When I think about Christmas as I was growing up, first and foremost on my mind is the memory of the food...lots of food...lots of good quality food (depending on palate). There were the Scandinavian items that did require and acquired taste: lutefisk, scrapple, etc. Then there was the really good stuff: lefse, ableskeevers, krumkake, sanbuckles, stolen, pickled herring.
These "delicacies" were mixed in with more traditional Christmas fare such as brownies, fudge, divinity, sugar cookies (frosted and decorated), assorted bars, home-made mincemeat pies (sometimes made with venison), pumpkin pie, apple pie.
The main meal was either ham or turkey. Mom would usually bring out her very own cranberry relish (I've tried to duplicate it but cannot) to accompany the turkey.
As I sit here typing I can savor, I can smell, I can feel the warmth of those evenings and if I shut my eyes I can catch glimpses of those wonderful moments. The Christmas trees were always real trees and regardless of whether they were bought from a tree lot (I remember Dad complaining about spending a whole $2 for an eight foot tree!) or they were cut down fresh in the woods...the trees were not in the house and decorated until the week before Christmas...and by New Year's Day they were gone...just a memory...with all the boxes of Christmas ornaments safely stored away.
I remember the angel that always topped the Christmas tree! The angel was a picture of any angel pasted upon a halo of white fiberglass type material. It was always important to Mom and Dad that either a white light or a blue light be placed so that it would light the angel. Another unique feature of the Lysdahl family tree was the Christmas tree stand. Somewhere Mom and Dad had found a heavy duty tree stand that was lighted along its base with C6 style lights. The base was triangular with three lights on two sides and two lights on the third side along with an outlet to connect the lights from the tree to the stand.
The lights used on the tree were the same strings used year-in and year-out. One was an older and fairly good quality string of 25 lights (C7 style). Then there was another newer string of 25 lights. Ok, in this day and age 50 lights on a seven foot tree do not seem like much...but remember these were large lights and any more that 50 could result in fuses blowing.
New ornaments were seldom purchased. Yes there was an occasional box of new ornaments found at some store on sale...but basically it was the same beloved traditional ornaments hung on the tree each and every year...including one tiny bell that had hung on my parents first Christmas tree some time in the 1930s. Honestly, I am not sure how that tiny bell came to be in my possession...but I keep it safe and proudly hang it on my tree each and every year (with a smile and a tear).
Some time during the late 1950s or early 1960s, Mom decided that glass beads would be the ultimate sophisticated glory for the tree and she purchased several strings of these beads. After all the ornaments, and I mean "all" were hung on the tree...the glass beads would be draped over the branches...sometimes with style...sometimes not.
There were favorite ornaments of course. I remember a set of six of them that were like 1/2 of a ball with the inside filled with winter/Christmas scenes...angels, deer, snow, etc. Because many of the ornaments had been a part of so many Christmases their finish was no longer bright and shiny but rather they gave off a simple well-used glow...and sometimes the paint might have been chipped or peeling but no one cared.
Mom was as bad as any kid when it came to Christmas gifts. More than once she was caught under the tree shaking packages that had her name tag...even though she would scold my brother and I for the doing the same. Dad was more relaxed about the packages. I remember each and every year as a child that I would give him a box of chocolate covered cherries. Each year he would act as if he were truly surprised. The thing that I find amazing as I look back...and it does make me smile...as that he truly did love those chocolate covered cherries...even when they had been purchased not at some fancy candy shop but rather at the local dime store.
Mom's gift from me was frequently a broach or some piece of inexpensive jewelry also purchased from the same dime store as Dad's chocolate covered cherries. Regardless...each gift was received as if it were a surprise and would be cherished. ...and you know, I do believe they were cherished.
Presents were always opened on Christmas Eve right after dinner. Dinner seemed like it would never end when I was a kid. It was also on Christmas Eve that the traditional Scandinavian fare would creep into the evening menu...and even though my brother and I ran from the lutefisk...we embraced the lefse...it would be slathered with butter and then rolled up and eaten. We were not really kept to the "menu" on Christmas Eve and were allowed to indulge ourselves on the cookies, bars, home-made candy, etc throughout the evening...until our tummies hurt...and many times they