By Deacon Dan O’Brien, Ridgeway
Christmas was always such a special time of the year in my memories. Growing up in a household of nine on a small farm, Mom and Dad always managed to save some money away to ensure that on Christmas Eve we would all have some new store-bought clothes and some fun gifts too. A couple weeks before Christmas, Mom would start baking. I can only imagine that so many of these goodies were treats Mom herself enjoyed as a child and wished to share and pass on a memory of her own mother’s baking at Christmas. There were boxes filled with a big selection of yummy homemade decorated cookies, candies, rosettes and kolaches and sweetbreads. I would be amiss if I wouldn’t mention the candied fruitcake that only Mom and Dad seemed to enjoy. Dad would soon start stringing lights through the pine trees by the road and light up the front of the house. On Christmas Eve morning, Mom and my five sisters could be found filling many boxes with all these bakery creations. Then Dad and some of us kids would traverse the neighborhood dropping off these Christmas gifts. We would end up in Protivin, leaving boxes off at the rectory and the convent, and of course the milk hauler and the mailman were never forgotten.
After an early Christmas Eve supper which included a Czech sweet soup that Mom and Dad only seemed to enjoy, Dad would leave and go check on the livestock, and soon Santa Claus would appear with a big stick and a burlap bag with apples and lumps of coal. Each of us kids would be quizzed as to whether we were naughty or nice this past year, and sometimes we might be asked to pray for forgiveness. After singing some Christmas songs, presents were handed out. Christmas Eve always concluded with getting dressed in our new clothes and going to midnight Mass. Truly, a Christmas memory.