Christmas is a time for family, friends and the ‘the fish’

Published 9:11 am Friday, December 19, 2008

It’s almost Christmas and it seems like I just put my boat in storage. I guess that tells you where I stand on being ready for the season.

I will soon have to take my usual shopping trip to the local lutefisk dealer and get my annual supply. I am looking forward to devouring a healthy meal or two of lutefisk, but strangely it just doesn’t seem to appeal to a lot of folks. As for myself I can’t wait to load up my plate with this magical fish and share the feast with our family. It seems like each year I am able to convert another naysayer into the select group of us that enjoy this tasty morsel.

I have written in past years of how as a youth I was introduced into the circle of fish eaters by my dad and my uncles Ben and Oliver. The first year I tasted the fish they told me how to prepare my lefse with potatoes and fish with plenty of butter and salt and pepper. My dad always rolled up his sleeves when eating fish because he said a true fish eater would have butter running down his arm when he held the rolled up delicacy to his mouth for the initial bite.

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The first time I tasted “the fish” it was like a coming of age thing. As I hoisted the object that I had just prepared to my mouth everyone else stopped eating and at that moment I could feel that all eyes were on me. There was no backing out now, so I had to follow through no matter how it smelled and I tried to block out the vision of the fish as it lay jiggling in the bowl before I had placed it on the lefse. After that first bite my Uncle Ben looked at me with that twinkle he always had in his eyes and nodded his approval. Uncle Oliver laughed the infectious laugh that he had which I took for his stamp of approval.

There I was sitting at the “big table” with butter dripping off my chin eating fish with the grown-ups! In the first couple years that followed I would have to psych myself up to enjoy this tasty delicacy but I soon looked forward to that time of year when fish ruled the dinner table. Now even as I am writing this my mouth is beginning to water in anticipation of the glorious meal that lies ahead.

When I was a kid the days leading up to Christmas were always special and I have no idea how many times I would check under the tree to see if any more gifts had appeared under the tree with my name on them. When it comes to Christmas I know that the kids today are no different than we were.

One of the best things about this time of year is that I still get that same good feeling inside but a lot of it is nostalgic. As we put up the tree and dig out the old ornaments to hang on it I look at some of them and remember fondly the days gone by. Every time I hang up the ornaments that were made as a gift for our boys by our late neighbor, Marvel Hedum, it brings back memories. I can still hear them laughing excitedly and see the twinkle they had in their eyes as they looked at the gifts under the tree wondering what was under that wrapping paper.

There are other things that remind me of my childhood and the special times we had at Christmas like the first time I heard Gene Autry singing “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer” on the radio. Back then we had a tall floor model radio and that was our evening entertainment — no TV, just radio. I actually still have the original 78 record of that song.

To this day I’ve tried to carry on the tradition of decorating the inside of the house to what some may consider extreme. My mother would always have the small living room in our house decorated with strings of holly and tinsel strung across the ceiling. Every gift was a treasure and as a kid you always wanted a toy or something that was considered “neat” by kid standards. If I did get clothes I would have to pretend to be excited even though they fit into the necessity category along with socks and underwear.

The days before Christmas at our house were always happy even though there were some lean years and not always much money for presents. It was times like this that made a person appreciate the closeness of our family and the friends that we had. As a kid you didn’t really think about it, but as an adult I often reflect back on those days and remember fondly how special they were.

Although Christmas is a time of family, presents and song, we need to take time to remember the reason we are celebrating this holiday.

Until next time have a very Merry Christmas!

Remember to keep our troops in your thoughts and prayers during this holiday season.

Dick Herfindahl is the outdoors writer for the Albert Lea Tribune.