Christmas Special December
A special su pplement b y the Park Ra pids Enterp rise
Every year, entrants in the Park Rapids Enterprise’s annual Christmas Story Contest share their gift of writing. Some inspire, others make us laugh or wipe away a tear. Grab a cup of cocoa, find a comfortable chair and enjoy this mix of creative fiction, personal essay, poem and memoir. Thank you to all of our contributors!
Act of God By Jill Johnson Park Rapids Christmas vacation is over. My college-bound son and I burn rubber to catch the 9:15 flight out of Bemidji, only to find all morning flights are cancelled. Mechanical difficulties and icing problems in International Falls have immobilized our plane until the temperature rises, no small feat in the “ice box of the nation.” However, the stoic ticket agent reassures us that if we hurry to Grand Rapids, 90 minutes away, Dan could make the early afternoon flight to Minneapolis and then on to Denver. And Dan could fly first class. My son’s face lit up, and for a moment, he is 6 years old again. “Please Mom, I’ll owe you one.” Two hours later, the ticket agent in Grand Rapids, who doubles as the baggage loader, looks at us grim-
ly, “Didn’t those people in Bemidji tell you there’s a storm in Minneapolis and all the planes are grounded?” Equally grim, I insist that the airlines reimburse me for this inconvenience, only to be reminded that weather is “an act of God,” and they are not responsible. Luckily, the good people in Hibbing hadn’t heard the weather report or else ignored it and send their puddle jumper to carry Dan and a few other hardy souls to Minneapolis. Minus my son, his hockey bag, his luggage and a piece of my heart, I head to Laporte for a home visit, now an hour later than scheduled. I’m lonesome for my youngest child, disgusted with the airline and ready to head for the comfort of home. Wearily, I travel up the long country driveway, haul
When our children were small, we started the tradition of cutting down the Christmas tree together. We were living near Rochester, Minn. and decided to visit a tree farm just outside the city. It had snowed quite heavily during the week, so we trudged up and down the rows through eight inches of snow until we found the “perfect” tree. Chopping it down was the easy part. Getting it hoisted onto the roof of our van was not a big deal either, but when it came time to tie it down, we questioned the strength of the rope that the tree farm employee was using. He assured us it would suffice for the drive home. We left the tree farm just as it began to snow – again. The roads were getting slippery, and as we headed down the highway, our concerns
By Jayne Wallace Laporte The tired, young man gave a small sigh as his hammer struck the final blow on the shiny piece of metal. The star tree topper was complete. Working on a frivolous gift like this was something he shouldn’t be doing when there was so much more that needed to be done. But this would be the only gift he would be able to give his new bride this Christmas, and he wanted to make it special. So, the young man was smiling when he entered their warm, little home and placed the shiny star in her dainty hands. She quickly put the star on the small tree and exclaimed, “A bright star for a bright future!” The young couple was blessed with several children. Frequently, these loving parents struggled
to provide for their large family, but each year there was a Christmas tree in the small home that the children decorated with their own homemade ornaments and then placed the shiny star on top. This became a family tradition. So, when the time came for the last child to marry, the older couple decided to give the tree topper as a gift to the new young couple for their own Christmas tree. A bright star for a bright future. Tradition continued and each year the children would happily hang their ornaments on the Christmas tree and place the shiny star on top. Until one day when the last child was ready to marry, and the star was passed on again. However, this time things were different. The newly married couple didn’t want
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Oh, Christmas trees! By Cindy Martens Menahga
A bright star
were focused on the tree we were carrying rather than the conditions of the road. Just as we reached 55 mph, we heard a “snap” then a long scraaatch. As we looked out the rearview mirrors, we saw our tree fly off into the air and land right smack-dab in the center of the highway. The first two cars behind us were able to dodge the tree, but the third car plowed right into it! The damaged tree and tiny Toyota both ended up in the ditch. Luckily, no one was hurt. After an assist from a tow truck and a visit with a highway patrolman, we went back to the tree farm. They gave us another tree and a heartfelt apology. This time we assisted with the tiedown. We decided to drive the back roads home and kept our speed at 45 mph. This time, we and the tree
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Christmas angel By Vanessa Bales Park Rapids The year was 1967. I lived in the Ozarks of Missouri, living with my brothers and my older sister. I was 7 years old and so excited about Christmas being less than a week away. Our family lived in a simple house off a dirt road, and our closest neighbor was over five miles away. We were a large family of six kids and far from rich. We often ate what my older brothers could catch or shoot, but we never went hungry. We did not have a lot, but we had enough. The winter of 1967 was terribly difficult, and five days before Christmas we had a record blizzard with three feet of snow, which covered the road. Snow blocked off all the doors and windows to our house. We had no choice, but to wait in the confines of
our home. Day by day, time passed until we realized that we would not be leaving our home before Christmas. My younger brother and I became quite concerned about how Santa would ever be able to find us buried in the snow before the big day. To keep busy, I began looking about the house to find treasures that I could wrap and give to my siblings. There was no chance for us to go out to go shopping. For one of my older brothers, I located a wooden ruler which looked new and I was sure that it would be something that he could really use. I lovingly wrapped it in newspaper and tied a yarn ribbon around it and placed it under our fake tree. For my older sister, I pulled out my most cherished Christmas decoration. It was a small Christmas
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C2 Saturday, December 21, 2019
Candy Parks, Advertising Manager
Matt Capecchi, Advertising Representative
Karen Holtan, Operations Manager
Shannon Geisen, Editor
Vance Carlson, Sports Editor
Lorie Skarpness, Staff Reporter
Kathy Dennis, Circulation Manager
Jayne Merila, Special Projects
Robin Fish, Staff Reporter
Russ Zinke, Creative
Luanna Lake, Creative
Park Rapids Enterprise
Jerry Weaver, Circulation Driver
Cindy Warne, Customer Service Representative
We wish you a very Happy Holiday season and a peaceful and prosperous New Year.
Bernard Gearin, Circulation Driver
Park Rapids Enterprise
Saturday, December 21, 2019 C3
Ohhh, the joys of Christmas By Melissa Joy Hayes Park Rapids
A crashed Christmas By John Zentz Park Rapids
This all starts in northern Minnesota on a farm during the Depression. Christmas time, cold, snowy and no money for Christmas. My family comprised four boys, a dog named Don, Mother, Dad and no money for Christmas. My father looked the whole thing over and also decided there was no money for Christmas, so he would have to sell a cow to buy Christmas presents. So here came Christmas and Santa brought us two sleds – big sleds. The more I think about it, I believe it might not have been Santa. But it might have had something to do with my father selling that cow. Being boys, we immediately built a giant run down the hill and poured water on it, over and over again until we had an ice run. Boy, did those sleds go superfast down that ice run! Still being boys, we then had to build a jump – very high jump – and poured water over and over until we had a beautiful ice jump. Flying over that jump, those
sleds became airplanes. Now we had an ice run, with a super ice jump, we were getting there. Still being boys, we decided that if we built a branch run around the jump, then we could go under with one sled, while we went over with the other. We used the run many times until we got the timing down, perfect. With the whole family out to watch – Mother, Father, dog named Don and two of the neighbors – we put two boys on one sled and two boys on the other. We had never made the run with two boys on each sled before. Then with full fanfare, we started the highly anticipated run. Those sleds flew down that ice run, but the timing was a hair off. The top sled went about 15 feet in the air, then dove into the sled coming underneath with a beautiful crash. There went two sleds, one cow and a very happy Christmas. There in the middle of a magnificent ice run and ice jump, lay two destroyed sleds and four very banged up boys. My dad hugged my mother, smiled and said, “That sled wreck out there cost me a good cow. Thank the Lord, it didn’t cost me a kid.”
When you’re a kid, Christmas can’t come soon enough. We wait all year long to open those perfectly wrapped gifts under the decorated pine tree. We were blessed having a Mom and Dad who loved to spoil us with many gifts, even though we lived modestly in our small three-bedroom apartment. Our Christmases were always extravagant. Ohhh, the anxiousness of waiting was so hard for me and my siblings! We would shake and rattle the boxes and guess what it could possibly be. Dec. 20, 1979. My younger brother and I decided to just take a peek and open one of our gifts while our parents were gone. We were so excited to see if we got what we waited for and wanted all year long. So we pulled the tape off the ends and carefully opened each one long enough to look what was under that perfectly wrapped paper – a Strawberry Shortcake doll for me and a GI Joe action figure for my brother! We were so happy and couldn’t wait to take them out of the box. We quickly and carefully rewrapped the gifts as best as we could then put them behind the tree and smiled, thinking we were so sneaky. Now we only had to wait a few more days and since we knew what was inside those boxes we didn’t go near the tree again in hopes of not getting caught. Christmas Eve finally arrived and me and my brother happily passed the gifts around to our family members. We waited for our parents to say “open them up,” then we both went to the gift we had previously opened and reopened it with great anticipation only to be so disappointed, realizing someone figured out our mischievous ways and took out the dolls and replaced it with socks in the box! How could this be?! We were so sneaky – or so we thought. How could we tell them we knew what they did because then they would know what we did? Never did we sneak or peek again. I had to wait another year for my doll. Lesson learned.
Born on Christmas Day By Josh Hawn Park Rapids
The 20-year-old station wagon pulled into town on the last few whiffs of gasoline. The halogen lights at the gas station were partially obscured by fat flakes falling, but illuminated tired faces inside. He sluggishly pushed the nozzle into the tank, carefully watching the pump to ensure he did not go over his meager fuel budget. He estimated they had 103 more miles to go to the hospital, and the few dollars he had in his pocket should at least get them there. After that… His thoughts were interrupted by a cry from the car. The look of anguish on his wife’s face as she grabbed at her abdomen told him that they had better get back on the road quickly. He was at the counter behind a woman when the clerk exclaimed, “Looks like the highway is closed!” “All this snow, I wondered if they would,” said the woman. “Too bad,” said the clerk, “and on Christmas Eve of all nights.” The woman paid and the man frantically asked, “Did you say the highway south of town is closed?” The clerk indifferently said, “Yep! If you were headed that way, I guess you’re here tonight.” When he returned to the station wagon, his wife was breathing more heavily. He turned the car away from the highway and toward downtown. While his eyes searched the closed storefronts for signs of life, her eyes were clenched shut. He was parking at a hotel just as she told him to hurry through a shriek of pain. He ran into the lobby and asked for a room, only to be told there were no vacancies. Every last room was rented, not only in that hotel, but in the motel across town as well. A question about any other local accommodations was answered with a shrug and a half-hearted apology. Things were much worse back in the car, and the search for a bed became more important. He stopped at a large well-lit colonial, only to be turned away by the
wealthy occupants. He inquired at a bulky warm inviting cottage, only to be chided for his situation. Following a sign for the police station, which was empty, he found himself out of town with gathering flurries and an increasingly panicked wife. In the fog of sleet, he saw a small cluster of glowing lights which turned out to be a dimly lit nativity display next to a mailbox. Something told him to turn into the long driveway that led to a small farmhouse. The farmer’s kind face was the first real warmth he’d had all night. He was told to bring his wife into the house, where a roaring fire took away every bite of cold they had felt that night. One look at the young woman, and the farmer’s wife sprang into action. “Young man,” she said to the man, “that child is on its way right now! I’ve had four of my own, and I know a mama who’s ready when I see one!” A bed was prepared, clean sheets and hot water. The man protested that he needed to find a hospital, even as he knew that it was impossible. He was worried for a safe delivery. How could he know everything would turn out right? The farmer put his hand on his shoulder, “Son, we’ve delivered hundreds of calves here, and your little one will be no problem!” Just an hour and sixteen minutes later, the farmer’s wife was handing the smiling, young woman a new rosy, squalling baby boy. She looked at her husband through tears, and he looked through tears at her and his hosts. A clap on the back and the farmer went down to the kitchen to bring up the meal he had made for them. The snow and wind lashed at that house, but could not stifle one bit of happiness the young couple felt as they gazed adoringly at their son. The young man glanced at the clock and saw that it was well-past one in the morning. “Mary,” he said. “Look! We have a Dec. 25 baby. Born just in time for Christmas.” Mary smiled up at him. “Merry Christmas, Joseph.”
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C4 Saturday, December 21, 2019
Maiden By Ariana Lewis Park Rapids
There is a town along the West Coast which I visited every year at Christmas. My grandparents lived in a very special place, and my grandfather said Father Christmas visited it first on Christmas Eve. This town was on the Pacific Ocean, and its view of the ocean and mountains was magical. But the town’s most spectacular and mysterious place was on Main Street. Three lamp posts from St. Olaf’s Church, across from the post office, with the German bakery on one side and Erhard’s Meat Shoppe on the other, if I remember correctly. It had burned down in its prime, been flooded by heavy, coastal rains at its worst, and went through 44 names and was owned by 38 people. A German sold it as “The Wreath Place.” A Russian named it “Luka’s Decor.” It flooded as “The Nutcracker Factory, and it became “Tomte’s House” under a Swede. It was “The Yule Goat” when it was burned, sharing the fate of the famous straw Gavle Goat in Sweden, which was destroyed 37 times since its first appearance in 1966. All of the owners’ names and the dates of purchase were carved into the back of the shop’s front. This heavy door, as I remember it, was the original and was somehow preserved through all the structure’s catastrophes. The shop was a squat Norwegian hut, made of wood, with grass growing on the roof. Two large, red sash windows were on either side of the door, and these usually had red cedar boughs draped across them. The door would have a gigantic wreath nailed to it, hung over the red bows like cardinals and dripping with white berries. The shop’s inside was my favorite as a child. As I entered, I could smell the building’s old timber, the wood burning inside the ancient stove in the back, the cedar boughs hanging from the ceiling, roasting nuts and spices. Shelves filled the store, which overflowed with essential Christmas articles. (Many people became claustrophobic in that store.) There were angels made of every material under the sun, mistletoe, toy elves, straw Yuletide goats and Tomtes. Candles lined the shelves, wreaths were stuffed in cracks and corners, with branches of scarlet holly berries, and nuts in the strangest places. There were millions of miniature nativities tumbling off shelves, oily pictures of Virgin Mary with Child, stars for evergreens, painted Dala horses and a beautiful Dutch cuckoo clock hung upon the wall. Near the back was a long shelf cov-
ered with bold and colorful Nutcrackers. The largest, his black hat touching the ceiling like a pillar, was King Cracker. I never figured out how he was stuffed into the store. Another novelty was a life-sized, china stag that rested on the floor with black eyes and a glowing, diamond-star between his antlers. The shopkeeper told me that the stag would come to life after he turned the key in the lock. The shopkeeper’s name was Erling .He was a widower – his wife was taken by cancer – but a kindly old gentleman, hard of hearing, generous, outgoing, a fantastic storyteller with a gift for finding the rarest treasure for his store. He slept in the building’s attic, but spent his time in the shop. We would sit behind the counter, cracking filberts, walnuts and chestnuts with the store’s nutcrackers, while he told me “The Legend of the Christmas Wreath.” Many lost their teeth during this process, but Erling would simply put them back on the shelf, saying their faces were freed from such “large, toothy grins.” Erling owned a stunning, smoky gray Norwegian Forest tomcat named Vendel. He was “king,” and terrorized the mice that stole countless nuts. Years went by, and Erling grew feebler. When I was 15, he passed. The shop was boarded up. It was sold and leveled. I was heartbroken that Erling was gone, and his shop with him. I would have bought it, if I could, but was only a child with little money. Vendel was given to me. I took good care of him, but his health declined, and he, too, was gone. Visiting tiny shops overflowing with toys and odds and ends, all to delight a child at Christmas, remind me of “The Snow Maiden.” In each town I visit, I try to find tiny shops like Erling’s. Three lamp posts from the church, across from the post office, with the bakery on one side, the meat shop on the other. And there I find my grandfather.
Park Rapids Enterprise
The time I met an elf! By Alexis Davidson Age 10, Menahga
This story is hard to believe, but it actually happened. It all started when I woke up really early to find our elf, Zain. I was walking down the stairs, and I saw a red flash. I was like “What?!,” then I heard a little “oops.” I walked closer, and then I heard heavy breathing. I followed it and then I realized it was our elf, Zain!!!! I couldn’t believe it! I said “Hello,” then I heard, “Come in the bathroom quietly.” I tiptoed into the bathroom, shut the door quietly and waited. “Did anyone follow you”? “No” I said. Then I saw it, Zain, my elf!! “Am I in a dream?” I thought. I pinched myself. Ouch! Nope. “It must be my brother playing a trick on me,” I thought. Then I heard, “Hi” in a cheery voice. “Look down here,” and right there on the floor was Zain! He said, “Hi, my name is Henry.” “No, it’s Zain,” I said. “Well my real name is Henry and I work for Santa for real.” “Prove it!” I said. “I know what you want for Christmas,” said the elf. “You want a doll with red hair and blue eyes.” “How do you know that?” I said. “I made it for you. Ok. Now you saw me. Do you want to see the North Pole?”
“Oh, yeah.” “Ok, to do it you need to tap your nose and clap two times and act like a chicken. Then you will teleport to the North Pole.” Ok. tap tap clap clap bawk baaaawk bawk bawk. “Tada! We are here!” Whew! “Now where is the mind eraser station?” said Zain. “WHAT?” I yelled. “Well, you saw me so you have to get your mind erased.” “No! Please.” Zain told me, “You just won’t remember the time you saw me. You will be fine.” Ok. “Now where is it?” said Zain. “Can we go meet Santa?” I asked. “No, if we do he will get me fired,” Zain said. “Oh well, I guess we should find the mind eraser station,” I said. “Wait, you want to?” Zain wondered. “Yes, I like you as our elf” I said. “Here it is. Sit on the stool and I will set it for 30 minutes back in time and we should be fine. Well, I guess this is goodbye,” Zain said. “Bye!” That is the story of the time I met an elf, and don’t ask me how I remember. Let’s just say I might have escaped before he pressed the button!
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Park Rapids Enterprise
Saturday, December 21, 2019 C5
CHRISTMAS WORD ON THE STREET
The Enterprise asked random people in downtown Park Rapids to describe their family’s Christmas traditions. Here were their responses. “I have two children,” said Judy Forcier, the owner of Rust to Roses. “Our tradition was always to give them the German Toblerone candy bar. I guess that was started because it was long and narrow and would fit in their stocking really well. “On Christmas Eve,” Forcier continued, “before they went to bed, they could open one of their presents from their grandparents. … And then, of course, they had to wake us up in the morning to go open gifts. We always did Santa gifts first, in their stockings, and then we kind of took turns, and the kids would deliver all the packages under the tree to their dad and me, and if we had anybody else there.” “We open the family gifts on Christmas Eve,” said Debbie Brattlof. “We have a big dinner beforehand, and open all our gifts and do our socializing, and then, the next day Santa comes.” Miguel Baerga said he started playing Santa for his grandchildren a few years ago. “When I retired from
IBM, I had a Santa Claus suit that I had used there, so I brought it with me, and I’ve used it a couple times over the last couple years.” He recalled one time when his little grandson looked at him doubtfully and said, “Are you Santa?” “He wasn’t quite sure,” said Baerga. “As he’s gotten older, I think he knows who I am now. But it was kind of fun.” During his childhood in Texas, Baerga’s extended family would get together and make tamales, he said. “I mean, like, tons of tamales! And they would divide it up amongst the families. Those were some good memories.” “We have a Christmas tree that we put up after Thanksgiving,” said Randy Michaels. “It stays up through the New Year. We usually go to midnight Mass, and have the grandkids and my kids come to the house and tell some stories, and just spend some really close family
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time together, and have a good meal.” “Our Christmas traditions are totally based around family,” said Nancy Gilbert. “We have grandchildren and our own children. We always take turns (whose) home we’re going to be at. We love to be outside,” sharing activities in the snow. “Family being together – I think that’s the most important for us.” As a child, Gilbert said, “I was raised with seven little sisters. So, Christmas was always a very exciting time for us. My mom and dad, the Christmas tree … Santa coming. My uncle used to come and knock on the door and go, ‘Ho, ho, ho!’ and leave all the packages there.” “I’m divorced,” said Margie Peterson. “But on Christmas Eve, we get together. We have four kids, and we get together as a family, so we can watch our kids open up the gifts together. We enjoy that time, to be able to celebrate with our kids.”
The Christmas window
C6 Saturday, December 21, 2019
By Kim Villalva Dayton, Ohio
“It wasn’t supposed to be this way, you know.” Santa stared at the darkened house before him. His reindeer, Blitzen, stood nearby. “I was supposed to be here that year, but ran late with my deliveries. By the time I arrived, she was gone.” Santa pointed to the window on the third floor. “She used to wait for me by that window. She always decorated it so beautifully for Christmas.” Blitzen raised her head. Santa stroked his beard as falling snowflakes gave it a magical shimmer. “No matter how hard life got for Ella, she never lost her hope. She always knew to watch for me. I’d make sure to fly by her Christmas window on my way out and …oh, Blitzen, you should have seen her sweet smile.” Santa sighed. Santa and Blitzen were just about to take off when a car pulled into the driveway. A man walked slowly around the front of the car. “It just can’t be possible!” He stood with his hands on his hips. “You’re here! Just like she’s always said.” The man opened the passenger side door. “Easy now, Mom. It’s pretty slippery out here.” He gently lifted a white-haired woman out of the car. She looked up at Santa with misty eyes and a smile that lit up her face. “I told him I had to get back home, that you would be looking for me.” Santa rushed over to her, his dimples rosy with joy. “My darling, Ella. I finally found you!” The man approached them. “When Mom fell a few years ago, she couldn’t take care of herself anymore so we brought her to live with us.” Santa winked at Ella’s son. “So that’s where she has been these last few years. Every year I came back looking for her, but all I found was this house that’s been as empty as my heart.” He turned and faced Ella. “Ella, I was always so busy doing my job that I lost the one thing that brightened my life…you. Your smile warmed my heart every year when I flew by your beautiful window.” “Oh Santa! I fell in love with you when I heard your laughter ring out over the howling wind back in 1967!” Ella threw her arms around him. “Mom? Wait…you can’t mean that he’s the
We will sing why we have Christmas, We will sing about bells We will sing about sleigh rides
We will sing about our kids But most of all let’s sing About the most beautiful day. Soon it will be Christmas Day.
Senses of the Season By Cindy Martens Menahga
Santa Claus? Santa Claus is standing right in front of me.” Johnny ran his hands through his hair. Ella gazed up at Santa, “Yes, Johnny. He is the real Santa. You were just a boy when your father passed away. Christmas was a time when I told myself there would be only joy and love in our home – for you. But late at night after you went to sleep, I would sit and cry at the window there.” Ella pointed to the same window that Santa had earlier. “The first year I saw his sleigh, I thought I was seeing things, but each year I saw the same light in the night sky. I’d hear the jingle bells of the reindeer and I’d hear his laughter.” Ella smiled at Santa. “Then you’d fly by and give me a wink and a smile.” “I know this is difficult for you to believe, Johnny,” Santa said. “When children grow up their faith is often the first to go. Things that they used to believe in fade away as the harsh realities of the world take over. That’s why your mom is so special. She faced her
“No job too small”
13267 Eureka Rd., Park Rapids, MN 56470 Shop Manager/Owner: Josh Kruchowski
By Gary W. Harshe
We will sing about presents
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Soon it will be Christmas Day
We will sing about the day
loss with a great strength and kept believing in the goodness of the world. I’m just a silly, old man for not saying telling her how I felt about her until now.” He took Ella’s hands in his. “Come back to the North Pole with me. Join me in spreading Christmas cheer to all the world’s children. You’ll never feel lonely again with me by your side.” “Johnny?” Ella turned her head towards her son. “I…I guess, yeah. Well, of course, yes! Mom, I love you and want to see you happy!” He grabbed his mom and hugged her close. “The North Pole is a place of pure love and generosity, Johnny.” Santa joined in their hug. “How about we fly by our window one more time?” He nestled Ella in front of him on Blitzen’s back and they rose silently onto the north wind, the wind which would carry them back to the North Pole. And to their second chance at love.
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Ding! Dong! What do you hear? I hear a bell ringing Soft and clear! Ding! Dong! What do you see? I see an elf winking back at me! Ding! Dong! What do you know? I know it’s winter, Look at the snow! Ding! Dong! How do you feel? I feel fine ‘cuz it’s Christmastime! Yes, I feel fine ‘cuz it’s Christmastime!
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Park Rapids Enterprise
TREES From Page C1
made it back safely. However, our story doesn’t end there… As we made the final turn onto our block, we noticed that one of our neighbors had also just purchased a Christmas tree. They had it set up in a stand, airing out on their driveway. It was just too tempting! I slid over to the driver’s side of our vehicle as my husband jumped out of our van. He ran up their driveway and “stole” the tree. He carried the tree all the way down to our house which happened to be at the other end of the block. Our children, in the back seats, were giggling hysterically! After a couple of hours,
ANGEL From Page C1
angel whose wings glittered in the light. How I loved bringing my treasured angel out at Christmas time. I would place her on the dinner table and gaze at how beautiful she was. The year before my mother lit her and before we remembered to blow her out her head melted and was missing. I was heartbroken, but still kept her and loved her as imperfect as she was. I wrapped her up in paper and tied some yarn ribbon for a bow. I was so excited to share the gifts that I had collect-
we called them and asked if they had gotten a tree, yet, because we were thinking of doing the same and wanted to know where we could get a nice tree. They were so excited to tell us about how they had found and cut down their own “perfect tree.” We hung up the phone, and five minutes later they called us back, asking if we knew where their tree was. They couldn’t believe that their tree was gone. We left them wondering awhile longer until they called back to say that they were going to call the police! We ‘fessed up and brought their tree back and we all laughed about it! We reminisced about a few other times we had played tricks on each other! Fast forward to New Year’s Day…we arrived
back home after being gone for several days and to our surprise there was a Christmas tree resting against our front door. There were two more trees resting against the back door of our garage. Then, when we went inside, we discovered six more trees resting on our back deck. Our friends had shared the story (at the neighborhood New Year’s Eve party) of how we had pranked them with their Christmas tree. They included the whole neighborhood in pranking us back! A few days later, I called our local garbage service and asked how many Christmas trees they were willing to pick up from one residence. After sharing my story they laughed and said they would happily pick up all 10 trees!
ed with my siblings all by myself. We all sat together, as I handed my brother his gift. He promptly replied, “Gee thanks for giving me my own ruler!” My heart was broken, and I felt so embarrassed. I began to worry if my brother thought his gift was stupid what would my sister say about a headless angel? Tears filled my eyes, and I waited for her response. My sister carefully unwrapped her gift, and instead of laughing or making fun of her headless angel, she replied how wonderful and beautiful she thought her gift was. She hugged me and told me just how special her
gift was. She knew how much I loved that angel and she loved me for sharing my love with her. That night I received the gift of unconditional love. Christmas is not about expensive or fancy gifts. It is about showing God’s love to others by being kind, grateful and loving one another. That night, the angel candle lit our dinner table. Its headless body lit up our Christmas dinner of tomatoes, rice and squirrel, though I would have much preferred turkey or ham. It was one of the most abundant Christmases of all and full of the reason for the season: LOVE!
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the old star to be placed on top of their tree because what would their friends and neighbors think? This hand-me-down star just wasn’t good enough for them and their young family. So, each year the children watched as their parents placed the perfect Christmas tree in front of the oversized family room window and decorated it with a new tree topper, matching strings of lights and perfectly placed ornaments. Unfortunately, this meant that the old metal star was always tucked away and rarely seen by the young children in the family. Years passed, and it was time for this older couple to move into a place where they could receive extra care. The children were asked to help clean out the belongings in their childhood home and to separate the household items into piles for donating, throwing away or taking
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home. It wasn’t an easy task because these children had homes of their own and didn’t need the “extras” they were sorting through. Dishes, trinkets, and even the old metal star were spread out on the kitchen counter. Who would take them? Where would they go? They were too good to throw away, but not good enough to keep. All the memories that were attached to each item had just slipped away with time. The star along with the other unwanted items were donated to a second-hand store. Many people picked up the star that was sitting on the shelf for sale, but it was always put back because it just wasn’t perfect enough. Until one evening when a young man who had just finished work and was heading home, decided to stop at the store in search of a small Christmas gift for his new bride. Even though money was tight, he still couldn’t go through Christmas without buying something to make her smile. When he
scanned the items on the shelves the metal star tree topper caught his eye. The young man picked it up, rubbed the dust off, and when he saw the hammer marks on the metal he knew that there was something special about this star. Taking the last two dollars from his pocket, he purchased the old shiny star and walked home swinging a bright, red bag. Entering their small apartment, the young man spotted his new bride decorating the Christmas tree with an assortment of ornaments that they had already purchased from garage sales and thrift stores. He knew instantly that he couldn’t wait for Christmas to give her the present. So, he slowly walked forward, kissed her on the forehead and handed her the bag. Cautiously, she opened it and pulled out the shiny metal tree topper. With tears in her eyes she exclaimed, “I love it – and it is just what we needed. A bright star for a bright future!”
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Country church Christmas Eve
By Dave Dwyer Park Rapids
It’s 5 p.m. Christmas Eve. Outside light snow is softly falling. As you enter the double doors to the little country church, you notice a small, round oak table in the left corner of the first room with a lighted lamp, twin poinsettia plants and a large Bible opened to the Gospel of Luke, chapter two. Families and friends have warmly greeted each other and hung their coats and hats on the hangers or placed them in the fireside room on the right. The nursery is open on the left. Inside the sanctuary, the overhead lights have been dimmed. Lighted candles in crystal holders are on the ledges of the four, clear glass windows on both sides of the church. The ones on the north side allow a view of God’s four seasons’ creation and those on the south side a view of Hwy. 107, the road to begin the journey back to homes and communities in the area. Pairs of poinsettias and candles are on the piano, the organ and the Communion table that also includes the unlit Christ candle with the four lighted countdown candles of the Advent season. There are also two sets of Communion trays on the table as well. The scene on the screen at the center shows a winter picture of the church, with a large “Welcome to the Christmas Eve Service” in green letters. On the right side of the one-step-up platform is a 10-foot tall Christmas tree decorated with white lights and white flannel trimmed in gold Chrismons, made by ladies from the church by hand that represent events in the life of Christ: mangers, stars, angels, shepherds, crosses, crowns, the “fish” symbol, the chalice and the butterfly, the symbol of eternal life. Centered on the platform on a small table is a manger tipped slightly forward so everyone can clearly see the baby Jesus wrapped in a blue baby blanket. The pastor’s wife is softly playing Christmas hymns and songs on the organ. The pastor comes forward and stands in front of the tree to share a welcome and a few brief announcements and a prayer. The congregation stands to sing the first verse of “O Come, All Ye Faithful” and read together the Old Testament prophesies from Isaiah 7:14, Isaiah 9:2 and Micah 5:2 and sing together the words of that old Latin hymn “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” and then are seated for a time of silent prayer and meditation. Then the words from the Gospel of Matthew 1:1823 are read in unison about the angel’s appearance to Joseph and the go-ahead to marry Mary and that the baby boy’s name was to be “Jesus” because “he will save his people from their sins” and to fulfill the prophet Isaiah’s words in Isaiah 7:14 regarding “Immanuel, God with us.” Luke 2:1-5 was read by the men and boys regarding Caesar’s census and Joseph and Mary’s need to register in Joseph’s home town of Bethlehem. Everyone sang together the first two verses of “O Little Town
of Bethlehem.” The women and girls read Luke 2:6-7 about the birth of Jesus, Mary’s firstborn son, and how his mother wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger because there was no place else to stay. The children’s choir sang two verses of “Away in a Manger” and a young mother sang “O Holy Night.” Then a middle-aged man played his guitar and sang “Silent Night.” The pastor gave a brief Christmas devotional and
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then went to the manger on the table and picked up “the baby Jesus.” He cradled him in his arms and patted the baby’s back as he briefly shared with the congregation the “rest of the Christmas story.” He told about how Jesus grew to be a man and how, at age 30, he chose 12 disciples and began his public ministry. He told about how Jesus blessed the little children, about his “beautiful attitudes” that a Christ follower should show to everyone, including one’s enemies. He told about the healings and the forgiveness of sins and the love and compassion Christ showed to each person. He shared that Christ said he was “the way, the truth, and the life” and that “no one comes to the Father except through me.” Then the final two days in the life of Christ; the Thursday evening Passover meal, the prayers on the Mount of Olives, the betrayal by Judas, the arrest and trial before Pilate and the false charges by the Scribes and Pharisees in the early hours of Good Friday, the brutal beatings and the crown of thorns and the crucifixion on that old rugged cross on a hill called Mount Calvary. At that point, the pastor gently opened the baby blanket in his arms and revealed a freshly baked loaf of bread. He then broke the bread into two pieces and placed the two halves on the silver plates on the communion table. He explained that the cup, and the bread represented the blood and the body of Christ given freely so we could have forgiveness of the past, strength for the present, and hope for the future through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. The pastor broke off a small piece of bread and took a communion cup and gave it to his wife at the organ. He then invited the congregation, when they were ready, to come forward in the center aisle, take the bread and the cup and return to their seat by way of the outside aisle by the windows. When all had been served he took the bread and the cup for himself. The service continued and the congregation read in unison Luke 2:8-14 about the angels sharing the Good News with the shepherds that a Savior had been born in the little village of Bethlehem and if they would go there they would find him wrapped in cloths and laying in a manger. The congregation joyfully sang “Joy to the World, the Lord has come.” They next read Luke 2:15-20 about the shepherds going to see the new born baby in the Bethlehem manger and then spreading the news and praising God for what they had heard and seen for themselves. Then everyone stood to sing together all three verses of “Go, Tell It on the Mountain,” followed by a closing prayer and benediction. As they left that country church Christmas Eve service that evening, they hear the sounds of the big church bell outside tolling joy for the greatest and best gift ever given, the birth of the Savior who is Christ the Lord. May each one experience Christ in your life in all his fullness this day and throughout the coming New Year.
C8 Saturday, December 21, 2019
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Nostalgia and the search for the perfect Christmas tree By Don Kinzler Forum News Service
Remember the Christmas trees of your childhood? The holidays bring back memories, and it’s fun to reminisce about our past trees. Nostalgia paints a picture of the perfect Christmas tree like a Currier and Ives print of a horse-drawn sleigh hauling home a perfectly shaped fir. As a tot, I thought our Christmas tree was the most beautiful, well branched, dense and practically perfect tree that nature could possibly produce. Now, looking back at a photo taken almost 60 years ago, I smile at a Christmas tree that looks sparse and spindly, with widely spaced branches, meager by today’s standards. And we loved it. Dad bought our Christmas trees at the Texaco gas station a block from our home on the corner of Main Street in Lisbon, N.D. The choice was limited to short-needled spruce that lasted only about two weeks indoors before the needles rained down, which was OK because most homes didn’t put up their tree until a week before Christmas, keeping them the 14 days until New Year’s. Just as we were instructed to unwrap Christmas presents very carefully so the paper could be neatly folded away in a box and saved for wrapping next year’s gifts, silver strands of tinsel were gently removed from each tree branch at takedown and stored for next year’s Christmas tree. Parents who grew up during the Great Depression taught us to save and use again, long before the
term “recycling” was widely used. Dad was afraid to allow electric lights on the tree because there had been an apartment fire above the Anthony’s Clothing Store caused by lights that ignited a Christmas tree. That was partly the reason Dad bought an artificial tree from the Coast-to-Coast store when I was 10, as they were becoming popular in the late ‘60s. Later, I learned that a toilet bowl brush manufacturer was the designer of the first manufactured artificial Christmas tree, and the stiff-bristled branches on our early tree did indeed look like toilet bowl brushes, only dyed green. But at least we could now have electric Christmas lights on
the nonflammable product. Fast forward to the mid-1980s when my wife, Mary, and I sold fresh Christmas trees at our garden center. The fragrance of Fraser fir, balsam fir and Scotch pine made selling enjoyable as we learned diplomacy while navigating between spouses disagreeing about what makes the perfect tree. Luckily all left still on speaking terms; Christmas does that. What’s the current status of Christmas trees in the U.S.? A recent Washington Post article says 74 percent of U.S. households put up Christmas trees last year. Of those, 82 percent were artificial.
Although the nationwide preference is clear, the real tree market is enjoying a slight upswing as young adults look to experience what might be their first fresh tree. Sales of fresh Christmas trees fluctuate annually around 30 million. Nearly all real Christmas trees are grown on farms, planted as a crop like corn or cotton, and harvested after seven to 10 years. During their crop time, evergreen trees contribute to air purification, erosion control and wildlife habitat. The average price paid for a fresh Christmas tree last year was $78 nationwide. Does our family have a real or artificial tree in our own home? We have one of each. After selling and enjoying real trees for years, we’d miss the fragrance and the process of selecting and setting up a fresh tree. But when we were displaced from our home to an apartment while recovering from a house fire six years ago, we bought an artificial, the type required by the apartment’s policy. We kept the artificial, and put it up as a secondary tree ever since. Although real trees will always be our preference, others have good reason for choosing differently. One thing is certain: today’s real and artificial trees have both improved greatly since I was a boy, which shows even the good old days can be improved upon. Don Kinzler, a lifelong gardener, is the horticulturist with North Dakota State University Extension for Cass County. Readers can reach him at kinzlerd@casscountynd. gov or call 701-241-5707.
Brendan Tretbar Miss Hogan
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By Camryn Mattila Age 7, Wasilla, Alaska I love Christmas. I love Santa. I love the elf. I love the stockings. I love Christmas decorations. I love Christmas Trees. I love presents to open. I love the star on top of the Christmas trees. I love my family.
Baby Jesus By Maddison Mattila Wasilla, Alaska It’s Christmas Day, Jesus lays on the hay. He is our God and Lord of all His cradle was a stall. The lights are twinkling in the sky While the shepherds keep watch nearby.
My Christmas snowball By Konrad Mattila Age 8, Wasilla, Alaska I made myself a snowball, as perfect as it could be. I thought I would keep it as a pet, and let it sleep with me. I made it some pajamas, and a pillow for its head. Then last night it ran away, but first, it wet the bed!
My Christmas poem By Wyatt Mattila Wasilla, Alaska The children sleep in their beds Santa flies softly overhead He lands on the roof And slides down the chimney To fill up the stockings for you and for me Then up he goes again And he’s gone to do it all over again somewhere else
Christmas Special Tips for baking better Christmas cookies Cookies and other baked treats are everywhere come the holiday season. It’s not uncommon to give cookies as gifts or arrive at holiday gatherings with cakes and other decadent desserts. Cookies are a classic holiday treat, and some families even build entire traditions around baking Christmas cookies. Novice bakers making cookies for the first time may be a little overwhelmed when perusing recipes.
ies come out right. Spoon the flour lightly into a dry measuring cup, then level it off with a knife. Do not dip the measuring cup into the flour or tap the knife against the cup. This will pack too much flour into the measuring cup and result in dry, tough cookies.
Slow down the eggs Add eggs one at a time to make sure each will emulsify properly with the fat in the butter. Adding eggs en masse may cause the emulsification to fail.
Handle butter with care Chill out Butter can make or break a cookie recipe, as butter is often the glue that holds the cookie together. Therefore, it is key to follow the directions carefully regarding how to handle butter. Leave butter at room temperature for 30 to 60 minutes to properly soften it. This takes patience, but fiddling with butter too much can damage its delectable integrity. While purists may say butter is best, margarine may be acceptable if it has a high fat content; otherwise, cookies may spread out and flatten. When it comes time to cream the butter with sugar, be sure to do so thoroughly to incorporate air into the butter and remove the grainy texture of the sugar.
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Follow recipes that call for chilling cookie dough carefully. This process is important for making sliced and shaped cookies. By chilling, the dough becomes more malleable for rolling and even slicing.
Use a bottom rack
Too much heat may compromise cookie integrity. The food experts at Delish say to try moving cookies onto a lower rack in the oven if they aren’t retaining their shape when baked. Put an empty cookie sheet on the top rack. That will block the cookies from the most intense heat that rises to the top of the oven. Mastering cookies takes a little patience and some trial and error. Once bakers get their feet wet, Measure flour properly Christmas-cookie-baking Measuring flour the becomes even more speright way can ensure cook- cial.
The story of Christmas By Brenna Mattila Wasilla, Alaska
The lights on the Christmas tree shine like stars on a field of dark pine. The angel adorning it seems wreathed in a mysterious, golden aura. The bright silver bells and shiny red and green balls dangle on the tree. The snowflakes drift past the window, powdery fluff coating the ground. The black night, speckled with ivory white stars, outfits a radiant moon. Snowmen stand watch in the lawn, guarding the silent house at their back. Suddenly, a sleigh coast silently down onto the roof, a black silhouette. It’s pulled by eight magnificent reindeer, with bright eyes and velvety antlers. The man in the red suit climbs out, clutching a bulging cloth sack. He slides down the chimney, and opens his sack, taking out some boxes. These go under the tree. He fills some stockings, then turns and winks. Poof! He’s gone, until next year. MERRY CHRISTMAS!
his arms to play a game. They are concerned about From Page C1 my tardiness, especially as this boy has a surprise for haul the physical ther- me. Do I want to hear it? Gathering all his apy equipment and toys strength and breath, he out of the car, and try sings, “You are so beautito muster the energy to ful to me, you are so beaumotivate a 10-year old boy tiful to me.” and his home health aide. It is a gift totally unexHis wheelchair rests by pected or deserved, a the door, and I know he’s moment of grace, an act of waiting for me. They’re God. The weather, schedin the family room where ules and unforeseen bow he stands in an assistive before the wonder of a device as his mom and young boy. I travel home aide encourage him to use on the wings of the divine.
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Christmas Special Park Rapids Enterprise
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Park Rapids Enterprise
Season’s Greetings As we gather in warm, festive homes to celebrate this special time of year, we would like to thank all of the men and women who are serving our country in the Armed Forces this holiday season away from home. It is with deep respect and admiration that we honor and thank you for your valor and service to our country. We appreciate the great sacrifices you make for our freedom. We would like to wish you and your families the very best during this holiday season and all throughout the year!
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