Christmas Memories

We asked our Senior Perspective readers to submit a story about their favorite Christmas gift or their favorite Christmas memory. We received more than 30 stories.


My favorite Christmas memory

By Dolores Peters of Mountain Lake


My favorite Christmas memory was when I was five years old in 1940. I remember my dad sitting in his wooden rocker listening to Kate Smith sing her Christmas hits on our console radio.


Mom had purchased a tree for 39 cents and dad whittled the trunk down to fit in her vinegar jug. This was our tree stand until I graduated from high school.


We never had gifts under our tree until Christmas morning. Mom told us to put our old toys in the closet because when Santa came -- if he saw we had toys, he wouldn’t leave us any! So you can rest assured we hid our old toys!


We left out cookies and milk for Santa and sure enough, the next morning only crumbs were left on the plate and the glass of milk was empty!


Christmas morning when we came downstairs there were wall to wall presents! In front of the tree were three doll buggies with Horsemen Dolls in each! My two sisters had red hair, so their dolls had red hair. I was blond, so of course my doll had blonde hair! There were lots of other toys and gifts for us. We always had memorable Christmases! There were six children in my family, and my parents didn’t have much, but they always saw to it that we had new Christmas dresses and new shoes -- all new underwear and socks, too!


Each of us got a paper bag filled with nuts in the shell, peanuts, chocolate bon bons, an apple, orange and Mound candy bar.


Mom always made white fudge with salted peanuts in it and also fudge. Over night cookies were a favorite of hers, and popcorn balls!


We always left our tree up until the middle of January, and of course had to dismantle it -- tinsel and all! We put the tinsel on a piece of cardboard so we could reuse it the next year.


We would get a Christmas catalog from the Our Own Hardware store and we had it in shreds before Christmas-- looking and wishing! This catalog never came until December.


I have lots of great Christmas memories!


Meeting Mr. Claus

By Gay A. Ekberg of Herman

Gay Ekberg meets Santa as a little girl at the movie theater. Contributed photo

A vivid memory for me includes Santa Claus. I believed in how wonderful Santa was, to bring gifts of our choice and to be working on them all year long. And then to think he came flying across the sky in a sleigh pulled by reindeer. And once, I found their paw prints in the snow on Christmas morning beside our home. How could he do it all? It was all just so wonderful to a little girl on a farm where gifts only came at birthdays or Christmas. How I wished I could stay awake to see him deliver the packages by the Christmas tree. However, I was well aware that he observed all our behaviors and he kept that “naughty” and “nice” list. Well, I couldn’t always be good, but the day before Christmas I could manage to be nearly perfect, and that is what he would surely recall. Well, my mother took me to see Santa Claus at the Morris Theatre. Children were making their requests to him where he sat in the sunken lounge off to the side of the concession stand area. I was so excited to see him. However, as I drew near to him, reality set in. He knew everything I’d done, and I knew sometimes I was surely on the “naughty list” and it became terribly embarrassing to come face to face with someone who knew all that I’d done for a whole year. By the time I got to his lap, I was in tears with humiliation and could not even talk. Far be it for me to make a request from him. I was only 3 ½ years old. But what an impression it had on me!


Caught in a storm

By Jean Lemmon of Buffalo

My dad was a milkman. He would often take me on his door to door routes and tell me stories of his nice, and not so nice, customers. Christmas was the most colorful and exciting time of all. Windows were sparkling with artificial stars, icicles, snow and garland. The majestic evergreen tree would take center stage framed by the red and white holiday decorations.

It was his nice customers who always made our Christmas so special every year. Mrs. Patterson would leave tins of homemade divinity and fudge by her empty milk bottles. Mrs. Worner would carefully wrap a box of chocolate covered cherries. They were my dad’s favorite. He would discover popcorn balls, frosted Christmas cookies, and a fruit cake or two. He always shared the fudge and cookies with me as he knew they were my favorites.

Just before Christmas one year, dad had to go on a farm route to pick up some cream from his rural supplier. I was never allowed to go on the rural routes with him. It was a blustery, cold morning as he pulled the truck out of the creamery’s garage. Eventually the weather transformed into a blizzard.


My mom was worried. It was late and dad hadn’t come home yet. It was 1947, and we had no phone in our house. When bedtime rolled around, my older brother, age 8, and myself, 5, saw my mother crying. She tried to hide her fear from us, but we all felt it. She even let us sleep in bed with her for some form of comfort.


The next morning the sun was shining brightly on the new snow. And dad walked in our door! He told of getting stuck on a rural snow covered road and walking to the nearest farmhouse for shelter through the night.


It was a special Christmas that year. Mom made a double batch of lefse, and dad didn’t forget to put a silver dollar in our stockings. I helped mom make red and green anise candy to add to our overloaded supply of seasonal sweets.


Soon discarded Christmas trees with trails of silver tinsel appeared on snow covered lawns along dad’s route. It was the beginning of a new year, but no Christmas was as warm and exciting as the Christmas of 1947.

Christmas with new family

By Marty Meyer-Gad of Mankato

Christmas 1973 remains my best Christmas. Separating from the convent, after 13 years, left me homeless. In June a friend linked me to a family in Joliet, Illinois that was willing to take me in. The husband had started his own cabinet company with the help of his wife, who worked nights. They had three children. I helped wherever I could.


As the school year approached a friend found me a key punch job, despite the fact I flunking typing. In these pre-personal computer days, every Friday I ran my punch cards through the computer across town for $75 a minute. I checked for errors. If I had a significant number of errors I redid the errant cards and reran the report. Ironically, I made $75 a week which went into the family account minus a few dollars for my expenses.


As Christmas approached we all gathered together to discuss what aspect of Christmas we cherished the most. Snowflakes adorned the windows. Delightfully the volunteer tree trimmers placed the most treasure ornaments front and center but too high for the dog or youngest to disrupt. Some of us went out caroling. We went to the Christmas Eve services.


Christmas morning the smell of breakfast wafting through the house drew everyone. After a hearty breakfast we moved to the living room while singing carols. The kids understood the family’s financial circumstances so weren’t expecting much. Thus they didn’t rush to the presents under the tree.


I had searched for gifts for everyone, none costing more than a dollar. Leisurely we opened the gifts with the children showing sincere appreciation even for the homemade ones from their siblings. I received a treasured ponytail barrette.


Leisurely we made a feast from church donations, ending the evening with joyous singing and prayers.


Presents after the chores

By Geneva Jorgenson of Buffalo

My family lived on a farm, far up in northern Minnesota. We were very poor; something I didn’t realize until later. Somehow, in spite of the lack of money, our parents were able to

give us a fun and exciting Christmas.


On Christmas Eve, at bedtime, we would put our plates on the table. Santa would fill the plate with candy, nuts and an apple and an orange. And beside the plate was a gift.


But that was not the best part of Christmas for me. A week or so before the holiday, dad would take us to the next town where there was a 5 and 10 cent store. We each were given $1 and with that we had to buy five gifts for the rest of our family.


We walked up and down the aisles and were awed with all the treasures we could choose from.


Would sister Jean like a comb or a card of bobby pins? So many decisions to make.


After the decisions were made and we got home it was the fun and excitement of wrapping them. We had to make sure no one was peeking as we found old wrapping paper, saved year after year, and used over and over. Then we needed a piece of string to tie it shut. lt was so exciting to see the gifts pile up under the tree. And then on Christmas morning we had to wait until the barn chores were done before we could open them. lt seemed to take forever. That was the best part of Christmas for me.

Gift of a sister

By Linda Huff of Glencoe

The very best Christmas for me was when I was 10 years old. My mom was pregnant with my sister. I already had a little brother, which I wasn’t really thrilled with.


Back then you didn’t know what you were going to have until the baby was born.


My mom went into labor on Christmas Eve day. And on Christmas day my baby sister was born. To this day I can’t remember what Santa brought me that year. I had a sister. I was over the moon. I had a live baby to take care of. What a Christmas present!!


P.S. And she still is a present!

Best Christmas Ever

By Bev Bundermann of Chaska

Several years ago, I got the very bright idea to invite husband Cal’s two sisters, Nina (with husband Sonny) from northern Minnesota, and Donna from Texas, to our home in Chaska for a Bundermann family Christmas.


The three kids had not all been together for Christmas since being home on the farm years ago as children. Donna was so excited when I called to invite her. I said it would be a surprise for her sister Nina that she was coming from Texas. HUSH!

We picked Donna up from the airport the day before Nina and Sonny were coming from up north. Knowing their approximate arrival time, we hid Donna’s belongings and sent her to a neighbor’s house.


After they arrived and settled in, we called Donna to come back. The doorbell rang, and Nina was asked to answer as we were busy in the kitchen. Donna exclaimed, “Merry Christmas! Is this where the party’s at?” Nina screamed in delight, hugged her sister Donna tight, tears streaming down her face. She proclaimed, “This is the biggest surprise of my life!”


We cannot recall what all we did together during those special days we shared. We just remember that love, joy, holiday cheer and togetherness outweighed any material trappings of the season.


Donna will be enjoying her first Christmas in heaven this year. Someday we will all be together again for Jesus’ birthday party, and that will be the greatest celebration of them all!!



By the time the Schwinn was sold in 2013, the classic horn and light were gone, but the paint was still original. Contributed photo
Dan Hovland of WIllmar received a brand new Schwinn Hornet bike in for Christmas in 1961. Contributed photo

Christmas Surprise

By Dan Hovland of Willmar

In the spring of 1961 my older brother won a brand new Schwinn Hornet bicycle. It was radiant red in color, complete with horn on the tank, fender light and luggage carrier. He did not have time for it, so he let me use the bike. Being 11 at the time, I was happy to take it on countless adventures up and down the gravel roads by our farm. That fall I was told the bike had been sold! Needless to say, I felt crushed as my dad hauled it away.


Christmas came and one of my gifts was a mysterious cylindrical package. In the wrapped toilet paper roll was a note that told me to look in the bedroom. There was the Schwinn, mine to keep! That bike provided more than 50 years of adventures!


Best Christmas Present

By Mary Lou Pederson of Willmar

I was a teenager in the early to mid 60s. About the age of 15, my legs started sprouting all of this ugly hair. I was a blonde, so at first it didn’t bother me. By the age of 16 (in 1964), it was definitely bothering me.


I came from a poor family. The needs of seven children were constant. I felt so helpless. What do I use to get rid of all of this unsightly hair? A scissors? This sounded painful, so I resigned myself to having hairy legs. I didn’t bother to ask for things as that was a hopeless cause. I learned early on not to ask.


This was definitely an embarrassing situation in the days of white bobby socks. Knee-highs weren’t the in-thing yet. I shrugged my shoulders, grinned and beared it. How bad was this situation going to get by the end of my school years? I lived in a small town. There weren’t after-school jobs to be had. I had a driver’s license, but I had no car to drive.


The Christmases I had growing up always centered more around certain foods, but not gifts. My dad would always buy a tub of herring and a chocolate volcano-like candy with a filling so sweet my teeth would cringe at the first bite. I avoided those like the plague. I liked the molasses, chocolate covered candy he always bought at Christmas time. My Mother would bake these out-of-the-world tasting sugar cookies and date bars. She would get up at dawn, stuff the turkey and get it in the oven. Christmas dinner was always filled with wonderful foods that we never had, apart from holidays.


We would attend the Christmas Eve service at our Lutheran church and we would come home to our traditional German meal, a yeast coffee cake, covered on the top with cinnamon and sugar and homemade dinner rolls. That was our Christmas Eve meal. Talk about carbs! But those sweetbreads were absolutely delicious. Then we would wash the dishes and sit down and open presents, such as they were.


We would usually get one or two smaller presents like socks, underwear or hankies and one larger present. I only remember getting one gift for Christmas that year. It was a rather small box. It had a little weight to it. I opened it up and was dumbfounded. In my hands sat a pink and white Schick razor. I couldn’t believe it. How did she know I wanted one so badly? Maybe she was tired of looking at my hairy legs too! I don’t know, but I was overjoyed.


This is no fabrication. I finally retired that Schick razor when I was 50 years old. The last few years it started losing power until it finally died completely. I grieved the loss of my Schick razor as though I would have grieved the loss of an old friend. I wondered what was even on the market in 1998. I found a new razor. It wasn’t made by Schick. It lasted two years and I had to find a replacement for that one too.


That Schick razor was a much-needed and much appreciated gift. You know something? That Schick razor was the only present I remember getting for Christmas through all of my childhood and teen years, but what a memory!

What a surprise!

By Doug Bengtson of Wood Lake

My Greatest Christmas story goes as follows. Back in 1983 we bought a 1979 pickup. It was a three-fourth ton, which we needed to carry our heavy camper. We found one that was used with low mileage and we drove it for 20 years. To start out with we were short a little money to pay for it and had to go to the bank and borrow. The following year my wife told me she had a Christmas present that was too big to put under the tree. You can imagine my mind went wild trying to figure it out. To my surprise I never thought of the fact that it could have been “paying off the truck.” The gift came in an envelope. It was the title for the truck, paid in full. She had put in extra work and paid it off in full. The day finally came when I had to sell the truck, but the memory has stuck with me all these years. For me that was the greatest Christmas present I could ever get. And what a surprise. You cannot beat that for a surprise present.

A Christmas keepsake

By Jean Erickson of Sunburg

Christmas Eve my dad would use the pretext of having to feed the reindeer sugar lumps and hold their reins for Santa. While Mom and us three kids huddled in a bedroom, hyped with anticipation, Pa would be very busy decorating the tree and arranging the gifts. After a knock on the window by Santa we assembled in the kitchen to answer the truth-bending question, “Have you been a good little girl?” or in the case of my two younger brothers: “good boy?” He’d shake our hands and excuse himself to be on his way. My dad used to don a Santa mask and wear this WWII wool overcoat to perpetuate the fantasy of Santa.


When Pa returned from his reindeer duties we were allowed to enter the front room. The excitement heightened with the visions of bubble lights, glass ornaments and silver icicles adorning the tree accented by the smell of fresh pine boughs. Presents weren’t wrapped, but somehow Pa knew which kid got what. Hanging on the doorknob was a light blue short sleeve dress with silver threads woven in to create a plaid look. Also on display was a grownup looking nightie adorned with a rosebud applique. I was really surprised by these two items but overwhelmed by the gold banded wristwatch encased in a clear protective box. I still have this as a keepsake memory 63 years later!

For every bell that rings…

By Sharon Craig of Granite Falls

Another angel has its wings!” Jimmy Stewart played the role of George Bailey in the movie It’s a Wonderful Life. George had a guardian angel name Clarence. He gave George Bailey all the reasons why he had a wonderful life and what would have happened if he had not been born…


A family member provided a real “wonderful life” story that needs to be told.

When a young boy named Harvey went to go fishing with his older brother, Arbie, and a friend named Mike, no one could know that on that particular day a set of events would be put into motion that would profoundly change so many lives.


The boys all went fishing that day. Harvey slipped and fell into the water. According to Arbie, the water was about 18 to 20 feet deep in that area. Mike saw him going down and reached in and grabbed Harvey by the hair and hung on until they could get him out of the water. Harvey said his hair hurt so bad he couldn’t shampoo it for a week. Mike had saved Harvey’s life.


When Harvey was about 16 or 17 years old, he saw from the hillside that a young girl had fallen into the opening in the ice by the ice cutting house at the dam. He ran down the hill and when the young girl came up through the opening, he grabbed her and pulled her out. Norma, the young girl, was so scared and wet.


She told me she had already gone down once and came up to a roof of ice over her. When she went down a second time and came up, the hole was miraculously there and her hero, Harvey, pulled her out of the freezing water and saved her.


Harvey was saved by a young boy, so he would be there to save a young girl when she faced certain death. We can never know the full worth of our lives. However, sometimes we are given a slight glimpse as to why we are here. It is this writer’s firm belief that we are always exactly where God wants us to be at any given time. We may question and doubt that theory, but Harvey and Norma’s story bears out this belief.


So, during this holiday season, please know all of us have a grand purpose for being here. Sometimes it is very obvious and sometimes it is not always so clear. Whatever your life story is, remember how it would impact all those around you if you had not been born. Value what you have, and do what you can for all the loved ones around you. Please know that teachers, coaches, spouses, family, and friends are all people who lead us toward our purpose in life.


Also remember during this holiday season that love never loses its way home, and home is where all our stories begin.


Christmas Skates

By Marilyn Brinkman of St. Joseph

Where, oh, where are the Christmas presents hidden? That seemed to be our mantra every year as Christmas approached. And at age nine and eleven, my sister Sally and I began our quest to find “the place.”


We had hinted, suggested, and prayed for roller skates. We managed to be alone in the house one Saturday. I’m from a very large family (15) so this was no easy chore. In my brothers’ upstairs bedroom was an attic. We suspected that was where the presents were hidden.


Like the sleuths we were, we quickly noticed that the forbidden attic door in the ceiling had been recently opened. We were told that if we ever entered it, the ceiling would fall down.


Too short to reach the opening, we improvised. With optimism and determination, we managed to push an iron bedstead under the opening and Sally climbed on top. Balancing precariously, she opened the door and pulled herself into the hole. The ceiling did not fall down. After a few minutes she threw two pairs of roller skates down to me—silver and shiny with white leather straps.


We strapped them over our shoes and began skating around the room, laughing, screaming, falling and giggling.


Mother obviously heard the racket. She slid into the room and asked us to remove the skates then showed us the tracks we had made in the floor. She pulled a ladder out of the closet and put the skates back. We stood in the corner shivering and wondering what our punishment would be.


Mother told us that we had disobeyed her and since it was no longer a surprise, we would not be getting the skates for Christmas and it was too late to get us anything else.


That week Sally and I washed dishes, scrubbed floors, tried to remove the scratches in the upstairs room, and helped with the smaller children. The silence from mother was terrible punishment.


Christmas Eve Sally and I walked furtively into the room where the toys were arranged. Mother turned to us and asked, “Have you learned a lesson?” We said “yes.”


She handed us our skates and we immediately skated around the kitchen table, giggling, falling, laughing, and screaming. Punishment forgotten, we took the roller skates to bed with us and dreamed about all the fun we would be having with our new skates.


Lost poodle

By Gail Bjorge of Elk River

J.D. doing well after his Christmas adventure.

In December of 2017 a small standard Poodle puppy we called “J.D”, (short for John Doe) came to us from another Minnesota rescue group. They had picked him up from a Wisconsin breeder who had found him as a stray.


On Christmas Day, Mike my husband and I enjoyed our traditional routine of going out to see a movie. That year we greatly enjoyed seeing “Star Wars.” When we arrived home, Mike wanted to take J.D. with him on his daily walk. So we fitted the pup into a harness while I prepared our Christmas dinner. Off the two joyfully went for a mile walk around our neighborhood.


Gone but just a few minutes, Mike called me frantically explaining that J.D. had pulled free from him and run into the woods.


I grabbed my coat, along with “Miley,” a Shih-Tzu cross who J.D. enjoys being around, and few dog toys. I jumped into our car. Mike searched the dense woods in our neighborhood and drove around searching and asking neighbors to be watchful for a poodle wearing a harness and a leash attached.


Various neighbors left their Christmas gatherings to help in the search with their family, friends and dogs. Finally, word came that a white poodle had been spotted circling a home not far from ours. When we arrived, people had tried to corner J.D., but he escaped their attempts. He was now running without his harness and attached leash.


An hour later, a family saw him much further away, wandering and circling their home, which was close to the Elk River. As several families surrounded him on one side and the river on all the other sides, I approached J.D. with Miley and a squeaky toy which J.D. just loved. The look on J.D.’s face was of pure panic and once again, he escaped. This time, he headed down the steep banks of the frigid, fast flowing Elk River… and was gone.


After 2.5 hours of more searching, J.D. was not seen again. It was getting dark, everyone was cold and tired. There was no hope, so we all went home. Mike was distraught and I was frantic as temperatures were dropping and a winter snow storm of 4–8 inches was expected any minute.


The township Animal Control Officer and 911 non-emergency were called to report the missing puppy. All our inside and outside lights were turned on, but there was nothing more we could do. So while my tears flowed freely, I put J.D.’s large house kennel back into our garage, his toys into the closet and washed his blankets.


No Christmas dinner was made or enjoyed due to our grief. Instead, in silence we watched the movie War Room, a popular Christian movie about the power of prayer. In my heart, mind and soul I prayed that J.D. would be safely returned to us or for God to give Mike and I strength to accept this loss.


The movie finished around 9 p.m. and I let our poodles outside into our fenced yard. Then... there in the lighted un-fenced area of our backyard stood J.D.! I ran out the front door, around the side of our home to the backyard and fell to the ground with arms open wide while gently speaking “J.D. come.” I could clearly see he was scared, but he ran into my arms with Mike standing behind me.


On our knees, we both cried and hugged J.D. while the snow began to lightly fall. Mike carried J.D. into our home where he ate a special dinner, then climbed onto our sofa with his toys and fell asleep.


Caught in a storm

By Jean Lemmon of Buffalo

My dad was a milkman. He would often take me on his door to door routes and tell me stories of his nice, and not so nice, customers. Christmas was the most colorful and exciting time of all. Windows were sparkling with artificial stars, icicles, snow and garland. The majestic evergreen tree would take center stage framed by the red and white holiday decorations.


It was his nice customers who always made our Christmas so special every year. Mrs. Patterson would leave tins of homemade divinity and fudge by her empty milk bottles. Mrs. Worner would carefully wrap a box of chocolate covered cherries. They were my dad’s favorite. He would discover popcorn balls, frosted Christmas cookies, and a fruit cake or two. He always shared the fudge and cookies with me as he knew they were my favorites.


Just before Christmas one year, dad had to go on a farm route to pick up some cream from his rural supplier. I was never allowed to go on the rural routes with him. It was a blustery, cold morning as he pulled the truck out of the creamery’s garage. Eventually the weather transformed into a blizzard.


My mom was worried. It was late and dad hadn’t come home yet. It was 1947, and we had no phone in our house. When bedtime rolled around, my older brother, age 8, and myself, 5, saw my mother crying. She tried to hide her fear from us, but we all felt it. She even let us sleep in bed with her for some form of comfort.


The next morning the sun was shining brightly on the new snow. And dad walked in our door! He told of getting stuck on a rural snow covered road and walking to the nearest farmhouse for shelter through the night.


It was a special Christmas that year. Mom made a double batch of lefse, and dad didn’t forget to put a silver dollar in our stockings. I helped mom make red and green anise candy to add to our overloaded supply of seasonal sweets.


Soon discarded Christmas trees with trails of silver tinsel appeared on snow covered lawns along dad’s route. It was the beginning of a new year, but no Christmas was as warm and exciting as the Christmas of 1947.


Real love

By Janice Olson of Elk River

Janice Olson’s Christmas memory. My kids are now 54 and 58, and they now have 4 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren

It wasn’t Christmas until my husband, our two children and I, drove the three-hour drive to my parent’s home and I walked through their back door. Immediately, I knew it was Christmas because of the scent of Christmas dinner that my mom had prepared with great love. That amazing aroma filled their home. I can still smell it if I close my eyes and imagine myself there. Material gifts were not a big thing in our family. The gifts under the decorated tree were small and inexpensive; however, the real gift that everyone in our family received was the gift of knowing, through personal and direct experience, what real love is, according to what real love does.


There’s a certain kind of deep connection that happens whenever children are born into and raised in a family where there is real love, a kind of acceptance for each one, not based on some special conditions or some kind of exceptions. “I’ll love you if…” How is real love demonstrated? With eyes that light up like Christmas tree lights, ear to ear smiles on every face and deep joy that’s not like the happiness one might receive from buying material gifts or accomplishing or achieving something special.


Our parents had that kind of deep love for each other that was demonstrated over the years and was passed on to me and my four siblings. How else would we have known that our real need as individuals, is to be accepted as is, adored as is and appreciated for what we are now? The love our parents had for each other, for more than 60 years, they were able to pass on to us so we can show our children unconditional love that they will pass on to our grandchildren and on and on it goes. I would say that’s the greatest gift of all.


Treasured gifts

By Theresa Grangruth of Menahga

My most memorable Christmas gift was the first from my newlywed husband in 1986.


We had just recently gotten married Dec. 19 of that year. I was from the south where we never got any measurable amount of snow. He was from north central Minnesota. We were residing in Colorado at the time. I guess my husband knew what to expect from that climate during the winter months, because surely I didn’t. The Christmas gift I received from my husband was a pair of pink snow boots and a large skillet. I thought how very insensitive of him! Either I would be out shoveling snow or in the kitchen cooking. I later thanked him for those very warm pink snow boots and almost 34 years later of marriage, I still have the skillet. I wouldn’t trade either the gifts or him for anything!


Christmas oranges

By John Zentz

The farm I was raised on, was 14 miles from a small town, known as Pine River. It was the middle of the depression and our government was trying to support the folks throughout our country as best they could.


Currently there was a government program underway, to get fresh fruit to families. The radio, our only way of getting any information, broadcasted that there would be free oranges available in Pine River.


My mom jumped up, hugged my dad and whispered in his ear that he must go and get some.


Dad kissed her then slowly put on his coat, I remember that coat it made him look like a big bear. He had a raccoon hat with big ear flaps, then came his big boots. He moved slowly like this was something he didn’t want to do, then he was out the door and soon lost in the snow, which we had a lot of.


Dad had to make the long, 28 miles round trip with just a horse and sleigh.


Yes, we had a car, a ‘29 Model A Coupe, but the roads were not plowed. In those days we were lucky to have a road.


So, that horse and sleigh and my dad were our only chance that we would have a Christmas. Me, my mother, three brothers and our dog all stood close together by the door and watched dad, that sleigh and the horse slowly fade out of sight into the misty snow.


We all stood there wondering as children often do, “Will we ever see our dad again?” An empty hole slowly crept into my stomach, it soon passed, and I went back to just being a boy, which is a full-time job.


We had no TV, no cell phones or iPads, so as boys we had to find things to do, the old fashioned way.


On our farm, I call a rock farm, we had more rocks then crops. My dad would pick all those rocks up and put them on a sleigh called a go-devil. (A go-devil is a large slide with log runners) He then piled them in big piles. In those rocks lived critters. Boys love critters.


Back to my father on that horrible trip. We expected him back the next day, Christmas eve, but the day came and passed and no dad.


Early the next morning we heard my dad’s voice. “Dad is home!” he said. All my brothers were running and stumbling all over each other trying to get to the kitchen.


We all hugged my dad to death. We were so glad to see him.


There in the middle of the kitchen floor was a magnificent crate of oranges.


That may not sound like much, but to us, it was the feast of a lifetime. My brothers and I were enjoying our fabulous Christmas.


My mother sat on the orange crate with us and looked up at my dad. She told my dad to sit down and have an orange. “You earned it,” she said.


My dad just stood there it seemed like a long time then softly said, “I will stand in line for my kids, but I won’t eat it.”

Depression Days

By Don Matheson of Milaca

I grew up on a dairy farm with seven other siblings , and mom and dad. It was about 1936, during the Great Depression, and Christmas was coming. There was very little money to buy Christmas presents that year. Two of my brothers, Wendy, Lee and myself, were the youngest family members, and we were not sure we would receive any presents that year.


We lived in a large two story house, with a large kitchen, huge living and dining room, with a large wood stove between the two large rooms. This heater ate up wood like it was going out of style. It was my job, with my two younger brothers, to carry wood to fill the big wood box on the porch of the house. This job had to be done every day during the cold winter days. This meant we had to carry many arm loads of wood everyday (a big task).


Since Mom and Dad couldn’t spare the money to buy a buy a present for each of the kids individually, they chose to buy one present that could be used together.


Christmas Eve was the time that we opened our gifts, and imagine our surprise when Dad brought out a gift with 3 names on the tag, “Donnie, Wendy and Lee.” It was the most beautiful steel runner sled that we had ever seen! We couldn’t wait to use it for sliding the next day.


This sled was wonderful for sliding, but we also found another special use for it. We piled big loads of wood on it - pulled it easily to the house! No more heavy arm loads of wood! What a wonderful memory of a very special Christmas.



Memorable gifts

By Theresa Grangruth of Menahga

My most memorable Christmas gift was the first from my newlywed husband in 1986.


We had just recently gotten married on Dec. 19 of that year. I was from the south where we never got any measurable amount of snow. He was from north central Minnesota. We were residing in Colorado at the time. I guess my husband knew what to expect from that climate during the winter months, because surely I didn’t. The Christmas gift I received from my husband was a pair of pink snow boots and a large skillet. I thought how very insensitive of him! Either I would be out shoveling snow or in the kitchen cooking. I later thanked him for those very warm pink snow boots and almost 34 years later of marriage, I still have the skillet. I wouldn’t trade either the gifts or him for anything!


Home for Christmas

By Donna Feigum of Glenwood

Home was wherever we were on Dec. 25, but in 1982 our family was “Home for Christmas.”


On Thanksgiving Day, we moved to the Feigum family farm. The old farmhouse was big and drafty, but there was lots of warmth that Christmas Eve when Uncle Johnny, Aunt Adeline and Great Grandma Florence came. On Christmas Day, Aunt Marie brought small children reminding everyone of their childhood days spent in the “family” house. Grandpa also came.

Stories were told of past Christmases. One my son, Chad, will always remember is how his father ran and hid behind the “front room” stove at the sound of horses’ bells and ho ho ho. Santa had trucks for his father and Uncle Johnny, and dolls for his aunts. We still have that truck to remind us of Christmas 50 plus years ago. Uncle Johnny played Santa that day, having more fun than the children handing out presents and “farming” on the floor with his nephew, Chad, with farm toys.


I am sure this Feigum family “home” has made many memorable Christmases, but all will remember this one. They had come “home for Christmas” back to the house they grew up in.


Surprise in toilet paper roll

By Dan Hovland of Willmar

In the spring of 1961 my older brother won a brand new Schwinn Hornet bicycle. It was radiant red in color, complete with horn on the tank, fender light and luggage carrier. He did not have time for it, so he let me use the bike. Being 11 at the time, I was happy to take it on countless adventures up and down the gravel roads by our farm. That fall I was told the bike had been sold! Needless to say, I felt crushed as my dad hauled it away.


Christmas came and one of my gifts was a mysterious cylindrical package. In the wrapped toilet paper roll was a note that told me to look in the bedroom. There was the Schwinn, mine to keep! That bike provided more than 50 years of adventures!

Santa left me a Dolly Nurse Kit!

By Katherine Evenson of Fergus Falls

Back, Left to right: Siblings Eugene Barsness, Ethel Barsness, Katherine (Barsness) Evenson, and their cousin Bill Sirra. In front is their cousin, Susan Siira. Right front is Ingvald Barsness, who was our youngest brother at the time of the photo.

One of my favorite Christmas gifts was a nurse kit I received in 1955. On a Sunday in December, mother and dad, along with my siblings and me, went to the Alexandria Boat Works to see the toys on display, to meet Santa Clause, and tell Santa our Christmas wishes. I had a seen a nurse kit on the toy shelf at the Alexandria Boat Works and that was going to be my wish.


Christmas Eve we hung our stockings on the wood box in our farm kitchen with milk and cookies for Santa.


I could not believe it on Christmas morning when I saw Santa had left the Dolly Nurse Kit beside my little stocking!


Christmas Day we went to Grandma Katie Siira’s house for Christmas Day dinner and to play with cousins. I brought my nurse kit along to show Grandma.


Handmade barn a hit!

By George Schoweiler of Holmes City

In 2001 our grandson was three years old and already was all FARM. In the house he would lay out a farmyard. This would include small animals, fences and maybe a Fisher Price barn. On the road it was all cows and other animals that demanded his attention and continuous chatter.


That year our son was building their home. One major contribution was poly coating the pine for their overhead living area. All left over scrap was saved for grandpa. Grandpa, son and others thought a barn was a logical choice for this wood. Grandpa built it in his basement with rudimentary tools. The size is about two foot wide with a large doors for access to the loft and main floor.


Yes, Santa Clause delivered the barn on Christmas morning. That barn is still intact almost 20 years now. These pictures are current. They are worth a thousand words.

My favorite Christmas memories

By Jan Braaten of Glenwood

I grew up on a farm in the 40s and was an only child. I had plenty of aunts and uncles and cousins with whom we spent Christmas Day, but on Christmas Eve we were always alone; just Mama, Daddy and me. There was a family who lived down the road from us about a mile who had four little boys, all very close in age. They had just bought a farm and times were tough. My mama knew their Christmas gifts would be meager and thought they needed a little extra Christmas joy. She collected items like mittens, scarves, candy, fruit and other small items and put them in a pillowcase.


Then on Christmas Eve my daddy hitched up his team of horses, big and white, Jim and Joe, to a sled and pulled up near the house. He told me that I should get my snowsuit on and that he and I were going to help Santa Claus. He didn’t have a red suit, but instead wore a long black overcoat and black cap with earflaps. Mama brought out the pillowcase with goodies. Then she tied a long bright red scarf around my daddy’s neck and told us to have a good ride.


I remember there was always a lot of snow and it was always very cold, but many times the sky was filled with stars and Daddy would tell me the names of some of them. It was such a special time; a big moon, a million stars and the two of us all alone in the world.


We tried to get to their house when the parents were in the barn milking cows and the kids were in the house all alone. Daddy would pound on the door with his “HO HO HO” and the oldest boy would answer the door. We went in and the other three would very shyly peek out of the other room. The little one dragged his blanket and was so cute with his little runny nose. The kids were thrilled to get the small gifts and were so excited. They wanted to eat all the candy right away. The oldest boy, probably about eight, told them they had to wait until supper. We played with them for a little and then headed back home in the sled.


The ride home always seemed longer. The anticipation of seeing the little faces was gone, and we were cold and hungry. As we drove in the yard, Daddy would pull up near the house and tell me to hop out, run to the house, and tell Mama that we were home and it was “Time to cook the lutefisk.”

Christmas at Ma and Pa’s

By Carol Fiebelkorn Domke of Alexandria

Ma and Pa married in 1908, moved into this house and never moved. They had five children. You entered the house into the kitchen, so all these years as we came together to celebrate on Christmas Eve you opened the door to the smell of Ma’s cooking. Always the same food, baked beans always cooked in the same pot, ham, meat balls and gravy, potato sausage that Pa made at his meat market, potatoes, cranberry sauce, cookies and cream cones filled with whipped cream. Then you moved into the dining room to the smell of the real fir tree with lights. Under the gifts were added. We were all so happy and excited to be together. Ma had beautiful china dishes with all the serving dishes, white with gold trim. She always set the table with a tablecloth, cloth napkins and lit candles. It was beautiful. Us children would be in the kitchen to eat. Then it was time to do dishes. Aunt Milly would hide the pots and pans in the stair steps to the basement for the next day’s chore.


Ma made her cookies early and would hide them, so we had them for Christmas. She made a soft cookie, rolled out sugar cookies and date filled and cream cones filled with whipped cream. The cones had to be made the day of Christmas; so good. At Christmas Ma also bought Mogen David wine for dinner.


They gave all of us a box of apples after gift opening. Aunt Milly would play piano and my mom, Luella, would lead us in singing Christmas songs.

Uncle Ivan was the town Santa Claus so he and his wife, Agnes, would go to homes with gifts family members asked them to deliver. He would come dressed like Santa to Ma and Pa’s and the children were scared until they figured out it was Ivan.


After the party, my dad and brothers went home. We were farmers. Mom and I got to stay over and go to Christmas service at 6 am at church with Ma and Pa. If there was too much snow for cars Dad would come get us with the horse and sled.


That was the end of Christmas celebration at Ma and Pa’s and our getting together.


Pa had a stroke and went into the nursing home and died there. Ma moved into a small apartment but went into the nursing home some time after and died there in September 1966. They were in their 90s.


The memories are still with me and the happiness we shared with Ma and Pa. We know the reason for the season. Jesus’s birthday.

New boots and a skillet

By Theresa Grangruth of Menahga

My most memorable Christmas gift was the first from my newlywed husband in 1986.


We had just recently gotten married Dec. 19 of that year. I was from the south where we never got any measurable amount of snow. He was from north central Minnesota. We were residing in Colorado at the time. I guess my husband knew what to expect from that climate during the winter months, because surely I didn’t. The Christmas gift I received from my husband was a pair of pink snow boots and a large skillet. I thought how very insensitive of him! Either I would be out shoveling snow or in the kitchen cooking. I later thanked him for those very warm pink snow boots and almost 34 years later of marriage, I still have the skillet. I wouldn’t trade either the gifts or him for anything!


A Christmas surprise

By K.J. Steffan of Fargo, N.D.

My favorite Christmas was in 1960 when I was 10.


For a few weeks before Christmas my dad blocked off entry to the living room with a few well-placed sheets of plywood.


The TV was moved into the dining room, and my seven-year-old brother Jerry and I were told we could not go beyond the plywood fortress until Christmas.


At night we would hear things like the nails in the plywood being wrenched out. We could also hear things, heavy things, being moved and dragged across the floor, and some hammering and some pounding all coming from the living room downstairs. The sounds teased us; what could Dad be doing?


Jerry and I tried to guess what Dad was hiding in the living room. Jerry thought it was bikes for us since we both had been riding some used ones all summer. The used ones were ok, but they looked to be the same color as the back-porch steps – a kind of bluish-grey – I hoped for new bikes too.


Every day after school we would try to find out what was in the living room. I shoved Jerry up high enough for him to look in the living room window. The window was too frosted-up in the icy Dakota air for him to see anything inside. We thought Mom would hear if we started scraping the window. Defeated, we went inside.


Maybe Mom could tell us what it was. Alberta Mae Smith-Steffan our mother, was from the East. She firmly announced she was no snitch she would not tell us anything. We followed her around the kitchen begging her to tell us, but her lips were sealed. Maybe if we cried she would relent. We wasted our fake tears.


Jerry and I got to talk to grandma on the phone before she and grandpa came for Christmas. “What do you want for Christmas,” she asked.


“We want to know what dad has in the living room! Do you know, grandma?” Regina Eisenzimmer-Steffan was not from the East but from good old Devils Lake, North Dakota, and she did not snitch either.


“You will have to wait until Christmas.” she said with a little laugh.


So, wait we did.


At last, Christmas Eve came.


After being bathed and pajamaed Jerry and I blitzed down the stairs. The plywood barricade was gone. In its place was a ping pong table that held the most wonderful Lionel train set in the world! The tracks went everywhere, there was even a covered bridge for the train to zoom through to our delight. Oh, and there were little tablets that kind of looked like saccharine tablets, to put in the engine’s stack to make smoke. The train wheels went clickity-clack as it flew over the tracks and moved through the bucolic setting Dad had created. He turned a round mirror into a lake, he had little barns and houses, horses in paddocks even windmills and railroad arms with lights that worked. There was a conveyer belt car that would carry unpopped popcorn up and into an open freight car. The control box had an orange lever that, when pushed, it made that glorious whoo-whoo train sound.


The train set was one Dad purchased from a coworker whose kids were grown and gone, so she sold it to Dad for fifty bucks. The train was circa 1940. It was heavy and dense. And was indestructible! (We enjoyed one crash.)


Dad, Jerry and I enjoyed the train for many years. When the time came that we did not play trains any longer, Dad sold the set to one of his young co-workers who had two kids. He sold it for $50. I wondered if that guy has a ping pong table and a round mirror?


Christmas through the register

By Sister Margaret Mandernach of St. Cloud

The birth of Jesus in Bethlehem has always been the center of Christmas for our family. To show that at each Christmas we would attend midnight Mass even if it meant going with horse and wagon to church, no matter the weather. One year we used horses and buggy over the terrible snow covered roads.


One of my main images of Christmas is the night before Christmas when the four of us girls, lying on our tummy around the three sides of the register, which heated the two big bedrooms for the girls. The boys’ bedrooms only had one register for their two rooms; I don’t even know how the third room got heated. That room had the advantage of having the two front rooms on the sunny side.


Soon after supper we were all sent to bed so that Santa Claus could come. The advantage the girls had was the floor register which was located between our two bedrooms. After getting into our pajamas we would lie down around the three sides of the register and sometimes squeeze in a fourth sibling. The register was right next to the first bedroom which meant it was shared by the girls in both rooms.


So, what did we see when we looked down the register? Each child during the early evening had prepared their chair in the living room which meant they also left a note with items they wanted. But we upstairs looking through the squared holes only saw sections of the items and sometimes weren’t sure what they were. But we “viewers” made sure we were very quiet so our parents couldn’t hear us. Besides, they thought we were in bed.


To this day, Christmas, the birth of Jesus, is my favorite feast.

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