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Holiday in 1930s recalled

'Of all the events that I remember from early childhood, Christmas stands out the most prominently." So said Arland Fiske, Moorhead, in the Christmas reflection he sent to family and friends last year. Because Arland describes so well what the Ch...

Arland Fiske

'Of all the events that I remember from early childhood, Christmas stands out the most prominently."

So said Arland Fiske, Moorhead, in the Christmas reflection he sent to family and friends last year.

Because Arland describes so well what the Christmas season was like when he was growing up on a farm near Colfax, N.D., in the 1930s, Neighbors is turning today's column over to him. Let's join him in thinking about Christmases past - and present.

"Christmas," Arland writes, "had a special magic about it that still lingers after eight decades.

"My parents decorated the Christmas tree. I was not permitted to see it until they had finished putting on the tinsel, bells and real candles.

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"Christmas Eve was always celebrated at home. The Gospel from Luke was read and then presents were distributed. In the deep Depression of the 1930s, they were often homemade.

"On the second day of Christmas, we had the children's program in the church, located in town about five miles away. Sometimes we had to travel by bobsled and a team of horses. Usually the nights were cold and crisp. I used to gaze in awe at the sparkling stars, wondering which one of them led the Wise Men to Bethlehem. The experience fired the imagination.

"What I remember most from the Christmas program was the music. We children had practiced our marching and singing, especially coming up the aisle singing 'We Three Kings of Orient Are.' A large Christmas tree was lighted with real candles and there were presents under it. At the end of the program a bag of hard candy with an orange or an apple was handed out. There would be one chocolate drop in each bag. Then came the ride home under the stars.

"The way we celebrate Christmas has changed a lot, but the meaning has magnified. I soon learned that it was about more than bright colored wrapping and tinsel. Somehow, the rest of our society seems fixated on the penultimate, i.e., the secondary meaning of our celebrating.

"The coming of the Son of God to the world has changed history, including my life.

"Back in Rome, the imperial city, Caesar ruled over a large empire that included little Palestine. He could decree taxes to pay and equip his armies and feed the masses of people in Rome to forestall a revolution. But he had no idea what God had in mind.

"It was to the shepherds 'keeping watch over their flock by night' that the choir of angels declared, 'Do not be afraid; for see - I am bringing you good news of great joy for all people; to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.'

"Then came the great finale, 'Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom He favors.'

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"That," Arland says accurately, "says it all. Merry Christmas!"

Merry Christmas indeed to you all.

If you have an item of interest for this column, mail it to Neighbors, The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, N.D. 58107; fax it to 241-5487; or e-mail blind@forumcomm.com

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