Christmas Memories

Electronic mail message from Homer Rudolf, Richmond, Virginia

During the holiday seasons I know that many of us think back to earlier celebrations with our family, and the family traditions that were observed. That also prompts many of us to wonder what the Christmas holidays were like for our ancestors in South Russia, and what traditions were observed there.

I do recall, with some trepidation, that when I was young the trees in our church and in our home both had real candles that were lit at special times. Although, I wouldn’t think of using candles today, I often wish that I still had one of those little candle holders that clipped onto the branches of the tree. The Bergdorf Lutheran Church was the first among the Glueckstal Colonies to have electronically controlled gas lights – installed in time for Christmas 1908. Somehow, I’m sure that they still used candles on their Christmas tree that year.

Some of you remember having the “Belzenickel” and the “Christkindl “visit your homes on Christmas Eve. In our community, when company came to visit during the Christmas holiday period, the hostess invariably said: “Well, let’s have some “Christkindl”.” What happened then was that cookies, hard candy, etc. were brought out, and everyone gathered around the table to munch away and make “Maistub!”

Here’s my list of the special things prepared at our house for the Christmas holidays: Various cookies (Ammonia, Pfeffernuesse, Date Pinwheel, Plantation Creme, and prune-filled cookies whose name I don’t remember), Popcorn Balls, Blachenda, Kuchen with various toppings, and, of course, we always managed to buy some “Halva” at one of the local stores. Before we had our own freezer, the unheated “Vorheisl” was a great North Dakota substitute.

There was always the Christmas Eve program, planned and directed by the Sunday School teachers, and every child was included in the program. After the program, children received paper bags containing nuts, candy and fruit. One year my seven brothers and sisters and myself did not receive bags of goodies. That was the first time we knew that our parents paid for the bags. That year their order got messed up, and we received the bags the next day!

Mom and Dad said that often the only gift they received at Christmas was an orange. Somehow, as we were growing up, Mom and Dad managed to get up in the middle of the night to put the gifts under the tree – and we never caught them! The first kid to wake up in the morning would creep downstairs to check out the tree, and then would wake everyone else up.

A Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all on behalf of Margaret Freeman, Connie Dahlke and myself!

Homer Rudolf

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