When Dorothy Schultz talks about the favorite Christmas gifts she received as a child, she mentions pieces of fruit.
“Christmas was one of my favorite days of the year because we would go to my grandparents’ house on Christmas day, and every year we got an apple and an orange,” Schultz said.
Schultz, whose family had little money when she was growing up, said Christmas at her grandparents’ house is one of her favorite memories.
The Ralston resident spoke of Christmas memories on a recent Wednesday at the Ralston Senior Center during a break from the cake and ice cream served to celebrate the month’s birthdays. Three other senior center regulars joined Schultz in reminiscing about holiday traditions past and present.
Charlotte Doyle said her Christmases growing up seemed normal. Traditionally, her family gathered on Christmas Eve to enjoy a warm bowl of chili or oyster stew, a Christmas favorite. Doyle continued that tradition when she got married.
“My husband loved oyster stew,” she said.
Doyle, who spends Christmas these days with her sister, niece and nephew, said Christmas was a family affair.
“I remember my brother-in-law used to dress up as Santa, which worked very well because he had twinkly eyes,” she said. “We would go drop off presents to three or four houses we knew didn’t have much money for gifts.”
Spending Christmas every year with family is something familiar to Schultz.
Schultz, who comes from a family of six children, said when the weather was especially bad, she and her family would take the horse and buggy to her grandparents’ home instead of the car. She said no matter the weather, her family never missed a Christmas at her grandparents’ house.
To get themselves in the Christmas spirit, Schultz said her family cut down a tree from the field each year and decorated it.
“We would always cut down our trees for Christmas, and then a lot of times we would go to midnight Mass,” Schultz said.
Marlene Cross, who spent Christmas every year with extended family, is also familiar with the notion of a midnight Mass.
“We had a large dinner, and everyone would bring something to eat like turkey or ham,” Cross said. “Then most people wanted to go to [the] candle Mass.”
Darla Majewski said in addition to turkey and ham, one of her most memorable Christmas traditions was baking pies on Christmas morning.
“I had brothers, but I was the only girl, so I had to bake all of the pies for dinner,” Majewski said.
While Majewski said she enjoyed the big dinner her family had with turkey, Grandma’s homemade dressing and green bean casserole, there was always one drawback.
“Everyone always argues about who has to do the dishes,” Majewski said.
— Brooke Berube is a student at the University of Nebraska at Omaha and her story was an assignment in a newswriting and reporting class.