Christmas memories: 72 Christmases

News | December 10, 2020

I have enjoyed 72 wonderful Christmases in Nebraska, Texas, Arizona, Hawaii, Missouri — and especially in Iowa. Two threads run through all of them regardless of geography: family togetherness (which is a mixture of presents, great food, fun) and celebration of the birth of Christ (which underlies the great joy and happiness that makes the world seem a better place for one month each year).

So many happy images come to mind. As a small child, I see myself with my mom Christmas night discussing what wardrobe I need for my new doll. As a parent, it was finding the right gift for each of our children and gathering with extended family for our traditional turkey dinner which included Swedish rye bread and lutefisk. As a grandmother, it is the creativity of my children who, after the opening presents ritual, plan different entertainments such as white elephant exchanges, ice skating on the river, skiing at Snowstar, and photo shoots in a homemade booth.

As wonderful as these memories are, the truly special experiences in different churches are my REAL Christmas.

When I was a child, we went to Swedish Julotta services Christmas morning. In the choir loft sat an older man who lip-synched there every Sunday morning so that he could belt out Hosanna over all the voices at 5:30 a.m. As a mom, I see visions of Christmas pageants with my children having roles including Alisa as a church mouse, Laura as a crazy angel, and Dave as the back half of a cow wandering through the congregation.

As a grandmother, it is the joy of sharing the beauty of the lights, the music, the messages with my children and grandchildren and having special Christmas experiences such as watching live animals wander into the sanctuary or being cornered after the children’s service by Jack Kindschuh who convinced Natalie, Mallory, and me that we would love to usher at the 10 p.m. service.

Both personal and religious moments which have made me feel valued and loved are the memories that I treasure as Christmas approaches.

-Phyllis Ahlstrand

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