Childhood Christmas memories

Part II

Next morning the Christmas feast was prepared and served at noon, following the 11 a.m. church service. This was when Mama let out all the stops as the table was heaped with lutefisk, mashed potatoes, sil, melted butter, home-canned corn (from our field to the north), bread kringle, rice pudding, lefse, rømmegrøt and sandbakkels.

The Christmas celebration lasted for the days of Epiphany. The second day of Christmas, Dec. 26, was only slightly less important than the 25th. On this evening the Sunday School program took place back at the church. Miss Nordby held the position of Sunday School superintendent for many years, followed by another long-term, long-suffering woman by the name of Miss Bella Sheveland. Neither of these women had ever been married or had children, but they certainly knew how to control a bunch of guilt-filled Lutheran children. Our mothers made surplices for us to wear out of bleached-white cotton dishtowels, with a hole in the middle for the head to go through. We wore those over our new Christmas outfits. We all carried lighted candles, and when we received the signal that the program was to start, we all rushed up the basement stairs and jammed up against the closed door that was bodily guarded on the other side by the deacon. How we ever escaped burning, as the candles just missed the long curls cascading down our backs, I’ll never know. Finally, we marched down the aisle like the little angels that our parents expected to see, lined up in front of the church and sang the Christmas hymns. The offering procession took us up to the front of the church again, this time to and around the back of the altar. We untied the nickel from the corner of our hankie and dropped it on the left side of the altar. What happened in the journey behind the altar was a lot of pulling of our curls by the boys, tickling and pinching. Sometimes the children came charging out the other side of the altar and had to really put on the brakes in order to drop another nickel for the deacon on the right side of the altar. As we left the church to return home, the church trustees were lined up at the door to hand out bags of unshelled peanuts, and Christmas candy and an apple to all the children.

The rest of the days of Christmas were filled with sledding and iceskating on the river, with card parties, and general “visiting” during the nights. And of course, there was Julebakking. This is the Norwegian custom of dressing up crazy, wearing masks, and caroling in groups outside homes with the hopes of being invited inside for cookies and coffee.

When Epiphany ended the ornaments were boxed up for another year, the tree was taken outside to be stuck into a snow bank, and everyone settled down for the long wait for winter’s end and the seeds of spring thoughts to take root.