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woman outdoors enjoying a snowy Christmas

North Wisconsin Christmas

Come with me to the heart and mind of a teenager experiencing Christmas in North Wisconsin. This is not a modern Christmas, but rather Christmas as experienced in the 1940s and 50s.

We expected Christmas to be cold with lots of snow. If it wasn’t, what a disappointment. The white blanket of snow made everything look clean and beautiful. Snow caresses the yard and the trees. The snow would produce ice sparkles in the light of the sun. Evergreen trees would be silhouetted on a full moon night.

In those cold mornings, we would get up to look out of our second-story bedroom window – but couldn’t see anything. The window was frosted or frozen over. If we wanted to see outside, we had to go out the front or back door to look.

One Christmas, I had a special privilege – finding the Christmas tree for the house. I took our palomino mare with the needed tools and ropes and explored the forest east of our home. The snow was deep, and the weather was frigid. After much searching, I found the right spruce tree – well-shaped and not too tall or short. I cut the tree down and tied the rope to the tree trunk and the other end to the saddle. Because the snow was deep, I didn’t want the horse to struggle with the tree, so I walked. When I got home, everyone seemed pleased with the tree, so into the house it went, and we had our tree trimming party.

We were a family of six children. During those early years, all of us would save money to buy gifts for Mom and Dad and our brothers and sisters. We would carefully place them around under the tree. But we excitedly waited for the big event on Christmas Eve night.

Mom and Dad had been carefully buying Christmas gifts all year – and hiding them. Then, on Christmas Eve, after we had all gone to bed, Mom and Dad would stay up and wrap gifts. Sometimes, we would sneak downstairs to see if they had placed the gifts under the tree – but they hadn’t. After we fell asleep, they would bring the gifts out and put them under the tree.

As soon as we woke up on Christmas morning, we would sneak downstairs to see what was under the tree. What an astounding sight! Stacked under and around the tree and spilled over on the surrounding floor were more gifts than we could imagine. We were so excited to see and guess what was in all those packages – but it was not time to open them.

Mom had fixed a delicious breakfast of bacon, eggs, and “out of this world” coffeecake. She kept it hot as we listened to the Christmas story from Luke 2 and prayed together.

Now it was time! But only partly. We were each allowed to open only two gifts before church. We always had church services on Christmas morning, even if Christmas fell on Saturday or Monday. And then there would be the regular Sunday services. What a joyful, blessed time those services were.

Mom and Dad always wanted us to know the true meaning of Christmas. We knew all our gifts would come from them, brothers, sisters, or relatives. We also understood that “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights”  (James 1:17). They taught us that the greatest gift at Christmas was Jesus Christ, God in the flesh. The most significant love verse in the Bible was “For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). They made it clear to us that we needed to accept this most wondrous gift of all. “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name” (John 1:12).

After the services, we would talk to other kids about the gifts received. Some had already opened all their gifts that morning or on Christmas Eve. But we could still anticipate the exciting gift exchange.

The gift exchange time came after church. All of us were excited to see the gifts each other received – and most excited to see what we received. One Christmas, I received a basketball and a basketball hoop. I gladly accepted help shoveling snow from my newly designated basketball court, and we hung the hoop on the barn haymow door. The haymow was on the second floor, but the haymow door was ground level on this hillside barn. On other Christmases, we would spend the afternoon tobogganing, sledding, skiing, or ice skating. We had a terrific time.

Over the years, I have increasingly learned to appreciate what Mom and Dad did for us. We received a Christian heritage. They gave us the gospel, and we received Christ.   The gift that Jesus gave was impressed on our minds and hearts. “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.”  (2 Corinthians 8:9). We were in church Sunday morning and night and Wednesday night. Indeed, I have been blessed.

In 2023, I am impressed and overwhelmed with thankfulness, joy, and praise for our wonderful Lord and Savior. He gave His all. What have I given? I am amazed that God could ever love me.

The conviction comes strongly to me that it is my responsibility to make Christ pre-eminent in my life at Christmas, Easter, and all year long. “That in all things he might have the preeminence” (Colossians 1:18b). “To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 5:11).

About Dale B

I am a born-again Christian who loves to write and share the Good News about Jesus. Raised on a small Wisconsin farm and saved at age 12, I have been active in Christian service since that time. My many years as a pastor, accountant, and lay worker in the church have equipped me to help those in need. In retirement now in Texas, the Lord has led me to writing as a means of winning people to Christ and helping Christians grow in the Lord. By God’s grace I hope to be a blessing and encouragement to you.

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  1. Dale,
    Thank you for taking us through the memories of your mind and heart, I enjoyed it immensely. Christmas time was so different years ago, it was picturesque, peaceful, filled with joy, and love…and thanks for Christ, the reason for the season. Like you Dale, I inherited a Christian upbringing from birth, and shared so many of your memories. But, I was born in late fifties, so enjoyed the Christmas of the 50’s and 60’s and beyond. It was the best of the best. You engaged my long term memory full force this am. Thank you!

    Oh, and I am most impressed with your ultimate kindness towards your Palomino mare. You didn’t let her trudge through the snow with that tree. You did it yourself! Your compassion (I am an animal lover!) for that horse solidified you have a heart for God.

    Blessings to you~

  2. With your stories to share, your parents gave you the right perspective to focus on; the first promise in the word of God to send the Savior.
    I enjoyed your family’s traditions as a beautiful example of worshiping our King.
    A message from a pastor on a Christian radio station has been talking about many people back in the day when Christ our Savior was born up to this present time in which we are living as multitudes throughout the world miss Christmas.
    They are wrapped up in the festivities, the parties, the giving and receiving of gifts, but Christ is left out. There is no real meaning to them for the reason we have this celebration.
    The secular world has taken over with their own version of what Christmas is about for too long.
    I read today that a principle at a school in Philadelphia , Pennsylvania bans any thing pertaining to Christmas and forbids displaying Christmas by any means in the school or on the buses. This includes clothing as well.
    So some want to do away with Christmas all together as it is noted to be a biblical holiday. They want to make the season to be all-inclusive with a slant on “ensuring equity and no discrimination for gender expansive and transgender students” (quoting from the article).
    They find ways to continue to deny our Lord.
    Our prayer is that many people find Him this Christmas season as God’s perfect gift to mankind.
    Thank you for giving us the opportunity to hear your stories that were inspiring.

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