Aug 212016
 

This morning a text notification scrolled across the top of my iPhone, letting me know that today is Extreme Sunday, the last day of the Iowa State Fair. Despite the fact that admission is half-price, John and I stayed home. We did, however, visit the Fair this past Tuesday, taking advantage of free tickets provided by my employer as an annual expression of employee appreciation. Employees typically work until noon and then take off for the Fair, most of us wearing T-shirts emblazoned with our company name on the front and a slogan on the back.

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We began our tour of the 450-acre fairgrounds by entering the Agriculture Building to view the annual Butter Cow and Star Trek exhibition, both carved by Sarah Pratt. The Butter Cow celebrates its 105th anniversary this year, but butter sculptures have been featured at the Fair since 1911. It takes about 600 pounds of butter and 16 hours to craft the Butter Cow alone.

Butter Sculptures

Of course, we also enjoyed the ice sculptures by Bill Gordish that stand beside the butter sculptures. We have never arrived at the State Fair early enough to watch them being carved, but thanks to Iowa Public Television, you can see Bill at work below. He has been designing ice sculptures for 30 years, with 26 of those years at the Fair. A sculpture typically begins as a 300-pound block of ice.

When we exited the Agriculture Building, we made our way up the hill to the Cultural Center. We passed the Fun Forest, where children played who had more energy than their parents who sat on benches, watching them.

Fun Forest Playground

As we threaded our way past groups of people, we realized we were part of this year’s visitor statistics. Typically, more than one million people visit the Fair over the course of the 11-day, 162-year-old event. Many of them take advantage of the free entertainment that is around every corner. We did, too, catching our breath as we stopped to enjoy part of a Vocal Trash concert at the MidAmerican Energy Stage. The State Fair program describes this group as “Glee Meets Stomp,” and features—among other things—industrial-style drumming.

When we arrived at the Cultural Center, we were eager to view our friends’ blown glass pieces that had been accepted for display. Keith and Brenda Kutz are members of a glass-blowing club at Iowa State University called the Gaffer’s Guild.

Left: Strawberry Sorbet, by Brenda Kutz. Top: Concentric, by Keith Kutz. Bottom: Helix, by Brenda Kutz.

Left: Strawberry Sorbet, by Brenda Kutz. Top: Concentric, by Keith Kutz. Bottom: Helix, by Brenda Kutz.

The Cultural Center features many types of fine arts and crafts, some of which include photography, wood carving, pottery, miniature dollhouse design, painting, jewelry design, glass blowing and much more. In several locations you can watch artists at work.

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Some of the finished works of art that we admired are shown below. You never know what to expect.

Top, 1st Place Dollhouses & Miniature Rooms - Dena Heeren. Bottom left, 1st Place Adult Sculpture: Hurry, Sally, You're Late for School - William Close. Bottom right, 1st Place Creative Arts - Walter Gardner, Jr.

Top, 1st Place Dollhouses & Miniature Rooms – Dena Heeren. Bottom left, 1st Place Adult Sculpture: Hurry, Sally, You’re Late for School – William Close. Bottom right, 1st Place Creative Arts – Walter Gardner, Jr.

Our top-of-the-hill destination, of course, was Farm Bureau Pioneer Hall, an old building that is representative of many other State Fair buildings that pre-date World War I. Part of its charm is the high-raftered ceiling and large doorways left open to the air. The building is home to working exhibits and displays. There is a stage where talented fiddlers play, the Des Moines Senior Singers entertain, and The Final Act Ensemble Old Time Radio Show from the Des Moines Community Playhouse puts on a special show. There are piano, harmonica and accordion contests for both adults and young people, as well as yodeling. You’ll find a country-style antique market, an old-fashioned print shop, a blacksmith shop, a pottery shop, chair caning demonstrations, and much more. On Pioneer Hall’s lawn are working tractors from last century and hand mills where children can experience firsthand the effort it takes to grind grain.

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Many people come to the Iowa State Fair for Midway rides and games; they want to taste every type of food-on-a-stick that you can imagine and sample craft beers, and of course enjoy big-name musical entertainment such as KISS, Steven Tyler, and Lady Antebellum at the Grandstand. However, it is a fact that agricultural and industrial education is an important mission of the Iowa State Fair, providing a strong backdrop to everything you will experience on the fairgrounds. The Iowa State Fair is also “America’s classic state fair,” the biggest event in Iowa, and one of the oldest and largest agricultural and industrial expositions in the country. In 1987, it was named to the National Register of Historic Places. The Iowa State Fair is also the largest art show in the state, featuring fine art, handmade crafts, visual arts, and performing arts. Art is one of the main reasons that John and I visit the Iowa State Fair. Our son, David, and I have both entered our crafts into competition at past fairs, earning a few ribbons, and my success at the Fair is what propelled me to begin selling handmade goods.

This chainmail coif was entered into competition eight years ago by David, who now is a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism. The links were made entirely by hand and the pattern was designed by David.

This chainmail coif, designed by David, was entered into competition eight years ago. The woven links were made entirely by hand. David is now a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism. This group is dedicated to researching and re-creating the arts and skills of pre-17th century Europe. Visit www.sca.org for more information.

But I’m straying from our story. It was a hot and humid day outdoors—typical Iowa State Fair weather—with a sweltering 100 degrees inside Pioneer Hall. We rewarded ourselves for braving the hill with an icy hand-squeezed lemonade.

Cold lemonade always puts a smile on hot, shiny faces.

Cold lemonade always puts a smile on hot, shiny faces.

Then we visited one of our favorite spots, where artisans Jeff and Marlys Sowers of Pinicon Farm Crafts demonstrate the art of hand-coopered Shaker-style boxes and woven baskets. Jeff does the woodwork, while Marlys does the weaving.

Jeff and Marlys Sowers

Last year I purchased a two-section Shaker-style carrier, perfect for carrying spools of thread, buttons and my needle book from one location to another inside our home.

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This year I bought the jewelry basket shown below that was made by Marlys over two molds, woven with cane. The staves are made of reed, the knob is bone ivory, and the cherry wood was turned by Jeff. When I asked Marlys how long it takes to weave such a basket, she told me it takes about 16 hours, plus another few hours for her husband to turn the wood and the entire basket to be dipped in a polyurethane glaze to preserve it.

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Always a highlight of our visit to the Pioneer Building is the 1920s-style newspaper and print shop that is set up against one wall. For a fee, you can have a flier printed for you.

Printing Press

After we toured Pioneer Hall, we walked down the hill to the Varied Industries Building, where the Iowa Farm and Food Sandscape was still being built.

Farm & Food Sandscape

Upstairs, you’ll always find the Fabric and Threads exhibition. When we first moved to Des Moines, the exhibition was held beneath the Grandstand, but it eventually outgrew that space and relocated. The new space easily accommodates competitive quilts and other items such as needle arts, crochet, knitting, weaving and sewing. There is even a room dedicated to a sew-in every day from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., where quilts are sewn for children with special needs. The Fabric and Threads items I especially enjoyed are shown below.

Isn't it amazing what different projects can be produced from yarn? Top left, 1st Place Crocheted Doily - Jessica Weinrich. Top right, Second Place Knitted Sweater - Gay Holstine. Bottom left: 3rd Place Hooked Rug - Eden Schmitt. Bottom right: Crocheted Chessboard & Chesspieces - Judith Conti.

Isn’t it amazing what different projects can be produced from yarn? Top left, 1st Place Crocheted Doily – Jessica Weinrich. Top right, 2nd Place Knitted Sweater – Gay Holstine. Bottom left: 3rd Place Hooked Rug – Eden Schmitt. Bottom right: Crocheted Chessboard & Chess Pieces – Judith Conti.

These garments caught my eye. Left: 1st Place Gray Hooded Coat - Beth Wehrman. Right: 2nd Place Traditional Costume - Melissa Hawk.

These garments caught my eye. Left: 1st Place Gray Hooded Coat – Beth Wehrman. Right: 2nd Place Traditional Costume – Melissa Hawk.

Pat Devine appears to be the Queen of Soft Sculpture, earning 2nd Place and 1st Place, respectively, for the Old Fashioned Santa and Teddy Bear.

Pat Devine appears to be the Queen of Soft Sculpture, earning 2nd Place and 1st Place, respectively, for the Old Fashioned Santa and Teddy Bear.

I wish this photo had better resolution, but it was taken quite a distance away with my iPhone. Still, it represents the kind of cross stitch I enjoy doing myself--counted cross stitch on linen. 1st Place - Denise M. Baustian.

I wish this photo had better resolution, but it was taken quite a distance away with my iPhone. Still, it represents the kind of cross stitch I enjoy doing myself–counted cross stitch on linen. 1st Place – Denise M. Baustian.

Every year that John and I visit the Iowa State Fair, we are never able to see everything that it offers. To do so, I suspect, would take more than the 11 days the Fair is held. Not even the families who camp on the edge of the fairgrounds, making the State Fair their annual family vacation, experience all there is to see and do. At the end of the day, our feet are sore, but our hearts and heads are filled with the sights, sounds, and scents of the Fair. And next year, of course, you know that we’ll be back.

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Chainsaw carvers A.J. Lutter and Gary Keenan come to the fair each year, sculpting figures from trees.

© 2016 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

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Jul 172016
 

I love reading about how people learned their craft, whatever it may be. In particular, I enjoy sewing stories, as that is where my craft story begins. My tale is stitched together with love, memories, and a chronicle of the times. It doesn’t begin, however, with a daughter learning about the craft next to her mother’s or grandmother’s knee. I had a junior high school friend who probably learned how to sew that way, and she eventually wrote sewing books and became a guest instructor at a quilting workshop hosted by Nancy Zieman of the “Sewing with Nancy” program on Wisconsin Public TV.

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My own story has a much humbler beginning at the one-and-only Girl Scouts meeting I attended during grade school. Why a single meeting? It took place at a public school, and my mother—who grew up in World War II Germany where you had to pay for everything, from using a public bathroom to taking books home from the library—believed from the bottom of her heart that if something took place on American public school grounds, that meant it was free. America, the land of the free and the home of the brave, just as “The Star-Spangled Banner” promises. Not free? It wasn’t meant to be! But the one day I attended a Girl Scouts meeting, when I discovered we had to pay weekly dues, the girls learned how to hem bandanas.

“Your daughter is going to be a good sewer,” the Girl Scout leader told my mother, as she pointed out the even spacing between my stitches.

Those words were exactly what my mother, who hated sewing, needed to hear. “I’m not very good at it,” she told me later.

She related a story about some yellow curtains she stitched during sewing class when she was a young girl. All of her fellow students finished curtains they were proud to gift to their mothers or hang up in their bedrooms, but my mother’s curtains were shorter on one end than the other, and the hand stitching was visibly ragged. Many years later she crossed the Pond to visit her mother in Germany, and was horrified to see those yellow curtains hanging up in the kitchen.

“Why do you still have those miserable things?” she asked her mother.

“Because you made them, dear.”

I was reminded of my own answer to our son when he asked me why I kept his earliest handmade Christmas ornaments. If it was left up to him, they would be memories long relegated to the weekly curbside trash collection. But every December when he comes home for Christmas, I hang them up on the tree.

Needless to say, my mother was delighted to turn over to me the task of darning my father’s and brother’s socks. I don’t think many people darn anymore, but you can still find a darning egg at JoAnn.com for $9.99, and I found several vintage varieties on Etsy. Nonetheless, I’m proud to say I can darn a mean sock. I used a two-sided plastic darning egg with a handle on the end—red for light socks, and white for dark socks. Darning is really nothing more than weaving with a needle. The darning egg provides the fabric support, but your sock is the loom, in a sense. The threads going in one direction provide the warp, and your threads going in the other direction represent the weft, or weaving thread.

The darning egg I used was similar to this one, offered by minnismall on Etsy, https://www.etsy.com/listing/387210396/vintage-red-and-white-plastic-darning.

The darning egg I used was similar to this one, offered by minnismall on Etsy, https://www.etsy.com/listing/387210396/vintage-red-and-white-plastic-darning.

I remember summers when I sliced through a stack of trousers that my brother, Mark, had outgrown, with instructions to cut them off at the knee and hem them into shorts. When anyone’s shirts or blouses had loose or missing buttons, my mother handed over her sewing basket and a glass coffee jar, filled with buttons. I didn’t mind; from the earliest days I enjoyed working with my hands. Today, I have my own jars filled with buttons, as well as the sewing basket she left behind when my mother passed away.

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I was introduced to machine sewing in a required 7th grade home economics class, when all girls learned how to read a pattern and thread a Singer sewing machine. We practiced stitching over inked lines on mimeographed sheets of paper before we graduated to fabric. Our first project was a checked gingham fabric half-apron, embellished with rick-rack trim. We were given a shopping list of sewing supplies that had to be kept in a clear plastic shoe box in the classroom. My mother, of course, had forgotten—probably by choice—the difference between a sewing gauge and a seam ripper, so I went shopping with my father. He was a tool-and-die maker, and to him a sewing machine was just another workshop tool. The next class project was a gray kettle cloth jumper, not a British jumper that’s really a pullover sweater, but instead a sleeveless, shapeless dress with basic bust darts and a center-lapped zipper down the back. I don’t have photos of these earliest efforts, but I’m sure you can find one in Amy Barickman’s book, Vintage Notions. These garments of the early 70s are today’s definition of retro.

Even though my mother did not enjoy sewing, she was eager to encourage my efforts. She enrolled me in a summer sewing class at Gimbel’s Department Store back in the days when most major department stores had fabric departments. Although Gimbel’s, once the largest department store chain in the U.S., is no longer in business, I worked there as a “flyer” during my college years, serving customers in a different department every time I showed up to work. Unlike my home economics class, where we had relatively little freedom to choose a project, we could sew anything we wished during this class. I wanted to learn how to insert sleeves and a lapped zipper, so I made myself a pink empire-waist dress with a fitted lace insert, puffed three-quarter length sleeves, a faced neckline, and a lapped zipper. My father bought the first family sewing machine, a Brother machine that we learned how to thread together and that he later used to mend garments long after I had moved on to college, married and moved away.

During my high school and college years, there was little time for sewing, other than mending, but when my then-boyfriend, now-husband, John, attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison on a Navy ROTC scholarship, I was invited to partner him at the annual Naval balls.  It was much more affordable to sew a long dress than to buy one, but the first time I had to tackle such a big project I needed some help. John’s roommate’s girlfriend, Holly, helped me pin the pattern pieces, cut them out and sew the dress. This helped me to develop the confidence to make future ball gowns and, eventually, my own wedding dress and veil.

We got engaged in October, 1977, at the Navy ROTC ball. The dress I am wearing was sewn from a Vogue pattern.

We got engaged in October, 1977, at the Navy ROTC ball. The dress I am wearing was sewn from a Vogue pattern.

When I began working at a publishing company after college graduation, I used some of my earnings to buy my own Singer sewing machine that featured removable cams for different kinds of stitches. Cams, for those of you who are unfamiliar with them, preceded built-in digital stitches in electronic sewing machines.

SewingMech on Etsy sells this complete set of Flexi-Stitch Top Hat cams for Singer Touch & Sew machines: https://www.etsy.com/listing/242452133/full-set-singer-flexi-stitch-top-hat

SewingMech on Etsy sells this complete set of Flexi-Stitch Top Hat cams for Singer Touch & Sew machines: https://www.etsy.com/listing/242452133/full-set-singer-flexi-stitch-top-hat

It was John, who loves gadgets, who urged me to trade in my Singer sewing machine for a digital Pfaff machine. We were strolling through a local mall at the time, when he stopped before a window display that sported a sewing machine with a scrolling message that announced, “Hello. I am the Pfaff 1471.” John grabbed my arm and pulled me through the doorway of the shop. The next thing I knew, I owned a new sewing machine that churned out dresses and skirts, play clothes and Halloween costumes for our son, and family gifts such as aprons, pillows and pillowcases, pot holders, bed caddies, Christmas tree skirts and stockings, and much more.

Word CloudThat Pfaff sewing machine was a faithful companion for more than a decade until the day we visited Nancy’s Notions in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin—yes, that same Nancy who still hosts a television show on Wisconsin Public TV. While I was fabric-shopping, John was upgrading me to a Pfaff Creative 7530. This one sews without human intervention. Well, almost. I did mention, didn’t I, that John is my Gadget Man?

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We sold the old machine, but I still have that Pfaff Creative 7530 today, with lots of extra accessories. But about six years ago, John decided it was time for me to have an embroidery machine. You guessed it; he bought me a new Pfaff sewing machine, but this time the shop owner convinced me that I should keep the other machine so that I could have multiple projects going on at the same time. Since that’s my nature, anyway—to have my fingers in many proverbial pots simultaneously—I was pretty easy to convince. Both sewing machines now sit in a nursery-sized bedroom that is just large enough for two projects at one time. The other projects spill into the kitchen, and onto any horizontal surface I can find. If you sew, I’m sure this sounds familiar. Sewing does not lend itself to neatness. Never say never, but I believe my last sewing machine is really the last sewing machine that John will buy. We’ve run out of space.

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One of the things I have discovered about sewing is that it’s a community—whether a friend is helping you lay out pattern pieces and interpret the instructions—or you are participating in the online version of an old-fashioned sewing bee, such as the Bag of the Month Club in which I have participated during the last few years. Sewists share photos of completed projects on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and blogs; participate in blog hops, and meet in local library conference rooms, school classrooms and church meeting rooms to quilt, chat and snack. They discuss handy sewing techniques and recommend notions to each other while standing in the fabric store aisles, becoming fast friends on the fly. At one of the first jobs I worked at in southern California, during our first year of marriage, an instant bond grew out of a shared love for sewing when my co-worker presented me with a pin cushion she embroidered by hand, well-loved, worn, and still sitting in my sewing room.

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Over the years I shared my passion for sewing with others by imparting a small part of my knowledge. Like many sewists, I worked part-time as a clerk in a fabric store—at Cloth World in southern California, and at So-Fro Fabrics (that eventually became JoAnn Fabrics) in Iowa—where I helped customers choose fabrics and notions, and I recommended sewing techniques. I taught my homeschooled neighbor’s daughter how to sew, and she turned that knowledge into a sewing business for herself while she was still in middle school. When I managed an all-boys’ Destination Imagination (creative problem-solving) team for my son and his middle school friends, I taught them how to thread a machine, stitch a straight line, and join fabrics. As a result, the boys were able to help each other design and sew their own costumes.

The objective in Destination Imagination is for kids to solve a challenge without adult assistance. Adults can teach kids basic skills, but then it's up to the students to apply what they learn--in this case, simple Egyptian costumes for three of the team members.

The objective in Destination Imagination is for kids to solve a challenge without adult assistance. Adults can teach kids basic skills, but then it’s up to the students to apply what they learn–in this case, simple Egyptian costumes for three of the team members.

My son used that same sewing knowledge to sew a costume for National History Day competition, and today—as an adult—he designs and sells medieval-style leatherwork pieces that he stitches by hand. He, too, has a Pfaff sewing machine—carrying on the family tradition—that he has used to sew period clothing.

This is a quiver, arm guard and arrows our son, David, recently completed. Interested is custom work from him? Contact him at davnolan88@gmail.com.

This is a quiver, arm guard and arrows our son, David, recently completed. Interested is custom work from him? Contact him at davnolan88@gmail.com.

Sewing is so much more than a skill you pass on to the next generation. Both the time you spend with others and the items you produce are gifts of the heart, building memories that will last far into the future. Although my mother claimed to have no skill in sewing, I have a four-year-old’s memory of her snipping off a final thread from a doll’s dress as she removed it from the bed of a treadle machine and handed it to me. Sewing binds us together with every stitch, imperfect or not. In the comments below, feel free to share your sewing story.

© 2016 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

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Jan 182016
 

This weekend we finally took down our Christmas tree and decorations. No, we weren’t still lighting the tree—at least not after New Year’s Day—but I have to admit we weren’t in any big hurry to put things away, either. After all, we didn’t decorate until the week of Christmas, when our son drove out from Indiana to join us for the holidays. I figured it wouldn’t hurt anyone to enjoy the decorations a little longer after the effort it took to put them up. Please excuse the bluish tint to the photo below; the room was not well lit when I took the photo with my iPhone.

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Every Christmas, my mother filled the wheelbarrow in the lower part of the photo with hazelnuts and walnuts. When she passed away, I continued the tradition.

As I wrapped tree ornaments and put them away, it was a last chance to remember when we had acquired them, and whether there was a special occasion or person associated with them. There is an ornament one of my elementary German students gave me one year, the ornaments marked with our son’s birth year, the ones he made in preschool, the brass ornaments engraved with my parents’ names that became mine once they passed away, the ornament a California friend’s mother gave me when we relocated to Iowa . . . and the list goes on. We have both a tree that stands in front of the living room window, and a table tree on which are hung the wooden ornaments from Germany that my mother hung similarly. Besides being a religious holiday, Christmas is a time to relive memories, and there’s no reason to pack away in haste either the ornaments or the memories.

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The photos leading up to this traditional group photo were considerably less sedate than this one. Just use your imagination!

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Of course, there is more food here than any three people can consume in one evening. We generally spread out the nibbling over several days of board game-playing.

Most years we acquire at least one new ornament, and this year there were four. When we attended a local craft fair in November, we were fascinated by the process of Minnesota artist Albert Tanko of Creative Nutworks, who fashions ornaments out of nuts. “Each life begins with a single seed,” reads his business card. “God’s light and rain are all it needs. It starts out small and with love it grows. However tall—God only knows. From seed to nut in the artist’s hand, it’s polished and cut to be something grand.” Albert, who is originally from Transylvania, crossed the Iron Curtain at age 22 and made Minnesota his new home. He is fascinated with nature, and uses black walnuts, butternuts, apricots and peach pits to create sun catchers.

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Then there were the leather ornaments that were designed and hand tooled by our son, David, who specializes in leather crafts. I appreciate Celtic art, music and literature, so I really enjoyed the Celtic Christmas tree ornament he made for me.

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For my husband, with whom David shares an interest in space simulation games, especially the currently in development online game, Star Citizen, David drew one of the game’s spaceships and transferred it to leather with his tools.

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This is the Hornet used in Chris Roberts’ online space simulation game, Star Citizen. David drew it from scratch and hand-tooled it.

Finally, we hid a German-made glass pickle ornament among the branches of our Christmas tree. There is a tradition associated with this that some people say is a German one, but in general Germans neither recognize nor acknowledge the practice. The tradition—probably an American one—involves a pickle as the last ornament to be hung on the Christmas tree. The first child in the family to discover it is supposed to get an extra present. According to a Web site called WhyChristmas.com, back in the 1880s Woolworth’s stores began importing glass ornaments from Germany in various fruit and vegetable shapes. One of them was likely a pickle, and a story was born that probably helped to sell the ornament, which is admittedly a pretty strange thing to hang on a tree. There are other stories as well, even more fanciful, so if you’re interested, visit The Christmas Pickle to learn more.

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I suppose every family has its own traditions that make Christmas memorable. When my father grew up in central Germany, live candles lighted the family tree. Gifts were opened on Christmas Eve, but not until the children stood in front of the tree and recited long, memorized poems. My German cousins from that same side of the family also had live candles on their tree. Instead of reciting a poem, they had to play a melody on a wooden flute called a Blockflöte, which you can see in the photo below.

From left to right: my Tante Hanna, followed by my cousins Hildegard, Ursula and Joseph.

From left to right: my Tante Hedwig, followed by my cousins Hildegard, Ursula and Joseph

After gifts were opened, the family walked to midnight Mass. There was one Christmas during junior high school that I spent in Germany with my cousins, when we traipsed through snow-covered streets and icy sidewalks to get to church. Because both of my parents were born in Germany, we always celebrated Christmas as my relatives did, on Christmas Eve. My parents didn’t require a special performance, however, before we opened our gifts! We’ve carried that Christmas Eve tradition forward within our own immediate family. But our own tradition involves opening gifts while we graze on open-faced pumpernickel sandwiches, fruits and raw vegetables, cheese and crackers, and cookies, candies and nuts—all laid out on a food-laden table. We play music and board games, and on Christmas Day—usually during late afternoon—we see a movie together. This year it just happened to be Star Wars’ “The Force Awakens,” which we really enjoyed.

David designed some leather drink coasters for us to commemorate the Star Wars movie, "The Force Awakens." The symbol on the top represents the Empire, while the symbol on the bottom represents the Alliance.

David designed some leather drink coasters for us to commemorate the Star Wars movie, “The Force Awakens.” The symbol on the top represents the Emblem of the Galactic Empire, while the symbol on the bottom represents the Alliance Starbird.

As you can see, our son is generally the board game champion.

We played a Viking game called Blood Rage, with lots of moving parts. David finished in 1st place, I was in 2nd place, and John brought up the rear in 3rd place.

We also played Firefly (named after the movie series of the same name), with even more moving parts and rules.

We also played Firefly (named after the movie series of the same name), with even more moving parts and rules.

Predictably, David won the game of Firefly, too. Good thing we don't hold a grudge!

Predictably, David won the game of Firefly, too. Good thing we don’t hold a grudge!

I started this post off by saying that we took down our Christmas tree and decorations just this past weekend, but in reality this is not a late date to do so, depending on which version of Christmas you celebrate. In Germany and many other European countries, Catholics consider the end of the Christmas season to be Epiphany, the first Sunday in January after New Year’s Day. If you’re an Orthodox Christian, you might celebrate Christmas on January 7th. Just recently I heard about Little Christmas, or Nollaig na mBan, which for the Irish is their version of the Feast of the Epiphany, or January 6th. Many Americans take down their decorations right after Christmas, but I suspect this practice has more to do with coordinating with city services that remove dried-out, discarded trees and wreaths, in addition to lots of crumpled wrapping paper, than it does with the official end of the Christmas season.

If you celebrate Christmas, when do you take down your decorations, and why?

©2016 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

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