circa. 1930 (as
recalled by Herman J. Gerwing)
was born in 1920 and raised on the family farm a couple
of miles northeast of the town of
LakeLenore was a German-Catholic settlement established in 1903. In December 2010,
at the age of 90, while visiting with family, he shared
his boyhood recollections of Christmas activities. He
would have been about 10 years old at the time of his
our house the tree (tannenbaum) was not brought into the house
and decorated days or weeks in advance of Christmas like it is
today. Instead the tree would magically appear on Christmas Eve.
In reality, the trees were most often purchased from a traveling
salesman who peddled them door to door and farm to farm from a
hay rack. The trees were cut from native stands in nearby
communities that had not yet been de-forested for crop
production. The tree would be purchased about a week in advance
stored in an granary until needed. Christmas
Eve would begin like any other winter day with the usual chores
such as taking care of the livestock and chopping wood for the
was always a busy day for Ma (my mother Anna Gerwing). She would
spend the afternoon baking goodies such as date roll-up cookies.
She always made suet pudding preparing it by steaming it in a tin
can. (Suet is beef fat found around the kidneys and loins of
beef cattle.) The pudding was delicious as it contained fruit
(often raisins), milk, sugar, butter and corn syrup. During the
afternoon a ham would be slowly roasted in preparation for the
late evening meal.
supper the children would be sent to bed as they would need to
be rested for attending mass later in the evening. As soon as
the children were asleep, the adults would begin Christmas
particular Christmas eve when I was about 10 years old,the children (me included) were sent off to bed
as usual on the 2nd
story of our two story home. My older brother Leo was allowed to
stay up as he was deemed to be old enough not to require a rest
before mass. That year my younger brother Alfred and I only
pretended to be asleep. To satisfy our curiosity, we crept to a
floor grate that provided an excellent view of the activities on
the main floor below.
observed an evergreen tree that was hauled into the living room
and placed in a stand. Decorations were quickly affixed and
gifts placed around the base of the tree. Evergreen boughs were
placed on the wood stove in the kitchen. The woodsy aroma that
the heated boughs produced soon permeated the entire house.
candles were placed on tin candle holders and clipped to the
tree. When all was ready the candles were lit. Pa (my father Joe
Gerwing) would then come up stairs to wake the children,
announcing that Kris Kringle (Santa Claus by German Tradition)
had been there. Fortunately, Alfred & I had quickly hopped
back into bed before Pa made it up the stairs!
gift that I best remember was a red child’s wagon that we kids
shared. That wagon made many miles through the house that winter
before the snow melted and it could be taken outside. Other
typical Christmas gifts received by my brothers and sisters
included such items as a kazoo, jack knife, dolls and of course
clothes. There was always a wooden crate ofChristmas oranges. We referred to them as “jap”
oranges. Our family guitar arrived one Christmas. I took to it
right away and with a little guidance from Pa,learned to play. Playing the guitar has remained a
still play many tunes on guitar for my family and friends.
the gifts had been opened, there would usually be a
‘sing-song”. I recall that Pa would accompany the singing on
guitar. Some of the songs we sang included: “Stille Nacht”
(Silent Night), “Wir drei Könige des
Orients sind“ (We Three Kings)
Kinderlein Kommet”(Come Ye Little
we would dress up in our Sunday best to get ready for attending mass at the church in LakeLenore. The journey would be by horse drawn caboose or sleigh. I remember those
cold crisp rides to town. The air was filled with the sound of
Nearly everyone had bells affixed to the harness of their horses.
Those bells would chime in unison as relatives and neighbors
navigated the packed snow roads to town.From our direction, came neighbors such as Gerwings
(cousins), Gaetz, Stuckel, Brinkman, Berscheid, Hopfner,
Hoffman, Wolsfeld and many more. As we neared the church, the
sleigh bells would become background music for the tolling of
the massive church bells that summoned the faithful to church.
On many occasions the church bells could be heard at our family
farm located about three miles away. The horses were stabled in
the church barn that also doubled as a school barn.
mass service would last for about an hour and a half ending at
about . I recall the final song
of the mass was always “Näher, mein Gott, zu Dir“.
Christ Hopfner on violin would accompany the choir and organ for
the Christmas service. I was told that Pa sung in the church
choir until he married and started raising a family.
mass we exchanged Christmas greetings with relatives and
neighbors. Then we would travel home for a family meal before
retiring. This is when the ham that Ma had been slow roasting
would be served. It was topped with a brown sugar glaze and
served with home made buns or bread. For dessert there were the
date cookies and Christmas oranges and lots of coffee and tea.
We would finally be off to bed at about .
youngster I remember Christmas day as a day spent hosting or
visiting with neighbors. Weather permitting, we often paid a
visit to Ma’s family, the Gessners, at Marysburg, Saskatchewan.