Posts Tagged ‘Santa Claus’

OK,OK….I promised my last post was the finale of the holiday season. I lied

While reading another blog, The Flemish American, I was reminded of St. Nicholas Day. I just had to tell you about it. Early in December, the 6th to be exact, was the special day. I was about 4 or 5 and getting excited about the upcoming Christmas Festival.

I heard sleigh bells at the back door! What was that all about? Mom and Dad said why not go and look who is making the noise. I was never allowed to open the door by myself so this was unusual. I went to the door. No one was there. But….there on the doorknob was hanging a bag of nuts and sweets. Hmmmmm where did those come from?

Maybe the person has gone down the street. Run to the front window and see, prompted my parents. Run I did. “And what to my wondering eyes should appear” but Santa Claus (St. Nicholas) walking down the street in his red suit with a bag over his shoulder. He turned and waved to me. Imagine my excietment.

This happened every year on December 6th until I was old enough to find out it was my neighbor from across the street acting the role. He visited all the children on our block that evening. I think he had even more fun than we did.

Here’s to Herbie, a kid at heart who wasn’t afraid to share it. And now this holiday is put to bed for another year.

Go to The Flemish American to see a wonderful, illustrated post on the roots of St. Nicholas

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I am not talking about the rosy-breasted, first sighting of the spring. I am talking about the season’s last holiday event in our family. On the Sunday after Christmas, or the following Sunday if it was too close to the big day, the aunts, uncles and cousins had a big party. It was a moveable feast. Correction, we were the ones who moved, not the feast itself.

Each family was in charge of one part of the meal. The first family provided the before dinner drinks. This was still the era of cocktails and Mad Men. Second family had the salad course, third family hosted the main course. Dessert came next and was the responsibility of the fourth family. And finally there were the after dinner drinks supplied by the fifth family. Which part of the meal you hosted was rotated each year.

The outstanding feature of this get together was that each course was held in a different house, hence the term round robin. As you can imagine, it was an all day affair even though we all lived in the same metropolitan area. I heard this week from the son of one of my cousins that this tradition remains alive amongst his friends as the Christmas Tree Crawl.

Unlike the night before Christmas, this party centered around eating and drinking. It is cold in Wisconsin and folks enjoy a good meal. You might think that all this drinking and driving would be a problem. But actually everyone was pretty moderate, so worry not. And there was plenty food and time between each house.

When the cousins were all young the parents must have had quite a time bundling, unbundling and rebundling everyone in their snow suits to travel from place to place. We however, didn’t think about such necessities as a problem. It was always a great adventure for us. What a relief it must have been when we could all take care of our own bundling.

One of the best parts of the day for us kids was the travel between homes. You would rarely travel with your own parents. If you did there would always be a cousin with you. We sang Christmas carols at the top of our lungs as we drove to the next house. Our hot breath frosted up the car windows. Then we would draw pictures on the windows, snow men, angels, our names, messages such as Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. The red, green and amber of the traffic lights glowed in the frost. We judged the displays of holiday lights as we passed.

When we arrived, each household would show off what had been found under the tree from Santa. One family always had a train around the tree which was great fun. Most everyone had a piano or accordion in the house (this was after all, Wisconsin) and there was more singing and dancing too, by the end of the day. And of course there was the eating.

By the end of the day the parents were exhausted. Us kids were totally wired from all the Christmas cookies. The only thing left of the feast was dirty dishes and our full bellies.

Eventually,  as we all grew older the round robin ceased to exist. But it continues to be a favorite memory for all of us. Actually the essence of round robin still exists. Every summer as many cousins as are able, get together at a lake side retreat for a weekend of fun.

Long live the Round Robin.


all rightsreserved DianeKern2011

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It is Christmas Eve as I write this and I have just returned from a friend’s house after enjoying a feast. I am remembering the Christmas Eve’s of my youth.

My Father had four brothers. Every year we gathered, with their families on the night before Christmas at my Grandparent’s house. There were nineteen of us jammed into that tiny house.

There was no agenda. We played no games. We sang no carols. We sat around and talked to each other. The grownups asked the cousins how things were going at school. The cousins talked to each other about what ever was popular with kids and teenagers at the time. And the brothers and their wives talked about work, politics, movies and I don’t know what else.

My Father was an identical twin. If he was in a different room from his brother it was easy to confuse them. There were many occasions when one of the cousins would be talking to one and thought it was the other. Sometimes I even had to look twice. And then my uncle started to wear bow ties and that stopped the fun.

There were not lots of presents to open. Checks were passed out to the brothers as Christmas presents for the whole family. The cousins each received a Christmas card which contained a quarter taped to the inside. We eventually graduated to five dollars, if I remember correctly, inflation. And one present was given to the Grandparents which was purchased with the contributions from each family and selected by the sisters-in-law in turn. Cookies and coffee were served and then we went home or on to other parties.

It sounds boring doesn’t it? Well it wasn’t. We all had a great time with these simple pleasures. We saw each other often. There seemed to be some reason to gather almost every month. And the routine was pretty much the same. Talking, maybe someone would bring out a cribbage board or deck of cards, in nice weather some of us might go for a walk together. And when we didn’t gather as a group we would drop in, unannounced on one family or another. It was just what you did in our family.

Now after we left my Grandparent’s house some went to midnight mass, some went home because Santa visited while we gathered and some went on to other parties. My family went on to another party.

This party was much more outgoing and loud. It was held at our neighbors house across the street. There were lots of presents under the tree for everyone who was there. Neighbors would drop in and there would be presents for them as well. There was a good amount of “holiday cheer” and a table laden with food at the end of the night, usually sometime after midnight. Grandma Libby, who was French Canadian, made her special meat pies. We waited all year for this treat and could never get enough of it. She gave me her recipe but I could never make them taste the same.

There was singing and laughter, we watched The Lawrence Welk Christmas show. I always received slippers and was asked how my love life was? This was really embarrassing as I was just a shy kid and love life was not on my agenda. But we all had a great time. As we crossed the street on the way home, crunching through new fallen snow in the wee hours, it all seemed magical. May your holidays be magical too.

Merry Christmas and Peace on Earth

all rights reserved Diane Kern 2010

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