Monday, December 8, 2014

December BBA Challenge - Special Memories of a Farm Girl Christmas

Each month a member of the Blogging Business Artisans Etsy Team poses a challenge to team members.  This month’s challenge comes from Judy of MisterPenQuin:

December is a busy holiday month, filled with lots of opportunities for decorating, celebration and remembrance. Share one or more of your holiday decorations or customs with us, especially your favorite one(s), or . . . describe a special memory associated with an ornament, a food dish, a family outing, or a family member. Maybe you'd like to describe a special gift you received and why you especially like it, or a gift you made that has special meaning for the recipient.

My response to the challenge includes some childhood memories of my Christmases on a small farm in Lake County, in southeastern South Dakota. My godfather (my dad’s cousin Stuart) played a special role by creating Christmas magic year after year.

Christmas was a very special time!

Preparations began in mid-December when we decorated a real Christmas tree.  No trendy modern aluminum trees for us!  I loved the ornaments – angels and brightly-colored balls, strands of silvery tinsel, and the old-fashioned lights with big, brightly-colored bulbs.

My Brother Jeff and I - 1958
If one bulb burned out, the whole string went dark, so we always needed to have some spare bulbs on hand.  I found this wonderful assortment of vintage Christmas bulbs at samjams3 on Etsy.
I remember coming home on cold, dark, snowy nights, and seeing the lights of the Christmas tree shining in our north window.  What a pretty sight!
And there was baking!   My mom always baked pies and cakes and cookies and homemade bread year-round.  But at Christmas time, there were sugar cookies with frosting and sprinkles - stars and bells and camels -- gingerbread men, candy cane cookies, spritz cookies made with a special press, cranberry bread, chocolate fudge made with marshmallow crème, penuche, bright red anise candy, divinity, and my grandmother’s famous “rotten butter cookies.”  My cousin-in-law Deb Quist sent me the recipe:
Grandma Quist's Rotten Butter Cookies
Preheat oven to 375.    Makes 2-1/2 dozen cookies

1 pound butter
1/2 tsp. soda
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp cream of tartar
4 cups flour

Beat butter, brown sugar and soda to a light creamy texture.  Add rest of ingredients.  Amount of flour may vary slightly depending on the humidity in your house, temperature of the room, etc.   Batter is very stiff and hard to mix in the last of the flour.  Roll by teaspoons full into balls and place on ungreased cookie sheet.  Flatten each with the bottom of a glass dipped in flour to keep the glass from sticking to the cookie.  Bake at 375 for 12-13 minutes.  Cool on the cookie sheet a minute or two before transferring to brown paper.  When all are baked and cooled, place in a crock and store covered with a piece of brown paper until Christmas.  (We put an upside down paper sack over the crock and tape the bottom edge to the side of the crock.)  Put in a cool place like a baseme
And there were Christmas carols - - some that I played on our old upright piano (a converted player piano) – never quite in tune.  One of my favorites to play was Silver Bells.  I found this vintage Christmas sheet music at GrayDayPapier on Etsy.

And more Christmas carols – played on our phonograph or broadcast on the radio by our little local radio station, KJAM.  Somehow, I never quite saw the humor in Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer, but it got a lot of air time.
 Christmas Eve!
The most magical night was Christmas Eve.  Our farm house was filled with grandparents, uncles, my dear Aunt Jan, my little brother and four younger cousins.   My tall Uncle Bill would lift us kids up to touch the ceiling! 
After supper, my godfather Stuart would say, “I think I heard sleigh bells!  I’ll step outside and see.”  And when he stepped outside, sure enough, we could all hear a jingling of sleigh bells.  Then he’d come back inside and say, “I told Santa if he would meet me at the barn, I would give his reindeer some hay and water.”  A few minutes later (while Stuart was tending the reindeer), SANTA would come through the kitchen door with a big “HO!HO!HO!” and a gunny sack filled with PRESENTS!! 
This photo shows Santa greeting my cousin Billy.  Also pictured are my Uncle Jim and my Mom.  I'm in the foreground.  Check out those ringlets.

Christmas 1957
Here's another photo of Santa with my tall Uncle Bill, taken in 1958.

Christmas 1958

We kids would gather around, giddy with excitement, as Santa called our names and passed out pretty packages with curly ribbon bows.  Here I am, at age 4, admiring my new doll. 

Then he’d wish us all a Merry Christmas and head out to deliver presents to all the other boys and girls.
A few minutes later, after we’d opened our presents, Stuart would come in from the barn – commenting about the reindeer – and what fun it was to talk to Santa.

We never caught on. 




  1. What a beautiful Christmas you had as a child! Sweet story and CUTE ringlets!!!
    I, too, remember lots of sparkly decorations and home baking :)
    Stuart, er, I mean Santa did a great job!

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Duni!
      I do have great memories of those childhood Christmases. Sad to say the farmhouse where I grew up has been torn down.

  2. Awww, that's such a cute story. When I was a kid we'd spend Christmas Eve at my grandparents' house with my dad's entire side of the family (there were usually 17 of us crammed into their little ranch), and then we'd do Christmas Day at home opening presents and having a "fancy" meal in the dining room.

    1. As a kid, I always thought, "The more, the merrier." But looking back, I realize that must have been pretty stressful for my mom.

  3. There's nothing like the old black and white photos to open the memory floodgates! The recipe looks good and I might give it a try.

    1. That is so true, Sher! At our cousins' reunion this summer, we spent HOURS looking at old photos.

  4. I agree with Sheryl, the old black and white photos hold some of my greatest memories too! What a wonderful memory your godfather gave to all of you! Isn't family wonderful?

    1. Yes - great memories. I still celebrate a late Christmas most years with my brother.