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By Missy Klatt
Ruth Schutz was born in 1928 to August and Lena Schutz, the oldest of an “all girl” family. She grew up on the family farm south of Boyceville on County Rd. K with her sisters, Alena, Ardy and Alievia. Sadly another sister, Audney died when she was eight and a half months old. Today it is just Ruth and her sister Ardy (James) that are left.
Ruth states that they are of Swiss background so their Christmas baking centered around some traditional Swiss treats: Kuchli (a large fried Swiss treat), Bratzeli (similar to Krumkake) and Peppernuts (Pfeffernusse) cookies. Kuchli was quite labor intensive and required at least two people to make it. It was something that they only made at Christmas time.
For Christmas day her mom would make steamed bread pudding with their meal which was usually chicken. It was just them for Christmas until her maternal grandparents came to live on the farm with them (there was another house on the farm) when Ruth was about ten years old. Before that they lived in Stanley and it was just too far to go at Christmas time.
Her dad’s dad died when she was around a year old and her grandmother then moved in with one of Ruth’s aunts in Glenwood City. Ruth notes that they would try to see her at Christmas.
She attended the Granger Grade School south of Boyceville and she said that “they always had a Christmas program and really everybody came. We’d come across the hill, coming up to the school and we’d see the lights that people would bring. At that time to begin with, people brought lanterns for lights, especially extra lights.”
We always had pieces to memorize for the program at school comments Ruth.
Santa would come to the school program as well and he would give out a sack of goodies that included peanuts, hard candy, chocolate drops, an apple and usually a popcorn ball.
For the program at church they would also get a bag of candy, peanuts and some other things. “Really we didn’t buy a lot of candy because we got stuff at both programs.” However they did make popcorn balls at home.
They always had a real tree at Christmas and at least one of the sisters would go with dad to the woods to cut down a tree. After they brought the tree back Ruth says that “dad would fix it in a stand and once in a while he would add a branch to make it look a little bit better.” as she chuckles. For trimming the tree they would string popcorn and cranberries. They had some ornaments for the tree as well, some handmade and a few bought ones.
Christmas Eve they always went to church. When they got home they would open their gifts (usually one gift) and they always read the Christmas story from Luke and sing Christmas carols, “that was our special [thing].”
They really didn’t have Santa come Ruth remarks. “Santa was in school but we had a Christian Christmas. Dad always read the Christmas story and dad had written a poem too. He always said that poem, he pretty much knew it.” See separate poem.
The tradition continued at her sisters’ as it’s read at Ardy’s and it was also read at Alievia’s.
Christmas day there were usually games or puzzles to work on but in the afternoon Ruth’s Dad would like to go skiing and of course everyone joined him going down the hills on the farm, skiing or sliding. Ruth notes that they didn’t have toboggans until later. Then they would come in and make taffy in the afternoon.
As for other Christmas gifts that Ruth remembers getting she said that her mother would make a dress for them or sew something else for them, maybe doll clothes. Her dad made “Don’t get Mad” (similar to “Sorry” or “Trouble”)/Chinese Checkers game that he made out of a wooden board that she still has. They always had a lot of homemade gifts.
After the sisters grew up and started having families of their own they all got together on Christmas Eve to celebrate. Now a days Ruth goes to one of Alievia’s children for Christmas Eve and to her sister Ardy’s for Christmas Day.
Poem that her dad (August Schutz) wrote and would recite on Christmas:
Wise Men Search for the Christ Child
“Where is He that is born king of the Jews?
A glorious star has directed our way.
Say not that to you these words are strange news,
For a long, hard journey behind us lay.”
King Herod with all Jerusalem was stirred.
He called for the chief priests and scribes to give
A record of things, he now just heard,
Demanding of them where this child might live.
“Bethlehem, though least in Judah fair,”
The prophet to us plainly did tell,
“For out of these shall come a governor,
That shall rule My people Israel.”
Then Herod diligently inquired of them
When first they saw the strange star appear.
Then hastened them off to Bethlehem
To search for the Christ Child, far and near.
“When you have found him, come bring me word,
That I also may worship and adore him.”
They left the king, pondering what they had heard.
Lo, the star in the east went before them.
At this, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy,
Again the star as their guide, they did follow,
‘Til it stood and hovered over the home of the boy,
Whom the angels in heaven did hallow.
Entering the house, they found the young boy,
With Mary his dear, loving mother.
On bended knees, worshipped Him with joy,
Who even then was their Savior and brother.
They opened their treasures before Him that day
Frankincense, myrrh and gold,
They returned to their homes by another way
As in a dream, God’s angel had told.
“Little children, are you searching for Jesus today?
God’s Word is your true guiding star,
His compass that directs us over life’s stormy way,
As He guided the wise men who came from afar.”