Memories of Christmas Long Ago: Part Two
Editor’s note: This article, written by the late Viola Mieser, was previously published in a single issue of The Concordian. This year, we have chosen to break it into two parts. Part One appeared in the Dec. 19, 2018, edition of The Concordian.
When we got home on Christmas Eve, there — presto! — in our living room was a beautiful tree all trimmed and it had not been there when we went to church, but somehow, when we went to church, but somehow we can remember that it always took Mama a long time to come out to the surrey after the rest of us were out there. No wonder we needed bricks to keep our feet warm!
After we got in the house from church, first the fire in the furnace had to be tended, and we could hardly wait until we could actually go into the living room to see the beautifully decorated cedar tree. Santa would come and bring gifts during the night.
The next morning, as early as we could see without a lamp being lit, we would go into the living room for our gifts. Each of our gifts was placed upon a chair (and with those gifts were also placed our own brown bag with candy, a pencil tablet and pencil — our gifts from church).
On this chair, what was there was maybe one special thing like, for us two girls, a doll with beautiful curled hair and a little ribbon in the hair. Mine was golden blonde and my sister Renata’s was dark brunette. These were our last dolls. I remember one toy my brother Willis got — a dapple gray Mache horse on a wheeled platform with a pull string.
All of us, including Papa and Mama, had new stockings, and Papa always got new extra thick underwear, nice and heavy for cold weather. We all got two suits of long underwear, with long sleeves with fuzzy lining. We also, often, got a new pair of gloves and a new hair ribbon, and each of us children got a game or cards, dominoes, jacks, or Old Maid or touring cards. Sometimes there was yard material for a new dress. The articles of clothing were tied up in either brown store paper with a white store string (never in gift wrap), or they were just folded up in a brown paper bag.
Our Christmas doll, all new and almost real, was the fulfillment of anything any little girl could wish for. The doll had little socks and white shoes on her feet with white cotton ribbon like a shoestring. She could move her arms and legs, and her mouth was partly open to show pretty little teeth like pearls. We even treasured the gray cardboard box that she was tied down in — used it later to put her clothes in, which Mama made for us.
We even had a doll quilt stitched from patches. I learned to sew by stitching up doll dresses. The first lesson in sewing was to stitch the shoulders and the side with a needle and thread, cut down for the neck opening and, just like that, the doll had another dress for her wardrobe, or her cardboard box.
One part of our wonderful childhood Christmases was when the neighbors visited. There were about five neighbors that we exchanged visits with after Christmas. We visited with all of them and they all came to our house. These neighbors were Louis Langkraehrs, Henry Kirchhoffs, Otto Everts, Ed Oettings, Hugo Schelps, and Clara, Chris and Gus Buesing in Emma. How we arranged to find every family home without a formal invitation, I cannot remember.
When the door was opened to greet visitors, the first exchange of words was “Christmas gift” — with each individual trying to be the first say it. We visited awhile, that is, the adults did. And we children played games. When it was time for passing out treats, the cookies and candy, all the children circled around the tree, held hands and sang all the Christmas carols that we knew, including those of our church program, and each child recited his or her part (clockwise around the tree) the recitation he or she had in church.
During this time, the real candles were lit on the tree branches; parents stood by and watched, and I cannot remember a tree ever catching on fire from a candle. After this, the candles were blown out, and the cookies and candy were passed around by the housemother.