As I reread this Christmas memories of yesteryear article written by my aunt Stella Naas Lexvold, it brought tears to my eyes as I too could relive that scene as I had experienced much the same kind of Christmas in the very same house but my Santa was my Dad, Harold West; or sometimes my Uncle Howard West but not my grandpa Ole Naas. Most of these very same customs are being observed still today in my home. The candles are in the apple holders, the Norwegian baking is now being baked by my granddaughter, Mia. She can bake krumkake and rosettes better than her grandma. My grandparents both West and Naas gave me and my family memories that will live forever.
P.S. The little girl Ruth, mentioned in the story was my mother.
Ardelle West Askegaard
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The days before Christmas were busy one for parents who were eager that their children, as well as others, were not forgotten and to point out the real reason for celebration…The Birthday of Jesus.
The afternoon of the 24th, Dad harnessed up his horses, hitched them to the sleigh and headed for Zumbrota with a particular purpose in mind. He knew of a certain large family which was very poor, living in a small house, so his first thought for that day was to see that they, too, were remembered and he purchased a box of apples, oranges and candy, etc. which they all could enjoy. This is how Christmas started; no one was to be neglected, especially the needy.
Next, he placed a sack of oats by the mailbox and put some cigars in the box for our “ever faithful” mailman, John Olson. Since Mr. Olson lived in town, Dad knew he had to purchase feed for his horse. Sometimes the mailman finished his route when the light of day was disappearing and the moon was soon to take its place, depending on how deep the snow was and how tired his horse had become while pulling the cutter loaded with gifts, mail, etc. Postage and parcels were no problem in those days; post cards could be sent for one penny.
Dad went about the evening chores while mother prepared the usual and yet most unusual meal consisting of pork ribs, meat balls, mashed potatoes, gravy, lefse, flat bread, salad, fruit soup plus many Norwegian bakings. The centers of large red apples were carved out, replaced with assorted 4 ½ inch candles, and placed by each
plate. This served as our lights instead of the old kerosene lamp.
At six o’clock Mother gathered her children and we all followed her outside so we could hear the church bells ringing over the countryside in the stillness of the night proclaiming the good news “Christ is born.”
The Christmas tree which Dad had cut from his own trees, was decorated a few days prior to Christmas. It was placed in the parlor, but the children were not to see it until Christmas Eve.
The big moment arrived, the door was opened, and there we beheld the candle lit tree with only a few presents underneath. We were pleased to receive the inexpensive gifts which were sometimes homemade.
Then Mother, seated by the tree, read the Christmas gospel, Luke 2. Following the reading we all sang in Norwegian, “Jeg er saa glad hver Jule Kveld” translated to mean, “I am so glad each Christmas Eve.”
Somehow Dad (Santa) always conveniently excused himself to see if something had to be done in the barn.
We were enjoying and sharing our gifts with one another when all of a sudden we heard sleigh bells and sure enough, Santa was coming to our home! We opened the door to let him in and he handed out gifts to each and everyone, but without a word. Then we served him coffee and cookies. He expressed his thanks with a nod of his head and away he went without a word. Just imagine the fun Dad (Santa) had as he listened to his children telling everything that happened when Santa was there.
But one Christmas Eve Santa was revealed when my youngest sister became frightened of Santa and cried lustily. Santa, not thinking, exclaimed, “Hi Ruth!” Then we all knew who the real Santa was. Needless to say, Santa did not return the following year.
Note: Ardelle and her sister, Eloise, were graduates of Pine Island High School, and the daughters of Harold & Ruth Naas West. They lived on the farm now owned by Richard and Diana Miller west of Pine Island on County Road 11.
Howard West, referred to in the article, was an attorney in Rochester and Pine Island for many years. Howard was married to Jane Dietz. The late Harold and Howard West mentioned above have a sister living in Pine Island, Elaine Glamm (Mrs. Robert Glamm).
Thank you Ardelle for sharing your family story relative to Christmas in the early 1900s.
(Printed in Pine Island Area Historical Society Newsletter October 2008)