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year is 1877, it is Christmas
Eve. The virgin forest of pine and hemlock, dark and brooding, seemed
encompass the whole world. But wait, there is a flicker of light in
the little log house of Thomas
McAllen a family, the first of the settlers in this area, were seated
supper. One can only wonder how Christmas was celebrated in the little
log cabin along the frozen banks of the Oconto River.
was the first Christmas in
Mountain one hundred and eleven years ago this year. By 1900 there were
94 families living within the borders of the Town of Armstrong, all to
celebrate Christmas in their own fashion.
celebrated the traditions
of their ethnic backgrounds; English, Scotch, German, Danish, Swedish,
and Norwegian; and the melding of these different cultures could only
accomplished in the schools. It was here that the children of
and those of old American stock mingled to produce the society we know,
and the Christmas that we celebrate today.
I was a lad at the Mountain
School during the 20's our Christmas preparations started right after
The teachers assembled to plan the Christmas program for the entire
Skits and plays, group singing and narrations comprised the program
a concerted effort by the teachers to have everyone participate. There
was usually a Christmas Tree in each of the four classrooms for the
school and one large tree on the upper floor for the high school.
the eve before Christmas vacation
the entire populace gathered at the school for the program. The theme
the evening was the birth of Christ. How unlike today. The life story
Frosty the Snowman, or the antics of Rudolph the Reindeer had no
in the reason to celebrate. The Spirit of Christmas came to life as the
children re-enacted, in innocent sincerity, the story that never grew
this evening there was no animosity,
childrens voices bursting forth, proclaiming the joyous message
Christinas in the songs of hope
and joy for a weary and troubled world. Peace reigned, Joy to the
and not a single soul lamented the us of the school . ; house to pay
to God as'the true message of ' Christmas entered the hearts of all
two weeks before the Christmas
.Program all of the students would draw names within their grades, so
each brought a gift to school. At the conclusion of the Christmas
Santa then arrived to distribute these gifts. Everyone was also given a
box of candy and nuts courtesy of the local merchants.
Eve at our house was
a banquet of lutefisk which is dried cod. The lutefisk was then served
with boiled potatoes and a gravy made of butter, milk/lour and dry
Mother always had a big roast chicken with all the trimmings for those
who did not like the lutefisk !
the dishes were washed and
dried we all went into the living room and opened our gifts. Santa's
were delivered after the smaller children were tucked into bed. My
would light the candles on the Christmas Tree and then we sat
by the burning candles for awhile. ,,
Day provided another
banquet of roast chicken with all its nourishing accompaniments and a
filled with candy, nuts, and a big apple or an orange. I best recall
Christmas when we lived above the General Store that is now Joe
I believe I was 6 years olds and my brother Evans was 7, and I knew
was sure to come !
brother Evans had his doubts
that year. I later learned that my father, with a set of sleigh bells,
went up through a trap door onto the roof, and shook those bells with
his might. He, of course, purposely left the trap door open. My mother
came into our room and said to us boys, "Listen. . .You can hear
reindeer. . .and you can even hear the bells!"
so my brother believed once
again while we fell asleep with visions of skates, or skis, or maybe
a 'Flexible Flyer' sled dancing in our heads !