Washington Evening Journal
http://washington-ia.villagesoup.com/p/941163

Neighbors Growing Together | Nov 26, 2014

12 Days of Christmas Spirit

By Andy Hallman | Dec 24, 2012

Christmas is almost here. Santa is busy loading his sleigh with presents for the good little girls and boys around the world.
When Peg Roberts was a little girl, she didn’t ask Santa for much.
“I didn’t ask for anything extravagant,” she said. “The biggest thing I ever asked for was a bed sheet set.”
Roberts remembers getting dolls for Christ-mas. Some-times she received gifts that her mother made by hand.
“Christmas was very simple, but it was also fun and memorable,” she said. “We went to my grandparents’ house here in Washington. That was always a good atmosphere.”
Roberts’s plan for Christmas this year is to spend the afternoon at her brother-in-law’s house near Brighton and then to spend the evening at her mother’s home in Washington.
“We always eat a meal together,” she said. “The little kids will get to open presents while we sit around and enjoy each other’s company.”
Roberts and her own children don’t necessarily celebrate Christmas on Christmas Day because it doesn’t work with everyone’s schedule. Sometimes they celebrate it on Christmas Eve, but this year it will actually be on New Year’s Eve.
“They asked for days off so now they’ll all sleep over on New Year’s,” she said.
Roberts has five children, all boys, ages 16, 17, 21, 23, and 25. The boys who live at home have asked her for a dog for Christmas. Roberts knows of a pregnant dog that will have a litter soon, but the puppies won’t be born until after Christmas, so her children will have to wait a little while.
A traditional Christmas meal in the Roberts’s home is one that features ham and all the necessary fixings that go with it.
“At my mother’s Christmas, nobody can wait for that day because she makes cheese soup,” she said. “It’s what we look forward to every year.”
In her own home, Roberts and her husband and family prepare a themed meal on Christmas. For instance, last year’s theme was Mexican food. This year’s theme is Italian.
Roberts said that since all of her children are boys, it was a struggle to get them to help in the kitchen, so she ended up doing the lion’s share of the cooking. But now that one of her sons is getting married, she’ll have another woman to help with the pasta this year.
Stephanie Barnes said Christmas at her house is very relaxed. Not everyone in her household gets up early on Christmas morning, so she has to wait a little bit to open presents.
“We usually have ham for a meal,” she said. “My sister loves to add pineapple to it. We always try to get some sparkling wine for the family.”
Barnes asked Santa for one thing and one thing only: money.
“When it’s your senior year in high school, you might as well have money,” she said. “I like to do my own shopping. The presents are nice, but I like to know what I’m getting.”
As a little girl, Barnes asked Santa for a puppy. Unfortunately, she never received one. However, she did receive something almost as much fun with less fur, a pet snail.
Barnes will be off from school for a week and a half. She said she won’t be bored because she has a few movies lined up to watch over break. Barnes already had some fun over her vacation when she celebrated her birthday Saturday.
The one downside to a late December birthday is that it is often overlooked. Barnes said her friends often give her a single present which doubles as her Christmas and birthday gift.
“I don’t tell people, ‘I’m going to give you your birthday present on Christmas,’” she said. “I give them two separate presents, so they should give me two separate presents. They’ll combine them, but you can’t do that.”
Jerry Collett grew up on a farm a few miles south of Washington. He remembers what Christmas was like in the 1930s and 1940s.
“Times were tough,” he said. “We didn’t have a stocking. Our only Christmas gift was three meals a day. That was enough right there.”
Collett said another difference between then and now is the weather.
“The snow? We haven’t seen any snow like we had back then,” he said. “It was 4 or 5 feet deep.”
Collett’s home had a wood-burning stove. He did not have any brothers or sisters, which meant he shouldered the chores around the house. Despite the hard times, Collett insists that Christmas was less stressful than it is now.
“We didn’t have all the hustle and bustle they have today,” he said. “The stores were open on Saturday, and that’s when we went shopping. Back then, we didn’t have the money that they’re spending now on Christmas.”
Collett was raised by his grandparents, who had a large garden and raised their own livestock. Most if not all of the food he ate on Christmas was homemade or home-grown.
“We had chickens, pigs and cows,” he said. “The only thing we bought was flour, sugar and coffee. Other than that, we made it on our own.”
Collett said he was unfamiliar with store-bought bread because his grandmother always baked bread for him.
“At school, it took me the longest time to figure out why everyone wanted to trade their sandwich for mine,” he said.
The contents of the Christmas dinner depended on which animal was butchered that fall. Collett and his family normally ate goose or duck.
“We didn’t have enough money to buy turkey,” he said. “Turkeys weren’t as plentiful as they are now.”
Collett never asked Santa for a present. However, he did exchange gifts with his classmates. The gifts were usually made at home. For instance, his grandmother made things such as sock dolls.     
Ryan Hall won’t just celebrate Christmas on Christmas Day. He’s been celebrating Christmas for days. In all, he’ll go to five Christmas parties before the year is through.
“They’re all in eastern Iowa, but they keep me busy,” he said.
Hall said those five parties make for a lot of shopping.
“My wife does most of it,” he said. “I love Christ-mas, but I like Thanks-giving the best. It doesn’t require the same preparation and financial obligations.”
Hall said some of the typical Christmas meals in his family include ones with chili and oyster stew.
“We mostly sit around and visit,” he said. “We play cards, too.”
Hall said his family normally watches an NFL game if they get together on a Sunday. He said his favorite team is the Minnesota Vikings.
When Hall thought about what he asked Santa for Christmas, he remarked, “What didn’t I ask for?”
He said he normally asked Santa for sporting goods.
“I can remember getting a little Minnesota Vikings uniform when I was a kid,” he said.
He said he hasn’t asked Santa for anything this year and that he’s mostly focused on finding gifts for other people.

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