Your Unconventional Holiday Stories: Part 1

December 17, 2013

ST. PAUL, Minn. — In the spirit of Bill Morelock's holiday special, 1964: A Child's Christmas on the Willamette, we've asked you to share your own unconventional holiday memories.

We've enjoyed reading your submissions. Today we present the first batch of your holiday stories.

Nancy Astromsky

Edina, Minn.

Nancy tells us about how, when she was seven years old, her baby brother was born on Dec. 24. It also marked the last time Nancy enjoyed a particular dessert:

"My overwhelmed father decided to make butterscotch pudding for dessert for us. Unfortunately, he used a large soup pot so he could use all the boxes of pudding in the cupboard. We ate that pudding for days. I never have eaten it since."

Lois Wintersteen

North St. Paul, Minn.

For Christmas 1991, Lois and her husband decided to visit their son, Alan, who was serving in the Peace Corps in Kenya. Alan and his girlfriend had rented a chalet on Mt. Kenya, where all of them were to spend Christmas. On the way to the chalet, however, their vehicle got stuck in a mud puddle in a wildlife park as night was approaching:

"One is not allowed to walk at night in the park, for good reason: There are animals that will happily eat you! So, exhausted, we collapsed in the vehicle with all the clothes we had with us, as it was cold at that elevation. ... We uncorked a bottle of Baileys and took a few sips and fell asleep, trying to stay warm in our muddy clothes at that high elevation. As dawn broke, my husband saw the shadowy figure of an elephant crossing the road."

Lori and her family were able to get unstuck on Christmas morning, and they successfully reached the chalet on the mountain, where they enjoyed a delightful Christmas they will always remember.

Laura Gilbert

St. Paul, Minn.

Laura and her grown children were finding it difficult to gather together on Thanksgiving or on Christmas, so they created a "midpoint holiday." Because it fell between Thanksgiving and Christmas, Laura's son dubbed the gathering "You're Welcome." The family even created their own special holiday ritual, based on an acrostic:

"The activity involved posting a piece of paper for each person, with that person's name written vertically in large letters. Throughout the evening, anyone could write a characteristic that they appreciated in that person, using a letter from the name. At the end, we sat down and each person read aloud the qualities others had noted for them. It was a holiday celebration unlike any other."

Jodi Halling

Arden Hills, Minn.

Jodi remembers the Polish Christmas traditions in her childhood home, particularly how on Christmas, the children were allowed to drink one teaspoon of sweet wine. One Christmas when Jodi was 9 years old, she noticed her aunts had not finished their wine at dinner, so Jodi volunteered to clear the table.

"Yes, I finished everyone's wine — which probably totaled not more than a small glassful. I don't remember if I got giddy or laughed a lot, but I do remember the dizziness and extreme headache as I sat in the corner watching my siblings have great fun. Mom thought I had the flu, and Christmas that year was a bust. My mom still doesn't know what really happened."

Mark Rossi

Scandia, Minn.

For Mark, Christmas always conjures fond memories of his mother's homemade fruitcake. Mark's mother would bake some of it in soup cans, then wrap the cakes and give it to Mark's teachers as Christmas gifts. In 1960, Mark happened upon one of those presents himself:

"I loved Mom's fruitcake: the brightly colored candied fruit, the nuts, the texture — all of it. One hot July day, I happened to move the living room sofa and discovered one of those tasty cylinders. It looked surreal in its Christmas wrap, just waiting to be found. As one would expect, I ate the whole thing. I suppose it was a little dry."

To this day, Mark remembers the love and care his mother put into her fruitcake and everything she did.


We'll publish more of your unconventional holiday memories tomorrow.

On Thursday, Dec. 19, you can hear a special Music with Minnesotans at 5 p.m., featuring more of these holiday recollections. Then on Friday at 7 p.m., Bill Morelock will once again host his 1964: A Child's Christmas on the Willamette special.

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