For as long as I can remember, there was always a Christmas celebration at our house. With the changing dynamics over the years, these celebrations, simple as they were, were always a special family event.
For as long as I can remember, there was always a Christmas celebration at our house. With the changing dynamics over the years, these celebrations, simple as they were, were always a special family event. The “Depression,” and the wartime years created real stress situations when the wishes for Christmas and the real daily needs were often in conflict.
The very face that we lived in a part of the world where the vagaries of the winter season sometimes were responsible for family hardship. The extremely cold weather and heavy snow made life rather difficult, especially if you were a farmer. But, in spite of the extreme winter weather, we managed to carry on fairly normal lives. The daily chores and care of the animals and fowl were complicated by the frozen water in the stock tanks and the frozen water lines that supplied the large henhouse with water. Getting chores done, particularly on Sundays and holidays, made for really close time binds.
“The Great Armistice Blizzard” in the late 1930s caught many farmers and city people alike unprepared for a prolonged cold and snowy winter that started in November, and only got more extreme, continued until the last week in April. When the very large snowdrifts of early November got much larger in December, and the freezing temperatures became below zero readings - as low as 40 below zero - there was little time to think about Christmas. Every day was occupied with replenishing hay and feed supplies between the weekly blizzards. The roads became totally impassible for normal vehicles. Trips to town with a team of horses hitched to a high wheeled grain wagon provided the only means by which farm produce could be hauled to town. Frostbitten fingers and toes were commonplace for the people who absolutely had to get to town.
The hazardous forays over the snow clogged roads and through large snowdrifts brought only the bare necessities in groceries from town. Most of what was purchased came home frozen solid.
To the grade-school- age children, the many days of no school due to the snow, their imaginations became more valuable, because they didn’t have schoolmates to play and communicate with. Their visions of school Christmas parties and church Christmas programs were muted by the daily adult recitations of the miseries caused by the weather. It was nigh unto impossible to get into the barn, let alone get to school or church.
When the day before Christmas dawned extremely cold, with heavy snow being blown about by howling wind filling every crack and crevice, al hopes for a real Christmas celebration seemed to be hopelessly lost. My father was sure that any Santa Claus in his right mind would not attempt a precarious trip in such horrible winter weather.
The specter of a snowbound sleigh and reindeer created occasion for such wild dreams, such as having Santa stay at our house. Where would he sleep? How about the reindeer? We would be hard pressed to find room for them in the barn. Santa might have a great supply of candy and goodies, which we were sure mom and dad had not been able to buy. Dreams of sugarplums and peanut brittle became rampant.
Fortunately, the evening before this latest storm arrived, we had filled the feed racks full of hay and put enough chicken feed in the feeders to last a couple of days.
Our hopes were buoyed up when we awoke on Christmas morning to find some wonderful aromas coming from the kitchen. Mom had been up since very early, getting our Christmas dinner started in the old wood-burning cook stove. She solicited our help in keeping the stove well stocked with firewood, and washing the many pots and pans as she got them dirty in doing her cooking.
At last! She said dinner was ready and it was time to set the table for our Christmas feast - and what a feast it was! There was roast chicken with wonderful stuffing, crisp brown baked potatoes and chicken gravy, green beans, fried apples and apple pie. We were treated to much of the food mom and little sister Lois had worked so hard to can last summer. All the veggies and fruit had been carefully canned and stored in the fruit cellar. The roast chicken was one of the large red roosters that lived in the henhouse.
When the feast was over and the many dishes were washed, we sat down to have our Christmas carol sing. The Groves family loved to sing and this year the carols were special. Mom read the wonderful Christmas story from the Bible and we each had a simple Christmas prayer. Dad surprised us with some brown paper bags with several pieces of candy, some peanuts and a beautiful large orange. He had the grocery man fill the sacks and wrap them in many layers of store paper so they wouldn’t freeze on the way home from town.
For mom and dad, we kids had pooled our resources in November to buy a box of chocolate-covered cherries. We bought dad some pipe tobacco and mom got some perfume from the Rawleighs man who came around to our place in summer.
When we thought our Christmas would be lost in the snow, we found that a homespun celebration was actually very enjoyable, even though we were snowbound.