I’m a big fan of sharing and collecting oral histories, and then again I can’t think of a single person who doesn’t enjoy a good story. As we prepare to make our holiday treks, now is the time to share our stories as we prepare to surround ourselves with generations of friends and family.
Full disclosure: this is coming from a sentimental wannabe folklorist, but at least story sharing keeps our minds off of our gadgets and off of politics for the time being.
To quote my grandpa, “listen up kid, you might learn something.” These words seem to echo even louder at a time when everyone’s barking and no one’s listening -- or even worse, not listening and sitting in awkward silence glued to their devices.
Need some conversational cues? Take it from someone who’s notorious for asking too many questions. Also be sure to take notes or even record some of these conversations (you can find an app for that on your smartphone). You’ll learn to cherish them when those voices are no longer with you.
Looking back on holidays past, was there one holiday gift that you either gave or received that was more memorable than others? In this issue Gary Olson wrote about a memorable Christmas gift that left a lifelong impression. It’s crazy to think about how much we can learn from our early experiences in life. Depending upon the situation they can make or break you.
What are some of your favorite holiday treats? Are there any recipes that have been passed down from one generation to the next? Are there any recipes that have been lost or that may seem strange by today’s standards? My family dedicates a weekend or two to baking in December. Many of these recipes need to be translated from German to English in a lovingly dog-eared German cookbook. Most of the German I know is unfit for print so my grandma has been helping me translate each recipe. It’s fascinating to think about how food can conjure memories and bring a group of people together.
It warms my heart to scroll through my social media feeds and to observe people practicing traditional baking traditions. One friend relayed his trials and tribulations while trying to make rosettes, a traditional Norwegian pastry.
In mentioning baking traditions, what other traditions does your family hold dear? Do you or your family partake in holiday crafts like stringing popcorn? Are there standard musical recordings or films that you hold dear? I mean, who doesn’t like “It’s a Wonderful Life?” Are there traditions that you or your elders brought from their country of origin?
One of our pals at the Barnes County Historical Society recently posted a photo on social media of a group of people “Julebukking,” a Scandinavian tradition with pagan roots. Julebukkers dressed up in costume between Christmas and New Year’s and visited house to house (a kind of like trick or treating, which also has Pagan roots) and left as soon as their host guessed who they were. Another friend and fellow historian commented that he remembered people doing that well into the 70s in his hometown, Robinson, North Dakota.
I had only heard of Julebukking after attending a meeting in Jamestown last spring. “Art for Life” is a program through the North Dakota Council on the Arts (NDCA) that focuses on incorporating folk activities into activity plans at participating elder care facilities throughout the state.
How do these traditions manage to disappear? Do they slowly fade away with the generation that holds them most dear? Are they shed to reflect a more americanized holiday? What traditions are starting to disappear in this day and age? On a contemporary note, how have your family traditions evolved and what kind of new traditions has your family adopted over the last few years?
I can ask questions all night and listen to answers for days. Whether you spend the holidays alone, with your family or with your chosen family we wish you and yours the best. Here’s to sharing stories and making even more great memories.
Speaking of stories, this will be our last issue of 2018 and what a year it was! Fear not dear Reader readers we’ll be back at it January 10, 2019. Happy New Year! We’ll see you in 2019.
by Greg Carlson
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