Christmases Past: Bissell family shares the true Christmas spirit

By Kelsie Hoitomt

BOYCEVILLE – “As I remember Christmas as a youth, many things come to mind,” shared long time Boyceville native Ted Bissell, “the first I recall was going to church Christmas Eve and performing in a Christmas pageant. After the pageant and services we were each given a bag which held an orange, an apple, candy and some nuts.”

Ted grew up in rural Boyceville with his parents and brother and sister.

“Us three kids had our horse harnessed and hooked to the cutter and went out into the woods and we found just the right Christmas tree. At home we set it up in the living room and then decorated it,” shared Ted.

When Ted and his siblings were older the family upgraded to “bubble” lights which bubbled once they were hot enough.

Ted’s wife Mary grew up in the city with her parents and two brothers and sister. Her Christmas tree came from a vendor on a corner of a neighborhood street.

Mary shared that her family decorated their tree on Christmas Eve day before they went to church.

While at church, Mary participated in various Christmas pageants as well and services.

“She also received a bag with an orange, an apple, candy and some nuts; it must have been a universal tradition at all churches,” shared Ted.

Both Ted and Mary spent their Christmases with their immediate families. Mary’s family went to her grandma’s house with her aunts, uncles and cousins who all gathered for turkey and other fixings. Ted’s family celebrated at his parents’ home and they cooked a ham.

Mary remembers getting dolls, doll clothes and buggies for Christmases. Ted shared that one present that sticks out in his memory was a Lionel Train that ran on an electric track.

Once Ted and Mary married in 1955 and started their own family with children Lynette, Randy and Mark, they began their own Christmas traditions.

“We still went to church on Christmas Eve and made the true meaning of Christmas a top priority. We purchased a tree and Mary and the kids decorated it while I was in charge of making cocoa for “the workers” in December,” shared Ted, each year new ornaments were added to the tree and we still continue this tradition; Mary says its her way to remember all the Christmases our family has shared.”

As the Bissell children grew up, gifts became more of a tradition and they were more plentiful. Once the kids grew older and relatives grew closer, more gifts were exchanged amongst the family.

“When the grandkids came on the scene, Christmas was at our home Christmas morning. We have video tapes of those Christmases and one wonders now reviewing them where all the gifts came from, chuckled Ted, these Christmases were the most fun we remember.”

Ted and Mary have been known to be quite the shoppers during the holiday season and they seem to have a lot of fun doing so.

“We really got into the shopping scene and knew all the popular gifts. We have hilarious stories about cabbage patch dolls and accessories,” shared Ted and Mary.

The Bissells have many fond memories of the holidays that they hold very dear to them of their children and the things that were said and done that always brought a smile to their faces.

Ted and Mary seem to cherish the true meaning of Christmas as they embrace family and faith.

“To us Christmas is a time of showing love and kindness to all we encounter each day in whatever way we can. Going to church and celebrating the birth of Christ keeps our lives in perspective of what the season is really all about,” shared the couple.

This Christmas Ted and Mary will be spending the holiday in the company of one another near Naples, Florida.

They have been spending their winters in Florida for 18 years now. They live in a small villa where Ted fishes and Mary enjoys playing bridge. Ted is also a part of the Shrine and Mary is in the Daughters of the Nile as well so they stay plenty busy according to Mary.