"laestadian, apostolic, gay, lgbtq, ex-oalc, ex-llc, llc, oalc, bunner" LEARNING TO LIVE FREE: Merry Christmas, Everyone!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

From "CVOW" --

It's been quite a year, with a lot of interesting twists and turns. As life always is, there have been the moments that made us glad and those that dismayed. The topics on this blog have certainly run the gamut and let us discuss and argue and fuss and laugh -- and at the end of the day know that it was time well spent, even if we didn't convince everyone of our own positions. In the spirit of being thankful at this time of year, I'd like to extend my thanks to Free for providing this forum and I'd like to thank all of you who have participated so enthusiastically, regardless of the subject, and I'd like to thank all of you for putting up with my grumpiness!

It seemed that since we've sort of been going hammer and tongs lately, it might be nice to have a topic here that is uncontroversial, but rather is centered around our traditions and memories of Christmas. I find that as I grow older, the memories I have of Christmas are the good ones -- the things that made us laugh the first time they happened and made us laugh again each year as the tales were retold, usually with just a bit of embellishment in each telling.

I spent a good chunk of my life (more than half, but that percentage is all too rapidly approaching a tipping point...) on a ranch in North Dakota. Surprisingly, we didn't have a lot of immediate family in the community, as we had a small family. I had only one uncle and his wife and one first cousin that lived nearby, so there was always room at the dinner table! I did have an aunt that lived in Detroit who to the best I can recall came to ND to visit us each Christmas. She was my Christmas "täti", that always arrived on the train in Jamestown, ND around midnight on the NP Empire Builder. That was always great excitement to get to go meet her, and snuggle up next to her and her biggest darn mink coat I've ever seen! (She was a BIG woman and it took a lot of mink to make that coat -- and boy, was it warm! Christmas dinner was usually at our house as I recall, but Christmas Eve was at my uncle's. After opening a few gifts, we'd all bundle up and go the United Church of Christ Congregational for the children's Christmas play (which my cousin was always in). Amazingly, by the time we got back to their house close to midnight, Santa had ALWAYS been there for my cousin, but for some reason it took him until the next morning to make it the 8 miles out to the ranch.

Farming and ranching in ND had its downside. We had milk cows until I was a teenager, and consequently, I never did get to go to Christmas meetings in either Minneapolis or Detroit. Those darned cows had to get taken care of, and it was really hard to get anyone to do those kinds of chores. I think my Mother may have gone a time or two, and my sisters as well, but my Dad and I always had the herd!

As I think of it, I cannot ever remember going to church on Christmas! Perhaps it was because many people did go to the meetings and the ones who were left elected not to warm the church, or perhaps my memory is faulty. That is a curiousity that did not occur to me until now... Hmmm, now I will have to ask my sisters about that. It was a pretty small congregation.

We always had a little tree that stood on the parlor table. I recall it was always sort of a tussle with my Dad who thought the tree was beautiful just as it was, and we children wanting to cover it with so many ornaments and tinsel (don't forget the tinsel!) that it would be almost unrecognizable. When my Mother passed away, I asked for the old "bubble lights" -- a string of 12 that always went on the tree. Darned if they didn't still work when I plugged them in, and they have to be 50 to 60 years old. The price was still on the box -- $1.40, which was awful spendy at that time, I'm sure! I still put them on, even though the bulbs don't all bubble very well...

Christmas dinner was always a lot of fun, and we knew that at some point during the day my uncle would again tell about my sister getting a pair of panties for Christmas as a little girl and running all over yelling "My pantses, my pantses." For some reason that just irritated the heck out of my sister -- even well into adulthood -- which made it even funnier to the rest of us!

I remember going "into town" as we referred to it, a couple of weeks before Christmas, and waiting anxiously at the Legion Hall for Santa to arrive -- in the town fire truck -- and hand out bags of candy and peanuts to every single child. We all stood patiently -- well, maybe not so patiently -- in line, to go up to Santa, sit on his lap and tell him our dreams, and get our bag! As we got a little bigger, we did spend some time speculating which of the local farmers Santa really was! The things you can do when you live in a place where you know every living soul inside of a twenty mile radius -- and no, I am not exaggerating.

After I got married and we had kids, we put up a creche. (We are Catholic, after all!) I remember having to hide Baby Jesus (in the organ if I recall correctly) until Christmas morning, and then watch to see which of the kids found him first. I have to admit we usually didn't keep the wise men away until Epiphany or Loppiainen.

So that's a few of my favorite memories. What are yours? What traditions did you have? How did you celebrate your faith at Christmas (I guess we didn't do so well there...)?

Dear friends, may the transcending peace of Jesus, the Christ and King be with all of you throughout the Christmas season and the New Year. Hauskaa Joulua ja Onnelista Uutta Vuota!


  1. Thanks for the stories, CVOW. I've always loved Christmas time, but don't have time to post too much right now.

  2. Cvow,
    Your stories made me homesick and very nostalgic for "the good old days" (that probably never were!). My sister and I used to do a lot of Christmas baking, and I think we eventually made every recipe in the cookie section of theBetty Crocker cookbook. We had a cardboard fireplace with a light in it that came out every year for Christmas and made the living room seem surprisingly cozy. We had no other decorations, but when I was in high school I'd put up banners and tape the cards we received on the wall around the archway. Mom would get upset about all the "fanciness" but never made me take it down.
    I can't believe your dad allowed a TREE! Ah, the memories...

  3. OK, my experiences. One church we went to thought celebrating Christmas was pagan and wrong. The church I grew up in didn't think that, but some questioned secular Christmas songs like Frosty the Snowman and gift giving. Christmas trees, lights, and Santa were verboten. One preacher said that Santa Claus was a different way of saying Satan's Claws, which were of course trying to destroy Christmas. My family hid our tree when another especially conservative family came to visit. Approved things to do were caroling, going to church, and getting together with family.

    I enjoy snow, secular and religious songs and carols, being together with family, and the spirit of the season.

  4. It looks like I'm going to be really busy for awhile here, so I might be gone for awhile. Play nice and stay well! :)

  5. You got me started, Cvow. I'm thinking about all the cookies and candy we made. I guess that was a big part of the holidays for us since we didn't have all the decorations (we took the annual drive around town, though, to see all the pretty lights on other people's houses). I have a soft spot for gingerbread cookies and decorated sugar cookies. We also made lemon-flavored clock cookies for New Year's Eve, decorated with melted baking chocolate dotted on with a toothpick.
    And candy: fudge, suckers (saved those popcicle sticks), divinity, popcorn balls, penuche, taffy.
    The fudge never turned out right because we always insisted on stirring it while it was cooling so it got all grainy.
    You've really got me on a nostalgia trip now!

  6. Thank you for that generous, entertaining post, cvow! I'm thankful for all of you, and thankful that we feel free here to kvetch, reminisce, ponder and pontificate.

    Cvow and sisu, your stories of Christmas are a welcome distraction, as I've been feeling hollow since the death of a friend last week. Only 42, he succumbed to sudden liver and kidney failure, an outcome of brain tumor treatments.

    My memories of childhood Christmases: We kids got tangerines in the toes of our stockings (I still have my stocking, the painted felt crackled with age, the glitter almost gone). The stockings hung on the knobs of the china cabinet unless company was expected, when they were hung on bedposts, so as not to offend. I don't recall any decorations, but Mom baked up a succulent, fragrant storm: orange rolls, pulla, prune tarts, pecan tassies, fattigman, spritz, rosettes, brickle, divinity, fudge. There were little ribbon candies in a fancy jar, and a box of Whitman chocolates, the bottoms dented (I still find creams blechy). Once I found an unwrapped present, a plastic stove, under my parents' bed and played with it, very guiltily. Another year I got a toy vacuum cleaner that made noises. But my best present ever was a brown bag full of art supplies.

    Sisu, your archway card display reminds me of visiting an OALC home (as a child) where the holiday cards were taped to the wall in a tree pattern. I was shocked at this worldliness.

    Nowadays, we begin the season on December 1 by taking out the musical snow globe, the nesting dolls, the nutcrackers, advent calendar, lights and vintage snowman. The children make paper snowflakes and draw winter scenes. We dine by candlelight. Our daughter unpacks the creche and arranges the assorted creatures (of wackily different scale and style) around the baby Jesus, who is then spirited away until Christmas morning. Our son connects the electric train to circle the tree. Soon there are dress-up photos with "Santa Russ," an evening at the ballet, Christmas ships in Elliott Bay, ice skating at Seattle Center, the reindeer at Swanson's Nursery, a tree from the Helpline lot, a drive through Candy Cane Lane, a gingerbread house (fed to the squirrels on Dec. 26), toiletries for the church shelter, gifts for the Giving tree, food for the food drive, Toys for Tots, caroling, pageant rehearsals, card making, scarf-knitting, treat baking, Open Houses, school concerts, advent services.

    Occasionally a visit from relatives, trips to the snow, sledding, Thermoses of cocoa, Kettle corn, board games, sleeping bags, and toasted Panettone for breakfast.

    All enjoyable things, and I hope when they stop being enjoyable we have the good sense to let them go. Once my husband and I spent Christmas in a B&B with a bottle of Champagne and a view of the Sound. It was lovely and I hope to do it again, but . . . not too soon.

    Joyeux Noel, friends.

  7. I'm dreaming of a white Christmas... :) Thanks for the stories, it's interesting to read about other people's Christmas memories.

    In fact, the Christmases were not always white when I was a kid either. I remember many Christmases that were ruined by rain and black ground, but mostly they were white though. I usually started thinking about Christmas already early in the fall when the trees lost their leaves and the weather started getting colder. However, my mother usually refused to put up any Christmas decorations before December, which annoyed me alot. We had quite much Christmas decorations even by Finnish standards (the "oalcers" in Finland tend to have much more decorations than in America), but my favorite was a shiny purple ball that played "Silent night, holy night" if you pulled a string. We used to have it hanging in front of one of the windows. In December my mom always baked a lot(she still does but in smaller quantities), so we spent a lot of time in the kitchen helping (i.e. disturbing) and listening to tapes with Christmas carols. A few days before Christmas my dad used to take us along to the woods to bring home the Christmas trees. We usually had a juniper inside the house and a spruce outside, usually on the porch so you could see it from the dining room window where we'd eat the Christmas meals. Back then it was considered sort of a sin to have a spruce tree inside of a house but a juniper was kind of ok though. But it was kind of ok to put lights also on a spruce, provided you didn't take it in. I always wondered what was so sinful about them spruces... ;) Anyway, when the Christmas trees were there you really felt the Christmas was coming. We always had a lot of Christmas presents, but they never played a big role for me, the main thing was always the special atmosphere. On Christmas Eve, my paternal grandmother and her unmarried sisters arrived. They loved to eat good food, sing Christmas carols, tell amusing stories and laugh. One Christmas my brother secretly put on a tape recorder and recorded their dinner table discussion as they were teasing each other about who was going to get the almond in the rice pudding (it's a common belief that the one who gets the almond will get married before next Christmas). On Dec. 25 and 26 we always had big dinner parties for the relatives, which was a lot of fun.

    When I was a kid we never listened to the Christmas meetings in Gellivare (maybe they weren't sending them to Finland yet?). We sometimes went to church services(the Lutheran "state" church) on Dec. 24 or 25, but I can't remember ever being to the Laestadian prayer house during Christmas. At some point the Christmas meetings entered the picture, and listening to them through the phone patch (at home) became part of the Christmas.

  8. I suppose I am one of the few swedish laestadians on this site. My dad, my brothers, and myself were born in northern sweden. I went to Sankta Lucia ceremony on Saturday put on by the Swedish American Institute in Minneapolis. The holiday is actually celebrated on Dec. 13... Does anyone celebrate/acknowledge this holiday? In Sweden, this holiday symbolizes the start of their Christmas season.

  9. LLLreader sez: With all of this warmth and goodness (my god, I can almost smell the chestnuts roasting on an open fire) it's probably a bad time to bring this up---BUT! A bit ago a post appeared by Annie Dillard. I now am thinking it probably wasn't even her, but someone quoting her. I didn't know who she was, not being the intellectual type that most recent posters seem to be. However, I ordered one of her books-Pilgrim at Tinker Creek--for which she won the Pulitzer--and now I am a fan. She writes in a style that is, for want of a better word, complicated. She is intensely spiritual, not religious. Her post was pretty well savaged by MTH, with free2be only saying she doesn't know if she "gets" Dillard's writing either. I may get jumped on for this, but I didn't like the way Dillard was treated. If it wasn't actually her--then I don't like the way Dillard's writing was treated. As an exOALC member (with the added bonus of being 100% Finn) it's hard for me to scold people I admire--but there it is!

  10. St Lucia is a relatively big thing in Finland, too. Especially in areas with a large Swedish speaking population. For example the Lutheran cathedral in Helsinki has a big Lucia ceremony every year. St Lucia happens to be on the same date also in the Orthodox calendar so the association of the Swedish speaking Orthodox also has some stuff going on that day.

  11. linnealebaron, I've heard of the St Lucia observation but have never seen one myself. My daughter did her undergraduate work however at Gustavus Adolphus in Minnesota and she certainly saw it celebrated there!

    Yes, Sisu, now you have me thinking about the Christmas baking -- Joulutortut and Cardamom bread are two things that stick out, as well as tapioca/prune/raisin pudding. Was that pudding a Christmas thing? I recall really liking it! Some folks at work are trying to organize an "ethnic" potluck for Christmas and everyone is supposed to bring something in from their heritage along with an explanation. I've decided to make a batch of Joulutortut to take, and considering my lack of skill in the kitchen, I need all of your prayers!
    And Free, if you can get me some rosettes (even though in our community it was the German ladies that made those), I would think about voting Democrat in the next election! :-)

    I spoke with my sister last night and she confirmed that there usually were no Christmas services at the OALC back home, unless it fell on Sunday. Kind of weird, huh? We talked about the Christmas tree thing as well, and she thought that in our community we and one other family always had a tree, but many of the others didn't. Sisu, I know we always had a tree even when my Grandfather was alive and living with us. As far as my Dad, it doesn't surprise me that he had no objection. It was pretty funny when we got my Mom talking one time and she told us some stories about him. It seems that one of the old OALC families was visiting my Grandparents one Saturday night while my Dad was still single, and the lady had told my Grandmother that my Dad had picked up her girls and she supposed they were visitng at another OALC home, to which my Grandmother told her that if they were with my Dad, they were at the barn dance. Mother said Dad was known as one of the best dancers at those dances, and quite a gay blade with the ladies. Go figure huh? Dad's only sister was a genuine flapper girl in the 1920s as well! My wife still occasionally wears my aunt's old flapper dress with all of the beads and fringes to costume parties or historical do's! I'm guessing that a certain great aunt of mine in Hancock never knew about the slippery slope her niece and nephew were on, since she always seemed to really like my Dad!

    We always had a few presents at Christmas, although not many. One of my favorite photographs shows both of my grandfathers, my uncle, my Dad, and me (I'm about 6) all giving somebody's new fishing rod a careful examination.

    Ah, the nostalgia...

  12. well I go away for a short time and I miss a lot!

    Im not sure how I feel about holidays. Reflecting on my youth at the oalc has spuratic memories.

    However its been very, very interesting to notice that the church which claims "oneness" has ex/members with such diverse memories about what was allowed and acceptable practices of celebration.

    I can remember hanging our stockings above a fireplace or the wall above a long couch and all us kids trying to hard to sneak something into someone else's without getting caught. Or better yet trying to feel through the fabric what may be in ours. We were allowed to take down our stockings Christmas morning and there were usallally an assortment of toys and candy to keep us busy and quiet through that days church service. There were always meetings, either live or phone patch. I have wonderful memories of traveling across country to sleep on the floor of a strangers home, or having company, feeling so lucky to have friends all over the world. I loved to fall asleep listening to the grownups still visiting in the next room.

    We never decorated the house and certainly a tree would have been strait from the devil. It seems christmas was mostly about meetings. 5 long days.

    Now I have to think about what I want my children to remember about thier childhood christmas' and its certainly more than I was allowed.

    We decorate with a tree, they were besides themselves with excitement when we got our first one (this year is actually our second) and we talked about what the angel on top meant, how it is the angel that guides people to Jesus. We even have lights! All of this is a huge stretch for me and I hope more is to come! We bake a birthday cake for Jesus, and I help the kids write a list of people they want to give presents to. Not very much so far. I have so enjoyed reading others memories and traditions. My husband and I agreed that this year we would sit down and come up with some traditins we would like to start with our family and I am in love with so many of the suggestions I will have to try not to run myself ragged trying to do them all :)

  13. Many Trails Home12/12/2006 12:50:00 PM

    OK LLLreader, it took me about 15 mins. to find that "anniedillard" post to reread it (Nov. 20). You think that "I" savaged "it"??? Wow.
    Here are some excerpts: "'Spiritual path' is the HILARIOUS popular term . . ." where "people grope . . Nothing can justify the term 'path' for this bewildered and empty stumbling, this blackened vagabondage . . they see no progress. . . they have left behind the early doubt that this . . . prospecting in the dark . . is a reasonable way to pass one's life."

    So what does that say to you? It sounds to me like a "savaging" of the choice by some of us, like me, who consider ourselves on a "spiritual path." In fact, I think it was a flowery way of making fun of Sisu's use of the term "path." Am I the only one who interpreted it that way? Was it so flowery that all you saw was the "starry skies?" Whew. MTH

  14. Sorry LLLR, I have to agree with MTH about that quote. If there is value in the writer's point (the spiritual life is not linear?), it is obscured by the tone, which says "I know better than you what you are experiencing." Most of us here have had enough experience with that attitude, we can smell it a mile off.

    But that won't keep me from checking Dillard out of the library one of these days. What do you like about her writing?

  15. hmm, where is the Annie Dillard post? haven't been able to find it.. I've read a little bit about her, but nothing by her so far.. in fact I had something saved in my documents but it's not there any more.. so I'd be interested in reading this..

  16. Norah, here is a copy of the "Annie Dillard" post:

    “Spiritual path” is the hilarious popular term for those night-blind mesas and flayed hills in which people grope, for decades on end, with the goal of knowing the absolute. They discover others spread under the stars and encamped here and there by watch fires, in groups or alone, in the open landscape; they stop for a sleep, or for several years, and move along without knowing toward what or why. They leave whatever they find, picking up each stone, carrying it for awhile, and dropping it gratefully and without regret, for it is not the absolute, though they cannot say what is. Their life’s fine, impossible goal justifies the term “spiritual.” Nothing, however, can justify the term “path” for this bewildered and empty stumbling, this blackened vagabondage – except one thing: They don’t quit. They stick with it. Year after year they put one foot in front of the other, though they fare nowhere. Year after year they find themselves still feeling with their fingers for lumps in the dark.
    The planet turns under their steps like a water wheel rolling; constellations shift without anyone’s gaining ground. They are presenting themselves to the unseen gaze of emptiness. Why do they want to do this? They hope to learn how to be useful.
    Their feet catch in nets; they untangle them when they notice, and keep moving. They hope to learn where they came from. “The soul teaches incessantly,” said Rabbi Pinhas, “but it never repeats.” Decade after decade they see no progress. But they do notice, if they look, that they have left doubt behind. Decades ago, they left behind doubt about this or that doctrine, abandoning the issues as unimportant. Now, I mean, they have left behind the early doubt that this feckless prospecting in the dark for the unseen is a reasonable way to pass one’s life.

  17. Thanks, Free.. sumthin' to chew on, need to read a bit more I think!

    About Christmas.. I've been thinking about that too.. so many good memories, but mostly because of the people of childhood who are long gone. Lots of baking and cooking, Sunday School programs, out of town company, shopping going on.. the secular and spiritual sort of melded together - lots of attention to the secular, but still saying "well, you know the REAL reason we celebrate Christmas".. and yet, the 'to do' list occupied most of the adult time, and mine as well when the kids were growing up. I've been thinking though.. maybe that's what it's really all about.. the time spent serving others, making memories of being together - even if it isn't Norman Rockwell, which mine often wasn't. But Christmas.. there is something special about this season..keeping that sense of wonder, mystery, beauty and anticipation whether you are alone or in a crowd of people ~ "if anyone would be saved he must become as a little child"..

    Loved reading all of your stories!

  18. LLLreader sez: What I love about her writing is the elusivness of it. She can stick in a word or phrase and change the intent. It makes me ponder. I don't call it flowery, I call it complicated. I imagine some folks with have no use for her style--but I love the imagery. " THE TRAVELER DISCOVERS OTHERS IN GROUPS OR ALONE BY THE WATCH FIRE-THEY PAUSE FOR A SLEEP OR A YEAR BUT THEN MOVE ON". That reminded me of the different congregations, teachers/preachers that I have been attracted to in the past as I tried to find a good place to be. When she calls the term spiritual path hilarious, I read that she finds the word spiritual justified because the traveler is trying for the impossible, wanting to know what they are supposed to do, having goals that are way, way too difficult. "THEIR LIFE'S FINE IMPOSSIBLE GOAL JUSTIFIES THE TERM SPIRITUAL". It's a FINE goal. The joke is about the term path. "NOTHING JUSTIFIES THE TERM PATH-EXCEPT FOR ONE THING-THEY DON'T QUIT. THEY KEEP GOING". I have a path in my yard that is well defined and leads me straight to the garden. Our spiritual journey is nothing like a well defined path, She acknowledges how hard it is, but admires the traveler. "THEY DON'T QUIT. THEY KEEP GOING". The way seems dark, but "THEY NOTICE THEY HAVE LEFT DOUBT BEHIND". The doubt they have left is not about doctrine-they quit worrying about that a long time ago, but doubt about whether they should have spent their time in doing this whole quest thing. "THE TRAVELER REALIZES THAT THE QUEST IS A REASONABLE WAY TO PASS ONE'S LIFE". I think someone who enjoys her writing decided to post it because of the picture it gives of this journey we are all on. I don't see any meanness attached. Anyway, that's is how this ol' Finn gal sees it.

  19. What does Annie Dillard have to do with Christmas stories and traditions?

  20. That's the beauty of this blog... it all blends together.
    The interesting thing about this spiritual journey concept is that we're all on one. We can call it hilarious or we can call it wonderful, but the moment we feel we have it all figured out, there is a curveball that comes our way that makes us grapple and grope and search and doubt and God pulls us up and dusts us off and reveals himself in a new way and then we move on.
    That is where I am this Christmas.
    I don't have a lot of Norman Rockwell memories. I have memories of going back to school after Christmas break and trying to explain to the other kids why I didn't get any presents, or making up something to help me fit in. My mom always baked, but so far I haven't made the joulutorttu or gingerbread that she used to make (one of the good memories).
    I am trying to create good traditions and memories for my children without giving in to the complete materialism of our culture today. They would like laptops, ipods and cell phones like some of their peers, and its not going to happen. We have been building our own new memories, and this year I decided to stop wallowing in the fact that I don't have a normal family like everyone else and have to make my own memories from scratch. And I am rejoicing in that. So that's my rant. I don't have it all figured out yet, but I'll let you know when I do.

  21. lllreader, I like what you posted here.. you know, how can it not be a quest, journey or path? We might end up at different places than Annie Dillard or each other, but faith is a gift if we are so fortunate as to be able to receive it somewhere along the way.

    exoalc.. I went through the same thing.. as I was growing up church life and home life were often two different things. I've always wanted to bring both of those things into harmony with each other, and still taking small steps in that direction. My husband had no clue about why there would be problems in this area. "Just be who you are!" he would say, and still says - and that common sense approach helped so much. But living intentionally, and trying to be an intentional parent, a thinking parent.. someone who lives an examined life and doesn't just go along with the crowd either in 'the world' or in 'the church' is a good thing. Bless you on your journey! Keep on keepin' on! You will be a good parent because you care enough to guide them to the important things..

  22. Great Christmas stories.I find it interesting that you in the OALC were not able to have Christmas decorations. What was the reasoning behind that? We were able to have lights, a tree, Santa, the whole works. What I loved about our Christmas celebrations is that we would always read the Christmas story from the bible and sing Christmas hymns before opening gifts. It gave more meaning than just opening presents. I don't have children yet, but when I do, I would like to start some Christmas traditions with them. Like having them shop for toys, for Toys for Tots or some other organization, or volunteering time at a local food bank or shelter. I don't want them thinking Christmas is just about Santa and getting presents. Theres so much more meaning behind it. I liked the idea about baking a birthday cake for Jesus. I didn't get much for Christmas growing up and I remember feeling anxious when people would ask, "What did you get for Christmas". Um, well, some socks, one shirt. And now I feel, that is absolutely ok! One gift is plenty, we don't need hundreds of dollars in gifts to feel good. Its about giving to others and it makes us feel good to give. Have a blessed Christmas!

  23. Faith - The one present comment
    struck home.

    In my youth in November all the
    children where given the use of
    a Montgomery Ward catalog and told
    to select one gift for Christmas.
    [With an established maximum cost
    of course which all strove to
    attain with even arguments from
    the older siblings about whether
    the sales tax and shipping costs
    should be included}

    At the age of 12 I selected a
    a complete fly-fishing outfit
    which included a split bamboo
    rod,(a valuable antique today}
    reel,line,flies and creel which
    to this day I cherish and use
    with only replacing the line
    periodically !

    As a test I asked my own kids
    to make a complete list of what
    presents they received just the
    previous Christmas and they all
    failed miserably.

  24. LLLreader sez: I don't have good childhood memories of Christmas. Having a small tree that we hid when church folks came over and that kind of stuff put a damper on the whole thing. When my kids were young I started definite traditions--making a gingerbread house together, making ornaments with the kids pictures on them--which they still use. My grandchildren have learned many things HAVE to be done in a certain way, because it was our family tradition. These traditions are so important--this is who we are, and this is what we do. When my children were young I made sure that they knew we were celebrating Christ's birthday in ways that were meaningful to US. That's what I missed as a child-- there was always the fear of "what would people think" if we decorated or did what we wanted to do as a family--THEY were more important then US. I never want to live like that again--this journey we have is too precious to be railroaded by some manmade church laws. God bless those young families, like hp3, just starting to recognise how wonderful it is to put the emphasis on their own family--reminds me of myself years ago.

  25. Many Trails Home12/14/2006 05:19:00 PM

    cvow, since when was consistency required on this blog? Just because you started this thread doesn't mean you have any control of where it goes - I am sure you realize that by now!

    Norah, I like what you said about "harmony" - having an integrated life, rather than a compartmentalized (oalc-style) life, is very important to me as well.

    And ex-oalc, I would have to say that God has been "pulling me up and dusting me off" a lot lately. You know, I think there are more of us "not normal" families around nowadays than there are "normal" ones, so if it's any comfort to you, you're probably in the majority. This will be the first Christmas in 28 years, since my first child was born, that I will not have my kids for Christmas - they will be spending it with their dad in the midwest. Even tho this is the right thing, it will be wierd and God may need to "pull me up and dust me off" yet again.

    RE traditions: I just started a new one a couple of years ago. My kids, tho grown, still love their Christmas stockings and I love putting them together, with the requisite tangerine in the toe, nuts in their shells, a new toothbrush, etc. (God forbid that I should leave anything out, even tho they make fun of some of this stuff). So last year I made donations to 3 organizations in their names, printed up "donation documents" and rolled them up like scrolls, tucking them into the stockings. One was to a Buddhist peace organization, another to a wilderness land trust, and the third (which I gave to my 22-year-old daughter, and you can imagine her reaction) was to "Heifer International." My attempt to convince her that it was a wonderful organization fell flat. Maybe I'll give that one to my son this year.
    Hauskaa Joulua to you all. MTH

  26. Ex, you are doing such a good job "making memories from scratch" and your kids are lucky to have you for a mom. )Tell them that often!)

    I've met enough people who get stressed over family traditions they did NOT choose. So we pioneers are lucky to be able to forge our own way.

    Love that fishing rod story, troll. I still have a beloved red Reader's Digest Book of "stories for young readers" that I got from a brother one Christmas.

    MTH, love your new tradition. I gave my bro-in-law a Heifer certificate one year and it didn't go over so well, either. (This year he gets a solar-powered rainbow maker.) Say, if you get bored sans kids, come up to Seattle and join us. We'd love to have you.

    cvow, how are the prune tarts going? I make them with unsweetened pie dough, a bit of lemon zest, and dusting of pearl sugar. (Did you know juletorttu is a band? The wiki entry says "torttu" has a vulgar meaning, associated with digestive processes, which prunes facilitate greatly.

    So many interesting stories. Theo, the indoor/outdoor tree thing is baffling!

    Well, I'm off to mix bath salts (oil of orange, epsom salts, baking soda) for teacher gifts . . . talk to you later!

  27. Trails, I find I have little control over anything! That's probably a good thing.

    The Joulutorttut turned out great! OK, I cheated -- I used frozen puff pastry dough and plum jelly, but they look and taste great. You gotta understand what an undertaking this was. When I told my wife I was venturing into the kitchen to do this, she snarled something like "if you ruin my good pans, I'll string you up..." She is a scary woman! Even she was pleasantly surprised at the outcome and then started dropping hints about me doing more cooking, but I deflected all of that talk quickly. I do not like to cook primarily because it involves no power tools of significance.

    Trails, all of our kids' stockings -- and now all of the spouses' as well -- are hanging by the chimney with care. Santa was extremely clever and dedicated in our house and was finally caught by oldest son when he was about 25 years old, and that is only because Santa tripped over the dadgummed hideabed...

  28. Cvow,

    It's very apparent that Christmas puts you in a most jolly mood. I'm enjoying your postings. Glad to hear the pastries turned out fine. I was thinking about them this morning during my many errands. I never had the patience for making detailed baked goods. We didn't make them, at least not that I remember, but often had them at relatives' houses during the holidays, and I loved them.

    One type of cookie I forgot to mention on an earlier posting: candy cane cookies made with almond flavoring and crushed candy canes as topping. These are shaped like candy canes with red and white dough twisted together. My daughter said last week that she and hubby made some, the only Christmas cookies in their house. I am glad the tradition continues though I didn't get any made this year.

  29. Many Trails Home12/15/2006 12:45:00 PM

    Free, thanks for the invite . . . would love to meet you in person . . .maybe in the spring. MTH

  30. I love Christmas. It's a time to enjoy and remember the real reason why we celebrate. I have wonderful memories of a peaceful home. There wasn't much stress on the decorating..we did but it was more homemade decorations..even on the tree! We made cinnamon cutout ornaments..oh they smelled good. We baked prune tarts, butter tarts, candy cane cookies, fudge, pulla, rice pudding with fruit sauce on Christmas eve. We had gifts, not many..gifts from Santa ..who quite often left his sleighmarks in the yard when we went somewhere on Christmas Eve Day! Gifts from godparents or aunts/uncles or grandparents..but it wasn't big items. A standard by one of my aunts was a box of chocolate covered cherries which I never liked..my dad was always happy! I remember one year, I was about 6 yrs old..Santa brought me a barbie doll and some furniture (plastic kind that blows up). I was so impressed and my sister made me a barbie house out of cardboard. She had made 4 rooms and decorated the walls with old wallpaper and made decorations for the house. It was my best present! Our stockings were filled overnight (christmas eve) and in it was an orange, socks or underwear and a couple candies! Christmas Day was spent at relatives..we have a ham dinner,play, and skating or playing games! What fun memories! I hate the way Christmas is so commercialized these days!

  31. LLLreader sez: to MTH-When my kids were grown there were many times that my kids wouldn't be home for Christmas after their dad and I divorced. One December my son called from some country or other and my husband told him I had just opened the trunk that held the tree decorations. My son said, "Is she crying yet?" (I was)It was well known that I would get VERY sad during the holidays. I had expected things to be so different-and the reality sucked! Now one of my kids lives near and I have my beloved grandson, close friends, and other relatives around. It's wonderful and I thank the Lord daily. So, if this Christmas isn't so hot for you--remember it will change. Our lives have seasons and it will all work out--God Bless.

  32. to LLLreader: thank you for your insperational post. One of the big reasons I want to try so hard to develope some "seasonal" traditions for my kids is that I am seperated from thier father and they will be with him for EVERY christmas break, eve and day. So I will need to work extra hard to focus on the season rather than the day, and still make the time I do have with them as special as can be. I have to admit though, that it can be hard to keep away some sadness that things are not the way I want them to be... Yet I have made a determined vow to focus on what I do have rather than what I dont, on what I can do instead of the 'way things should be' After all, Jesus is a lifestyle, not just a day :) and its always comforting to hear the positive stories of those who have made it through similar circumstances to a better season. Thank you again.

  33. Annie Dillard quote:

    Eskimo:"If I did not know about
    God and sin,would I go to hell?"

    Priest:"No,not if you did not

    Eskimo:"Then why did you tell me?"

  34. Many Trails Home12/19/2006 03:43:00 PM

    That's funny! I like her already. (But not necessarily the "imposter.") MTH

  35. Troll, it's good to see you posting again on this site. You've been gone for awhile, haven't you? Welcome back! I always enjoy your comments.

    I found an Annie Dillard book in my library (quite by accident) and I'm anxious to read it. First, however, I will finish the book on Laestadius my sister gave me for Christmas. Quite enlightening, even though I knew a lot about him already. Maybe it's because I am reading a couple of his sermons without the lay reader's intonations. He was SUCH a firebrand and rather coarse in his word selection, wasn't he?

  36. LLLreader sez: To sisu-I remember reading that the issue of LLL's bad language was one of the reasons for a split in the church. One group wanted it to stay in exactly as it was because "each word from LLL was considered holy". Another group wanted the naughty words taken out.

  37. Where can you find some of LLL's sermons? I haven't read any and would be interested in reading some.

  38. The book I am reading is titled: "A Godly Heritage (Historical View of the Laestadian Revival and Development of the Apostolic Lutheran Church in America)" edited by Aila Foltz and Miriam Yliniemi. It is written by several authors and covers the life and teachings of Laestadius, as well as information about other important figures in the movement (Lapp Mary, Juhani Raattamaa, Erkki Antti Juhonpieti, and Aatu Laitinen). All the articles and sermons have been translated from their original Finnish.

  39. Where did you buy it from? I searched at amazon and didn't find it and I did a search online and just found a short article what its about.

  40. My sister sent me the book for Christmas. I will have to ask her where she bought it. It says it was self-published by the editors. It also gives a website:
    You may want to try that. I haven't looked at that site.

  41. I have seen the book advertised in the Finnish American Reporter, but don't recall who was selling it.

    I'll put in a plug here for the FAR. I really enjoy getting the paper, which is published at Suomi University in Hancock. It's $25 a year, and the monthly Helmi and Heikki joke is worth that!

  42. Sisu, you were spot on. The book is sold by the Spruce Grove church, 218-538-6615, email aghbook@gmail.com. $10 + S&H.

    Let me know how you like it.

  43. Some of you might find this site interesting:


    If you are fluent in Finnish, you can download a pdf file with the sermons of Laestadius as they were written by him, i.e. the original unedited version in Finnish (most of the sermons were held in Finnish, although some were in Swedish and very few in Sami/Lappish).

    However, there are also some English translations by Melvin Niska Sr. (It's funny, the site says he's "diseased", I guess someone should tell them that it's actually spelled "deceased"...)

  44. I grew up in a large OALC family. Though we had presents and stockings, Christmas meant traveling to the Christmas meetings, either in Mpls. or Detroit, where I did make some wonderful childhood friendships. By hook or by crook we went to the meetings. I remember bitter cold weather in Mpls., icy roads, cars off in ditches, salt trucks whizzing by at night with their lights flashing, snow, blizzards, and feeling lost in the crowds at church. I was a great one for getting sick and throwing up. My mom and dad would stop and buy Sprite and Pepto Bismol for me. The taste of that chalky, pink liquid is forever embedded in my mind. Funny, today I have no desire to do what my parents did. I love attending a Christmas Eve service, returning home with my family to quiet and peaceful surroundings, and having a few friends over during the holidays.

  45. I finished "The Godly Heritage" and recommend it to anyone who would like a good overview of Laestadianism. It spells out the tenets of faith and how they originalted. I particularly liked reading about Laestaduis and Raattamaa whose personalities played such a big role in the churches as we know them.

  46. I'm also in the midst of a couple of LLL books. Given his obsession with sex and alcohol, LLL might very well have struggled with alcoholism. It seems for him it was all or none, rather than moderation. It's not surprising then that the Laestadian churches are all or none, rather than moderation. No music, no drinking, no tv, no fashionable dress, no jewelry. One can't be trusted to make good choices. It's possible LLL didn't trust himself, therefore felt others couldn't be trusted.

  47. LLLreader sez: What are the names of the books? That is an interesting idea that possibly LLL had alcohol problems. I know that for the Sami folks he was preaching to alcohol was a major problem. I posted before that it became illegal to ship alcohol to the northern regions. I ordered the book, and it's going to be interesting to see the comparison of their beliefs to the OALC. It looks to me from their Website that they are WAY more liberal then the OALC. There were some pictures of a beautiful wedding and (gasp) no scarves!

  48. I just learned very sad news for those who knew her. Marian (Niska)Halberg was in a fatal car accident near her home.

  49. It is a very sad day, Marian was a wonderful, caring, dynamic person. We will all miss her immensely. Our thoughts and our prayers are with her husband,children, brothers and sisters etc.

  50. As a cousin of Marian, I feel deep sorrow over such loss. You described her well, besides her being very intelligent and wise. The gain is that I have firm conviction she will be with the Lord into eternity. Amen.

  51. LLLreader: Oh no, what a loss! What a shock! We are united in our sorrow and send prayers to her family.

  52. With the Saints give rest, O Christ, to the soul of Your servant, where there is no pain, nor sorrow, nor suffering, but life everlasting.

  53. http://makkeri.bravepages.com/fromf.htm