HJ/EDEnterprise Dispatch, Dec. 19, 2005

Remembering past holidays

By Kristen Miller
Staff Writer

Christmas traditions within the Dassel-Cokato community have evolved throughout the years.

For example, a large Christmas tree placed in the middle of the intersection of Third Street and Broadway in Cokato is no longer done.

Today, Christmas has become more commercialized and buying gifts and Santa Claus are more important explained several local residents.

Christmas 50 years ago was a town celebration. “We celebrated Christ’s birthday throughout Cokato. There wasn’t a whole lot of Santa Claus,” according to Assistant Museum Director Audrey Tack.

The economy was weak from the Great Depression up until World War II and then the economy began “slowly getting better,” she said.

At the age of 3, her father made her a little, red cart with hand carved wheels.

There was less emphasis on gifts. Kids would sometimes only receive one gift. Some presents were handmade such as gloves and mittens, explained Edgewood Gable resident Vernon Engel.

“We only got one gift so I didn’t want clothes. It was big when I got a doll,” said Edgewood resident Ainie Busse.

Being Finnish, Busse and her family would heat up the sauna on Christmas Day. One year, the kids received a Finnish kick sled, “but it didn’t last long,” she said.

With the area being mostly of Scandinavian heritage, on Christmas Eve the family would have potato sausage and lutefisk. Then, on Christmas Day, the family would go to church and have a large dinner with a ham or turkey.

Some families would wait until the eve of Christmas to decorate the tree. It was traditional that candles would be lit on the trees. “We had a pail of water next to the tree just in case it would start on fire,” said Edgewood Gables resident Lorraine Carlson.

Christmas trees were often decorated with popcorn strings, homemade decorations and tinsel. “We had to put the tinsel on piece by piece,” Tack said.

Stockings weren’t the red and white fluffy ones you would see today. They were actual clean socks that the children wore and hung up. They would often be filled with nuts, apples, oranges, and candy, Tack said.

Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts would go caroling around Cokato, Tack said. “People would put candles in the windows if they wanted us to stop and sing.” Afterwards, they would walk to the school to enjoy hot chocolate and treats.

In Dassel, Jeanette Servin remembers going to Clifford Larson’s hardware store for cash drawings the weekend before Christmas.

“After we practiced for the Christmas program, we walked to Larson’s Hardware store for the drawings,” Servin said.

Treats were different as well. Brown bags were filled with hard candy, shelled peanuts, and an apple, according to Servin.

The meat markets would sell Lingonberries and herring, which are still popular in Sweden.

She remembers getting a tin goose that would lay golden eggs. Dolls were a typical gift for girls, Tack said.

Gifts would be wrapped with white tissue paper and fastened with a Christmas seal, because they didn’t have tape, and tied with Christmas string.

During the Christmas season, families would come to town on their sleds pulled by horses.

One tradition that remains the same is going to church with the family on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.

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