This is the second of three posts about childhood memories of Christmas.
We always had the same thing for supper on Christmas Eve. We call this meal dinner, now, but then dinner was at noon and supper was about 5:30 PM.
On Christmas Eve this meal was a little later because we ate after the cows had been milked and the calves fed. We started with what we called sweet soup. It was hot and had dried fruit in it. We only had one little dish each because the best was yet to come.
The whole house knew we were cooking lutefisk. Some people know it as a slimy, tasteless, trembling mass that damages the surface of your silver coated stainless steel knives and forks. Some people think you can use it to get skunks out from under your porch. But these descriptions are only for people who did not learn, as a small child, that this fish is so special that you only eat it on Christmas Eve.
We always commented on how firm and good it was “this year.” Then we poured melted butter from a small pitcher. Thankfully, I grew up to be a believer and I still think it is very special to eat this lye soaked cod. I once heard that lutefisk is explained in the Bible as the piece of cod that surpasses understanding.
Then, of course, you grabbed a triangle of lefse. Mom had made the dough with mashed potatoes and Dad had rolled it thin on a big griddle designed for lefse. Dad was the only one in the family strong enough to roll this dough paper-thin. We always commented on how perfect the lefse was ‘this year” before we spread butter on it. The butter was spread twice as thick as the lefse. Some imitation Norwegians put sugar or bacon on it, but we were original stock so we just used butter.
When we were done eating we moved to the living room and listened to the Christmas story read from the Bible. Then we started opening presents. We usually got needed clothes and maybe a new tablet for school.
Every year Dad said the same thing, “Well, I didn’t think that heifer looked just right. I think I should go out to the barn and check her.” Dad put on his big jacket and off he went.
Before long there was a knock from the inside of the cellar door. When we opened it there stood Santa Clause!!! (Since my mother was a teacher in a one-room school that owned a Santa outfit she took it home with her for Christmas Eve.)
We quickly found some sugar lumps for Santa to give to Rudolph and we asked how his trip was going. Every year my sister and I noticed the same thing. Santa Clause was wearing striped overalls just like Daddy’s. You could see them hanging out just a little bit right above his boots.