A Warm Christmas in North Dakota by Mark Lindberg

When the Christmas Season arrived in North Dakota, the weather is normally COLD! However, as with folks in Alaska, the weather is worn as a badge of courage. Residents knew how to dress, maintain their vehicles, and the kids safely travel to and from school bundled up.

Growing up in Jamestown, ND, Christmas Eve was always more important than the formal Christmas Day dinner. First of all, there were presents to open that night…! Next, no getting dressed up, and as the daylight turned to an early darkness, There were Christmas lights everywhere. We had a large evergreen in our front yard that was decorated with all blue lights after Thanksgiving. Nearly everyone on our Avenue had extensive outdoor Christmas lighting.

After lunch on Christmas Eve, my Dad and his office manager, Clyde, closed the Construction Company and paid key employees their annual bonus. This was Dad’s opportunity to finalize his shopping, and he would stop at the Elks Club to pick up an order of large prawns for a special hors d’oeuvres.

When Dad arrived home, Mom had been cooking for several hours. The old days of the jelly-like Lutefisk (that nobody but Grandma Lindy enjoyed) were replaced with another fish (and once by hamburgers).  Of course, the menu was secondary considering the well-handled heap of presents that seemed to grow as the “Eve” approached.

As the adults (including a few neighbors delivering a gift or dish) enjoyed a cocktail before a “way too delayed dinner” my sister Susan and I organized the presents under a real tree. Mom had a way of peeking (further explaining Dad’s late shopping). After the folks moved to AZ, one year I delivered Mom’s presents in a locked suitcase! Everybody laughed, and Mom waited…

With a wood fire in the living room fireplace, dinner was served. Dessert and coffee for the adults seemed like such a waste of time when there were presents to open! Finally, the time had arrived. Due to my familiarity with the inventory, I was designated “Santa” to hand out the presents. Although I appreciated the honor, this responsibility further delayed my own “openings”…

While Dad recorded the event with a 16mm movie camera, Christmas Eve was concluding. Everybody was happy with their gifts, and there were many surprises. (One year when I was about ten years old, a set up electric train was running in the basement. I turned into a human jumping bean, while Grandma Pete hugged me, but I digress…)

As the gifts, cards, and paper were carefully sorted, the fireplace began roaring as the wrapping paper was consumed.

Fond memories of Christmas decades ago.