Christmas Traditions: My Childhood Memories

By Jerry M. Richter, Jamestown, North Dakota

Reading Martha [Gaetz] Woijtowicz response caused me to remember our Christmas Traditions:

Christmas was a time of delicious smells emanating from the kitchen, as Mom began holiday preparations of pies, cakes, cookies and homemade candies.

The central tradition at our house was going to Christmas Eve's Midnight Mass. I still remember the front of the church with live Christmas trees and the Nativity scene. I can still smell the scent of pine trees. Even with no lights nor tree ornaments, everything was so beautiful; plus the music sung by the St. James Academy Choir. [I would in later years try out for the choir, only to have Sister Camillus take me aside and say to me, "Jerome, God is gracious to all his children and gives each one special gifts and talents. But I am sorry to say that the gift of singing is not one of the many gifts, which he has given you.] A very short-lived musical career for me!!!

In those days the Mass was still said in Latin. After Mass when we had returned home, we always had oyster stew, with those neat little oyster crackers. [This was not a favorite of my three sisters and I, but we would labor through this tradition.] Our parents absolutely loved this treat.

Christmas Day was the culmination of suspense: completing our morning chores and making sure all animals had extra feed and bedding. It was time to cleanup, to finish breakfast, and to see what Santa had brought us.

My sisters and I would wear out pages of the Sears wish-book, hoping Santa would bring us our hearts' desires. We usually got one item of our many desires: The proverbial shirt, blouse, hankies, etc. ... And always a book from Dad. He fully believed that we could lay the world at our feet, from the pages of a book. A sentiment we didn't quite share, yet he never knew our thoughts.

And always the fresh, fresh fruit: Oranges, apples, and bananas. I can still taste those fruit! It was such a treat!

Also, for us children was the big bag of mixed nuts. Even today, some fifty-plus years later, I still try to open a Brazil nut without demolishing the nut meat. I succeed more often now, than those early years.

Christmas Day saw all of our aunts, uncles, and cousins for the Christmas Dinner. Although times were very tough as I realize now, at that time the world just seemed right. Us kids never realized that we were poor. We had each other [to cherish]! And the love of family will blot out many flaws ... well, maybe not the set of Lincoln Logs. What the heck! There was always my birthday coming up in three months... or next Christmas.

Meanwhile, we siblings fought over ribbon candy and those chocolate stars, shaped like a Hershey kiss. But my siblings and I had our secret stashes, which held us for a week or more.

Beautiful memories! But I am not so sure that I would want to relive them again. These beautiful memories have a way of blotting out times that were not so great. But good memories stir my heart at this Season of Hope and Joy. Merry Christmas and a Happy and Prosperous New Year to Everyone.

Permission to use any images from the GRHC website may be requested by contacting Michael M. Miller