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Editor’s Note: The SARS-CoV2 pandemic has made it much more difficult to interview people in person. Gladys Jenson Berg, a lifelong resident of the Colfax area, graciously agreed to write about some of her Christmas memories for the Colfax Messenger.
By Gladys Jenson Berg
COLFAX — I remember moving from the Sand Creek farm down to the Colfax farm in 1934.
I was five years old.
Dad planted potatoes. This gave us food for meals and potatoes to make lefse for Christmas. He took either Margaret or me with him down to the new farm each trip.
It was my job to peel potatoes for dinner but Dad told me I shouldn’t take a very thick peel off the potato. This made me so slow that it took me all morning to peel one potato.
The next trip was Margaret’s turn.
Later that year, the whole family moved down to the farm using a Model T pickup.
Soon it was Christmas time and Mother made all our Norwegian Christmas favorites. We had lefse, rosettes, flatbread, fattigman, krumkake, and lots of cookies and breads.
Later, as teenagers, Margaret and I did all the rolling out of the lefse and Mother fried it on an old four-plate wood stove. The wood had to be cut in small blocks to keep the surface at a consistent temperature.
We rolled out extra large lefse that covered almost all four plates of the stove-top.
Our stockings were hung on a hanger in the front room near a pot-bellied stove. We opened them on Christmas morning and usually got an apple in the heel, an orange in the toe, and ribbon candy and peanuts to make a stocking half full.
We really liked our present as we didn’t get another except a homemade doll. The doll was made from men’s work socks. We loved to play with those.
I got my first real doll when I was in the eighth grade. It came with a bed, a blanket, and a homemade block quilt.
On my first day attending Eighteen Mile Creek School, I was afraid to go in. I heard the other kids speaking in a language I didn’t know.
I went and sat on the steps of the Sokup store next door. Mrs. Benson came over to talk to me and said that she was Norwegian too and promised to help me and teach me English.
The school always had a nice Christmas program. All of the school children had a part in the play which I remember usually involved Santa Claus.
One year, we had to walk the three-quarters of a mile to get to the school program due to a heavy snowstorm. When the program was over, we got a bag of candy, peanuts, and an apple.
We each had to carry our own bag home. Sister Betty wouldn’t put her fingers in her gloves so her hands got very cold but didn’t freeze because Mother held her hands about half of the way home.
Dad carried sister Laila, and we sure used that pot-bellied stove to huddle around when we got home.
Later that evening, Bill Ingebretson came with the Caterpillar snowplow. Dad invited him in to warm up and gave him a glass of wine.
Bill started singing Christmas songs with his beautiful voice while we listened upstairs in our beds. There were only two rooms upstairs and one was used by Martin Anderson, who was helping Dad build the new house. The other bedroom housed all of our family. Our beds were set up three in a row. Dad and Mom slept in the first bed, Laila and Betty in the second bed, Margaret and I in the third bed.
Sometimes snow would blow in from the poorly constructed windows onto our beds.
The downstairs consisted of two rooms. One was a fairly large front room and the other was the kitchen. The smaller children had a potty chair upstairs so we didn’t need to go out to the outdoor toilet. There was no indoor plumbing in the house at that time.
Dad would go up into the woods to cut a Christmas tree. We never knew what kind of shape the tree would be in or how many branches would be on it.
We did our best, however, to decorate it with popcorn strings, homemade balls, and real small candles on a clip.
Mother managed to scrape together enough money to buy an angel for the top. She would light the candles on Christmas Day and stand there watching the tree so it didn’t catch on fire. They were lit for about 15 minutes while we sang “Silent Night.”
The tree was set in a belt pulley that was heavy and had wooden pegs hammered in around it so it wouldn’t tip over.
We went to church on Christmas Eve at 4 p.m. before any other events could start.
When church was over, we’d have rømmegrøt with brown sugar, cinnamon, and cream.
On Christmas Day our main dish was lutefisk with lefse and potatoes.
Our Christmas tree stayed up until April so all Dad’s brothers and sisters could come with Grandma Jenson to visit. She’d make each of us a wool dress from men’s wool suits.
We thought the dresses were great and wore them with brown cotton hose. There were no jeans to wear at that time but she made us snow pants to wear.
We would spend New Year’s Eve with my Mother’s family, the Myrans.
The house was filled with Grandma Myran, Grandpa Myran, Great Aunt Betsy, Uncles Oscar, Bennie, Andrew, and Aunts Bessie and Annie.
My mother, Minnie, was the only child in that family to marry.
We sang songs there in Norwegian because Grandma Myran only spoke Norwegian.
The Myrans always had candy and a big bowl of mixed nuts on the table. We didn’t know what mixed nuts were until we got up there.
We would go Julebukking after Christmas. We’d ride in a sleigh behind a team of horses. We’d sing songs and be all dressed up so neighbors wouldn’t know who we were.
When they finally guessed, we’d get a treat.
That was so much fun to ride in the sleigh and sing songs. We’d visit about four places in an evening go out again on another night.
We continued this tradition after Margaret and I were both married and had children of our own.
During the Depression we didn’t have very much but no one else did either so we were all in the same boat. We were grateful to have what we had, and we loved Christmas and our Norwegian traditions.