden cupboard made from a sugar box with C & H Sugar stamped on the back and equipped with 10-cent aluminum cookware from Woolworths. There was also a housecoat, long enough to touch the floor with big red and green flowers. Again, socks, mittens and caps were wrapped as gifts along with a family of hard little bite size cookies, or "pepper nuts" as they were called, that Great Grandma Christensen always made at Christmas time.
My Grandma and Grandpa Hanson always entertained her side of the family for Christmas Day, and it got to be quite a bunch because anyone else who wanted to join, did. Grandma was the cook and Grandpa was the driver because cars weren't as prevalent then, so many of the guests needed transportation. The double doors into the living room were opened for the occasion, and the old blue heating stove combined with all the body heat kept everyone warm. It was a time for playing the player piano, the old Edison Victrola after the tables were cleared. They played games of “spoons” and “old maid,” or their bunny kept everyone busy. Remember - there was no TV back then!
If the weather cooperated they played “fox and goose” and had snowball fights. They even played softball in the snow. The week between Christmas and New Year’s, one could expect Yule bokkers (sort of like adult "Trick or Treaters") who disguised themselves in outlandish garb and came in the middle of the night, wrestling people from their beds and seeking treats and things to drink and raising merriment by singing and dancing.
There were sleigh rides, jingle bells on the harnessed horses, skiing and sliding, and of course the biggest snowman possible. They also made homemade ice cream, turned by hand from real cream, and everyone would hardly wait for it to get done and they could pull out the paddle to taste the delicacy. Ice cream was a real treat then, and still is for some now.
I remember when our kids were small. They always delighted in having lots of things under the tree to open. I saved up every “necessary” item I could and wrapped them up so they would have lots of things under the tree. Yes, my kids got socks and underwear and crayons and coloring books, too. I remember a Christmas strike that threatened a gift holiday, and by coincidence one of the girls got the exact baby doll she wished for through the union center gifting toys for the kids. That many years ago, there were toy drives similar to the "toys for tots" of today except toys were often renovated, repainted and repaired.
Today, kids make out wish lists in stores, or give lists to parents and grandparents, and even write down where they can be found and the cost. Which really helps when one doesn't know what is "in" to buy.
How will Christmases be a hundred years from now? We will never know, but as long as there is humanity, I hope there is a Christmas. It will be there as long as we have faith and hope and never let them go.
I hope that they all continue to include at the top of their list each year that one special gift we will always need which was and still is Jesus, forever and ever.
Some of our Star Eagle readers have commented they like to read about events such as family and school reunions, birthdays and anniversaries, and birth and wedding announcements. In order to read about these important things we need our faithful readers to pass along the information to us.
This week’s birthdays and anniversaries include:
• Thursday December 26th: Nadine Strenge, Gerald Edwards, Tom Hanson, Joshua Kasper, Jill Peterson Otterbein, Nicklas Hanson
• Friday, December 27th: Sue Bailey Billbray, Colette Hemingway Moudy, Mikkel Iverson, Jamie Hagen, Scott Christensen, Carly Titus, Stacy Osmundson Titus, Ron Peterson, Shannon Peterson Pederson, Brad Bothum, Joe Anderson
• Saturday, December 28th: Hope Mikesell, Chad Toft, Tyler Titus, Charlie Marlin, Merrill Bunn, Laura & John Ortiz, Neil & Ellen Pence, Erin & John Christensen
• Sunday, December 29th: Maxx Greyson Richards, Maya Grace Richards, Gary Hunnicutt, Seth David Petranek, Brent Born, Craig Haberman, Darlene Underland, Benjamin Paulson, Whitey & La June Hagen, Amy & Joe Louks
• Monday, December 30th: Anita Casterton, Matt Christensen, Ryan Schrodt, Jane Simon, Lucille Goodnature, Jim Dobberstein, Gladys Peterson, Mark & Gail Skroch, David & Arianna Arends, Kyile & Rachel Aase
• Tuesday, December 31st: New Year’s Eve! Bailey Joy Ihrke, Bree Olivia Ihrke, Larry Paulsen, Dean Pospesel, Lynne Flor, Brent Wiersma, Brent Worrell, Isabelle Wayne, Dorothy & Adrian Kilian, Greg & Cindy Oswald, Larry & Elaine Howell
• Wednesday, January 1st: Happy New Year! Ross Aronson, Elmer Dobberstein, Jerry Seath, Larry Schwartz, Amanda Beach, Lois & Duane Aitchison
• Thursday, January 2nd: Grace Jolie Wangen, Brian Bedney, Jay Crabtree, Mark Dobberstein, David Lageson, Brenda Wayne, Aaron Nelson, John & Lorraine Lent, Kelsey (Wayne) & Matt Duncomb
• Friday, January 3rd: Jerret Utpadel, Andrea Avery, Stan Nelson
• Saturday, January 4th: Sophie Elizabeth Stork, Kelsey Christensen, Delphine Pence, Jeff Cornelius, Dennis Hill, Monty Mrotz, Jeremy Nelson, Corey Johnson, John Butler
With each passing year, grow stronger, grow wiser, and grow richer in spirit. May the year ahead be filled with new discoveries!