Christmas Traditions of the Mehlhaff Family of Oregon

Electronic email message from Connie Jo Mehlhoff, Salem, Oregon

My Father's Grandparents were born in Neudorf, Kassel and Alexanderhilf, Russia. My Grandmother Elizabeth was born in North Dakota, and my Grandfather Otto in Pierre, South Dakota. Christmas was always a special time for us kids with our Grandparents and family. On Christmas Eve, my Grandparents would first visit my Aunt Olene and Uncle Lyle and their three children. My Grandmother had spent the previous days baking our favorite, "Kuga", baking anywhere from 10-20 of these wonderful epicurean German delights!! After the gift exchange and devouring of the "Kuga" and the usual family conversations, my Grandparents hopped into their vintage aqua VW "Bug" and rambled across town to our house. The three of us kids would sit anxiously in front of our 7 foot window, trying to see who could first see the VW pull into the driveway and scream "they're here!!!" it was then a race to open the front door to greet my Grandparents! Coats and hats didn't come off first before all of the hugs and kisses were dispersed. The "Kuga" was then sliced and devoured and on-going compliments to the baker bestowed upon her! Nobody could bake the "Kuga" but my Grandmother, and it was always wonderful. She made: prune, cottage cheese, pear, and our favorite, apple. The process of exchanging of gifts began all over again, my Grandparents smiling and chuckling over gift wrap being thrown here and there. My Grandmother was a very good seamstress, and for Christmas she always made clothing and quilts for my dolls. After my Grandparents left for home, we then went to my Norwegian Aunts home for more food which consisted of a few Norwegian dishes, potato salad, ham and other goodies. Usually my Uncles Sister and her family were also there, it was a delightful house full. We usually went caroling and played games like Monopoly. My Uncles sister, Jeannie usually took us caroling. On Christmas Day, all of us, from in-laws to "out-laws" all converged at my Aunt and Uncles home for a wonderful dinner of ham, cabbage, potatoes, homemade bread, pickles and if we were lucky, left over "Kuga". The basement in my Aunts home was turned over to us kids. We roller-skated, rode tricycles, played games and had the best time of our lives, while upstairs the adults played pinochle. Every year it was a tradition to pick a child that had utilized his or her best manners to dine at the adult table. It was quite an honor to be able to sit between my aunts mother in law and my Grandmother and be asked to say the table blessing. I am older now, and my beloved Grandparents are no longer living. The baking of the traditional "Kuga" is now up to me. I appreciate more than ever what my Grandmother did for us by baking so many "Kuga". She did it out of love for us. I was extremely lucky to have grown up in a family that was close and extremely loving, all the way around. I hope to pass along family traditions to my nieces and nephews so that someday, they too will be able to pass to their own children the traditions and heritage that is rightfully theirs.

Merry Christmas and God Bless all of you!

CJ Mehlhoff

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