: Old and new ways of celebrating

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Name: Larry Rettig
South Amana, IA (Zone 5a)
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LarryR
Dec 3, 2011 8:52 PM CST
If you think that the days go flying by now, Trish, I can tell you that at age 70 they whiz by in the blink of an eye! Big Grin Our decorations are up outside and the interior ones will go up next week. We try not to put up our tree too soon, so that it stays relatively fresh until the new year. Every year we journey to a tree farm about 40 miles north of our home and cut our own tree. We've come to like red pines, not only for their beautiful form and long, soft needles, but for their wonderful fragrance as well.

My wife, Wilma, is baking up a storm as usual. She has all her fruit cakes made, is planning on baking at least a dozen varieties of cookies, some Stollen (a sweet German yeast bread with candied fruit), and six kinds of candies. We share this bounty with friends and neighbors and with those less fortunate than we.

No parties yet, but we will put on our Christmas best when we compete on our trivia team next week. It's a big affair with about 40 teams of 10 participants each.

Wilma has her Christmas shopping done. As for me, not so much. I think last minute Christmas shopping must be a guy thing. At least that's my excuse, and I'm stickin' to it! Green Grin!

When I was a child, I had no idea that there was a Santa Claus. "Pelznickel" or "Belsnickel", as the old man was called in our German-speaking village, was one of my earliest childhood memories of Christmas. There would be a loud thumping outside the living room door when he arrived. I remember dashing to the safety of my mother's lap as the door opened to reveal a bearded, very stern-looking man grasping a big stick in one hand and an old gunnysack slung over his shoulder in the other. His long fur coat was dark and somewhat rumpled.

He continued to thump his stick on the floor as I clung ever tighter to my mother. Speaking loudly in his German dialect, he demanded to know whether or not I'd been a good boy all year. Any voice I may have had left usually deserted me at this point, so my mother assured him that, yes, I had been very good, indeed. The old man's demeanor softened a bit as he pulled the grubby sack from his shoulder and continued to grill me on my deportment. From his sack emerged a small, plainly-wrapped gift. With gift in hand, he came over to where I was huddled against my mother and extended his hand. Somehow I summoned the courage to reach out and take the gift from him. He laughed heartily and then, as suddenly as he had appeared, he was gone.

Gifts back then weren't wrapped either. We children were told that the Christ Child would be coming to bring our gifts on Christmas Eve. When we were finally allowed to enter the room with the tree that night, we found small piles of gifts hidden under white sheets. When parents told us which pile was ours, we rushed to it and pulled off the sheet to reveal clothing, candy, and fruit. Occasionally, there would be a toy or two as well.

Back to the present. Sorry I've rambled on so long, but I hadn't thought about my childhood experiences in awhile. I'll leave you with some photos of our decorated interior from last year.


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Gardener was the label imprinted on me when the souls were handed out and so be it. --Margaret Roach (Thank you, Sharon!) Notes from the Garden: Articles of interest on all aspects of gardening
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Name: Becky
WI
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mattsmom
Dec 3, 2011 10:50 PM CST
Larry, I for one, loved your memories of Christmas' past! Your Christmas decorations are beautiful!

Most of our Christmas shopping is done. We always pick up a few things right up until Christmas. Wrapping is almost all done. Two of our trees are up. Just the "main" tree left to do tomorrow. The rest of the interior Christmas decorating will follow. The outside of the house is lit. Will begin on Christmas cards this week. Baking will start next week. So much to do & time is really ticking!!!

Christmas Blessings to one and all!!!!
Name: Larry Rettig
South Amana, IA (Zone 5a)
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LarryR
Dec 4, 2011 12:08 AM CST
Thanks for the compliment, Becky. I tip my hat to you. Happy holidays to you as well!
Gardener was the label imprinted on me when the souls were handed out and so be it. --Margaret Roach (Thank you, Sharon!) Notes from the Garden: Articles of interest on all aspects of gardening
Cottage-in-the-Meadow Gardens: Come on in and take the tour! Check out the photos!
Name: Lynn
Dallas, OR (Zone 8b)
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valleylynn
Dec 4, 2011 7:44 AM CST
I also loved reading about your childhood Christmas experiences Larry.

As a child growing up our tradition was to celebrate Christmas Eve with my fathers side of the family.
Christmas morning was strictly for our family and Christmas day was celebrated with my mother's side of the family.

We were surrounded by love and learning about the true meaning of Christmas.

As soon as I get back home I will start baking cookies and maybe even some stollen, it was one of my mom's favorite things to bake at Christmas time.

Name: Sharon
Calvert City, KY (Zone 7a)
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Sharon
Dec 4, 2011 12:08 PM CST
I woke this morning thinking about old Christmases. The memories have lingered all morning.

We chopped down the red cedar tree sometime after Thanksgiving and it was placed in a bucket filled with water and coal. The coal held it in place and the water kept it from drying out. The scent of the tree wafted through my house and it was strongest of course near the bottom where branches had been cut so it would fit in the bucket.

The first lights were large bulbs of different colors, but then by the late 40's or early 50's Noma came out with bubble lights. They were like nothing I'd ever seen and I thought they must surely be magic. There was always a skirt around the base of the tree, hiding the bucket of coal. Sometimes it was a blanket, sometimes a quilt. That skirt was very tempting and I'd often crawl under the tree so I could look up through the branches and watch the twinkling bubble lights casting colored shadows through the branches and onto the ceiling. I'd made an angel from one of my small dolls, dressed her in white lace from an old curtain. Her wings were made of wire and had tinsel rope on them. She glistened in changing colors from the bubbling lights, looking almost like she was moving. The cedar scent and the moving shadows would nearly put me to sleep, and they probably did a few times.

By the time Mom was ready to place wrapped gifts under the tree, I'd already made my nest there. I grumbled a little when I had to remove my pillow, my book, sometimes a cup of Koolaid, the crusts from honey peanut butter sandwiches, crumbs from my gingerbread man or maybe a flashlight from under the tree to make way for gifts.

Neither of my children made a nest under the Christmas tree. I had forgotten it myself until this morning.

I can remember the feelings as I lay under that tree: the feelings of mystery and magic, anticipation and excitement. Mostly I can remember the warmth and the love that floated around the shimmery Christmas tree. It was the time of year when I knew I'd be surrounded by every single person who loved me.

Sometimes we can't replicate feelings that we remember. And even though my memories are all wound up in homemade angels and bubble lights and gingerbread, all coated with the scent of cedar, I think we all remember the feeling of warmth and love that came, then lingered, long after the tree was taken down.

So whatever we do, it's the warmth and love that's important. That's what remains with us.
And it's what we all try to create for others with our baking and giving and decorating, I think.

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Name: Trish
Jacksonville, TX (Zone 8a)
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Trish
Dec 4, 2011 12:30 PM CST

Garden.org Admin

Sharon said:
So whatever we do, it's the warmth and love that's important. That's what remains with us.
And it's what we all try to create for others with our baking and giving and decorating, I think.

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This.

As evidenced by your and Larry's memories.

Thank you all for sharing.

NGA COO, Wife, Mom, and caretaker of 90 acres and all that dwell there.
Name: Ann ~Heat zn 9, Sunset
North Fl. (Zone 8b)
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flaflwrgrl
Dec 4, 2011 3:33 PM CST
You brought tears to my eyes Sharon. You said it.
I am a strong believer in the simple fact is that what matters in this life is how we treat others. I think that's what living is all about. Not what I've done in my life but how I've treated others.
~~ Sharon Brown ~~



Name: Larry Rettig
South Amana, IA (Zone 5a)
Charter ATP Member Tip Photographer I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Cottage Gardener Lover of wildlife (Raccoon badge) Composter
Foliage Fan Garden Photography Houseplants Hybridizer Organic Gardener Cat Lover
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LarryR
Dec 4, 2011 4:27 PM CST
Exactly, Sharon. Thumbs up

Bubble lights bring back memories for me as well. My parents brought home a very special stand for our Christmas tree one year. It had bubble lights encircling it. Like Sharon, I thought they were absolutely magical. But after the magic wore off, I had to find out what was contained in those glass tubes. You can probably guess what happened next. Smiling

I unscrewed a bubble light at the back of the stand, where it would not be noticed if it went missing. I panicked for a moment when the rest of the bubble lights went out as well. Then I remembered that there had to be a bulb in the socket for the string to light. I knew where the regular replacement bulbs were kept, so I screwed one of those into the empty socket.

I took the bulb down to my father's workshop in the basement, found a hammer, and cracked the glass. It didn't shatter, but it was damaged to the point where it leaked fluid. I had enough sense not to taste it (thank goodness!). It had kind of a sweet smell but mostly it smelled like ether, a smell that was all too familiar to me.

At the age of four, I had an emergency appendectomy right before Christmas. In those days ether was the anesthetic of choice. I don't remember much about my hospital stay, except that when my parents left my bedside after the operation and didn't return until the next morning, I thought I had been abandoned forever. I couldn't make my concerns known, because at that point in my life I knew no Englsh, only my German dialect. Of course, none of the hospital staff knew German, least of all Amana German. All was well, though, when my parents returned in the morning with a small Christmas tree, already decorated, and placed it on the table at my bedside.

I was elated when my doctor said that I would be able to go home on Christmas day. I received a rousing welcome on my return home. Most of my relatives were there to greet me. One of my uncles even brought his violin and serenaded us with Christmas music. It's exactly as you said, Sharon. Even though the hospital stay was a fearful experience for me, it's the love and warmth I experienced that Christmas day that stays with me. I can still feel it.

Oh, and what about the bubble light? I screwed it back into its rightful place. It didn't bubble anymore, but nobody noticed until we took the tree down. Mom thought that the light might have gotten too hot and cracked the glass. I didn't say a word. Whistling

Gardener was the label imprinted on me when the souls were handed out and so be it. --Margaret Roach (Thank you, Sharon!) Notes from the Garden: Articles of interest on all aspects of gardening
Cottage-in-the-Meadow Gardens: Come on in and take the tour! Check out the photos!

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