Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas memories 4

Christmas Eve

My ancestry is Swedish—I am proud of the fact that all four of my grandparents were born in Sweden, and immigrated to North America where they met, married, and raised their kids (my parents). So, a lot of the traditions at home came from the Old Country. Including celebrating Christmas on Christmas Eve. Not that Christmas Day was ignored, but the festivities definitely started the evening before. Santa was never part of my upbringing, so the fact that we opened our gifts Christmas Eve did not conflict with when he might arrive.

I was privileged to have two families of relatives close by that we almost always got together with at Christmas (either Christmas Eve, or Christmas Day). One family was my aunt and uncle and cousins who were similar in age to my brothers and I. The other family was an older cousin with kids only a bit younger than me. So, we made a crew of about a dozen and a half.

The evening started, of course, with food. Swedish tradition called for a menu of rice and fish. (No, not at all in a Chinese style!) There was supposed to be one whole almond cooked in the rice. The person who ended up with the almond was supposed to have a year of good luck, or something like that.

As I said earlier, I grew up on a farm. Cows to milk, chores to do. So, after supper (the evening meal was never called dinner—that was the noon meal), the cows had to be milked. For us young'uns, it seemed to take forever.

Finally, Dad would come in from the barn, clean up, and we were one step closer to PRESENTS!

Then was the reading of the Christmas story from the Bible. It seemed that most of the Old Testament prophecies were included in what felt like a 5 hour scripture marathon. Actually, it was probably about 10 minutes, but it seemed like we would hit the Easter story before it was finished.

Then the patriarchal prayer. I realize now how blessed I was to have that kind of upbringing, but at the time it seemed to take FOREVER!

Then the gifts. Finally. Wonderful surprises, even in a setting where money was never plentiful. Funny thing is, I never remember feeling that I suffered. There was always lots of food, gallons of love, and no shortage of fun. Yes, there were the gifts of clothing, and other 'useful' things, but plenty of toys as well. I remember a chemistry set (with a volcano that never had enough 'oomph' to actually blow its top). Lots of board games like Monopoly or Clue or Careers. If there was a new one, the whole family would be playing it soon.

Jig saw puzzles spread over the table (only to be covered by a tablecloth for Christmas dinner the next day). And more food. Popcorn balls, mandarin oranges, fudge, fruitcake, lefse, pepparkakor and much more. Isn't it funny how food ends up being involved in all of our wonderful memories!

I have to take a moment to talk about pepparkakor. They are these Swedish cookies—quite spicy, rolled thin and baked until completely crispy. They MUST be cut into holiday shapes, and are best eaten by dunking in hot chocolate or coffee. A definite staple in any homemade Christmas cookie arsenal.
(By the way, the pictures are much more recent than most of these memories, and include my Mother, sister, and nieces, and show that the family addiction to jig puzzles has not been rehabilitated.)

No comments:


count web site traffic
Staples Coupon