December 17th…………..“DURING YOUR FARM YEARS IN MINNESOTA, HOW DID YOU DECORATE YOUR FAMILY’S CHRISTMAS TREE AND HOME EACH YULETIDE SEASON”??
There he was, peering at me from his lair among the pine needle branches of our family’s Christmas tree. “Mr. Gator” was nestled into his place of annual honor, as if a unique ambassador of the season, there alongside all our other traditionally acceptable Christmas tree decorations. Where he came from, and why was he elevated from the swamp to our Christmas tree???………that I’ll never know. But, there, in all his red-n-yellow, articulated plastic splendor, rested “Mr. Gator” for yet another Yuletide Season within the evergreen heights of the Noorlun Christmas tree.
When it came to lighting our holiday tree, I can heartily say, to this very day, that I still favor and desire the consistent, peaceful glow and rich colors of our old-fashioned string of Christmas lights. Those conical, colorful orbs were festooned in spiraling aspirations upon our fragrant evergreen tree’s branches. To me, they were the foundation, upon the beginning bare branches, of what eventually became our towering Yuletide tower of treasures.
Every electronic, colored bauble was carefully brought forth from its cardboard “coach” that had seen them safely through another 11 months of storage since last Christmas. Now, with big sister Rosemary’s precision, each of these lovely lights were clipped onto the tree’s branches to achieve a proper spiral elegance of our, soon to be, evergreen elegance.
First created by German glass-blowers of the mid 1800’s, we tenderly brought out our tissue-wrapped, glass Christmas ornament boxes. A sweetness of seasonal royalty surrounded each handcrafted, hanging ornament. Our dear mother, Clarice, instilled a sense of awe and caution to us little ones as to the fragility of these glitter-encrusted glass marvels and taught us how to hang them for their best display upon our green mountain of merriment.
Our parents, having both grown up during America’s Great Depression of the 1930’s, had learned the value of every penny they earned. It is highly likely, that they may have garnered these Christmas decorations in their early years of marriage, starting in June of 1941, and had seen to it that these ornaments were still in use for we four children to enjoy in the late 1940’s, 50’s and early 1960’s. Even as children, we could sense Mom’s reverence of these decorations not only for their individual delicacy, but also for the nostalgic joy they represented in our parent’s history of Christmas times enjoyed since their early days of life together. Subsequent Yuletide Seasons were enjoyed by our folks even more when their young family came along consisting of brother, Lowell, and sister, Rosemary.
The last phase of this particular holiday decoration drama scene was the one that taxed the most patience from my little child mind. Out came the boxes of aluminum tinsel that had been saved and reused from who knows how many Christmas times in the past. Into our quivering hands of excitement was lain a “ponytail” of silver, flat strands of tinsel that were to be placed ONE AT A TIME upon each inch of each branch of our evergreen “work of art”. If done correctly, the end result was a regal mane of silver resembling a stream of icicles flowing off of one of our frozen rooflines outside. After about 10 minutes of this flamboyant frustration, I was inclined to start tossing the aluminum man-made icicles in clumps onto the branches just to get the job over with. If caught, I was often, and appropriately, chastised by Mom and other family members for allowing this horrific breach of holiday decorating etiquette. 😉
Even at Christmastime, America was, and still is, in love with plastic. Since the early 1900’s, plastic had morphed into every facet of American culture…….even Christmas decorations.
To help portray our festive Christmas spirits to those who drove past our farm, we brought out our red, plastic wreaths that had a single pseudo, cardboard “candle” incorporated into its base with a red lightbulb glowing for effect. We’d take a hammer and tap a small nail into the wooden frame of our east and south-facing Living Room windows and add a bit of color towards the outside winter world around us with these wreaths. During those holiday seasons, as Dad and I would be walking towards our farm home from the barn at night, it was warming to my little boy heart to see that glowing red Christmas bulb in the window illuminating the red plastic wreath around it.
Our old, plastic Saint Nick came out of his yearly hiding box to be with us, too, on those fun HO HO HO occasions. Although he could have been assigned as a tree topper ornament, I seem to recall that he was usually taken into the kitchen and shined forth, precariously, upon the window sill. Once plugged in, his roly-poly self set to glowing and his electric Santa smile shined out towards the farmyard to let all the Blue Jays and wild bunny rabbits know that Christmas was here.
Being of Norwegian heritage, our Christmas tree was known in the old world Norwegian language as a “Juletre” (pronounced: “yoool-eh-treh”).
Being a Christian family, our dear mother, especially, saw to it that the true meaning of Christmas was brought to the forefront in all of our young lives via Bible Christmas stories and the like. No matter what time of the calendar year our Lord Jesus Christ may have actually been born, we as His children chose December 25th, each year, to celebrate His being born into this world as our most precious Savior and King. And, thanks to our godly Sunday School teachers at Grace Evangelical United Brethren Church, we also received beautiful little Nativity dioramas that were gladly placed on our television set and even hung upon the Christmas tree to remind me of the most wonderful reason for the season for this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.