Christmas when mom was a girl | TheFencePost.com

Christmas when mom was a girl

Marilyn Kratz
Yankton, S.D.

When I asked Mom how she spent Christmas as a girl, way back in the early 1900s, she had some interesting memories to share. 

Like many families even now, they opened their gifts on Christmas Eve. Of course, they didn’t get as many as children now days do, but they appreciated what they received. 

Typical gifts for boys were harmonicas and pocket knives. Girls often received dolls or sewing equipment, such as scissors. Mom’s parents usually ordered their gifts from a catalog.

One year, Mom received a china head doll which she loved. A few days after Christmas, she accidentally bumped the doll against the cook stove, cracking the head. She regretted the accident, but she still played with the doll. 

Mom remembered the year she wanted a dresser set she’d seen in a store window in town. It consisted of a lilac (her favorite color) brush, comb and hand mirror. But it cost $2, way more than her parents could afford.

Mom worked that fall as a hired girl for a neighbor lady. When she told her of the dresser set she admired so much, that kind lady offered to help my grandma buy it for Mom for Christmas. That was a Christmas gift my mom never forgot.

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When her parents could afford it, they bought special treats for Christmas. Mom said each child received a portion of hard candy, chocolate drops, peanut brittle, hard-shelled nuts and “buck’s horn.”

I didn’t know what “buck’s horn” was, so Mom described it for me. She said it was a long, hard, dark brown pod filled with seeds which tasted like caramel. They’d warm the pods in the oven for a while to soften them up before eating the seeds. From her description, I think what they were eating was what we call carob. But I’m not sure.

If they were lucky, they also had apples, oranges, figs and dates. They didn’t have a Christmas tree when Mom was very young.

Mom continued a lot of her family’s Christmas traditions in our home. She always bought oranges, apples, dates and figs for the holiday season. We usually had plenty of hard-shelled nuts from the Christmas sacks we received at school and church programs.

Often, one of our family friends would order a big box of assorted chocolates to sell to others during the holiday season. Mom always bought as many as she could afford – which wasn’t all that many. They tasted so good to us because candy was something Mom never had on her weekly grocery list.

I loved hearing Mom tell us about her childhood Christmases, and I’m glad she continued some of those traditions with us. I think I’ll see if I can find some “buck’s horn” this year to send my grandchildren. Maybe they could munch on that while they open their video games and iPods.