As a young child I had the opportunity to spend several Chirstimas’s on my grandparent’s farm in northern Wisconsin. What I remember is stringing popcorn and cranberries with my Swedish grandmother on the freshly cut pine tree which was placed on the recently in the small living area. The lights were actually small candles with a clip to be attached to the branches. My father would add the angel to the top of the tree. Then my grandmother would carefully light each candle.
There were some gifts under the tree. Yet what was even more present was the simple joy of being together, singing a few carols and quietly enjoying the light from the candles.
Christmas morning Santa would somehow magically know we (my sister and myself) weren’t at home. My grandmother would have already been up making breakfast and draining the fat from the Christmas goose. Then there would also be the Yule Ham or Julskinka. This ham was put into a brine in which it laid for a couple of weeks.
Of course, there were Swedish spritz cookies that melted on your tongue with the first taste. How my grandmother cooked all these delicious eats on a wood burning stove still amazes me. I do remember my father cutting kindling wood outside in the cold northern winters. The wood burning stove was the only heat in the small main cabin.
The family farm living quarters consisted of the main cabin which was very small (two rooms) and about 50 feet away a second cabin for sleeping. The sleeping cabin had 2 rooms along with a pull out couch. There was a chamber pot for anyone who had to answer a call of nature in the middle of the night. Given the outhouse was a couple hundred feet away and it was very cold with sometimes blowing snow not to mention all the wildlife, the chamber pot was a very welcomed solution.
Today with all the artificial trees, the extensive decorating of homes both inside and out, the mounds of presents, thinking about my early childhood and spending Christmas at the family farm brings an appreciation for that simpler time. I ponder what have we lost through the decades and even more important will we ever learn the essence of those earlier Christmas celebrations and experiences? Maybe that is why I gravitate towards a small tree and must have those artificial canldes to remind me of those incredible family gatherings at the farm.
My thanks to Carol Williams and Anna Banana Kruchten CRS CRB, Phoenix Broker for providing this opportunity to share my youthful Christmas experiences.