Newspaper Archive of
The Message
Evansville, Indiana
December 23, 1994     The Message
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December 23, 1994

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'Message A priceless heirloom Back in the early 1950s, as I was growing up in a small Polish Catholic suburb of Pittsburgh, Pa., we always fol- lowed a very customary Christmas eve. It started with din- ner at my grandparents' home, next door, where we would meet our uncles, aunts and cousins for a very Polish Christ- mas dinner. Dinner started with my grandmother placing a small statue of the infant Jesus on a special little pillow in the middle of the huge table. On each side of the pillow were two candles in clear glass holders. This celebration was called "Villa" and certain foods were always served. Fish, split pea sop, and my favorite "Pierogi." Before dinner, the tradition called for the oldest family member, my grandfather, to stand and give a short Christ- mas speech followed by a prayer. Then came the part we all liked best. My grandfather would take the Christmas wafer (made like the communion wafer, 4 inches by 6 inches in size and white or green in color) break it and share a small piece with everyone, starting with my grandmother. A hug and a little Christmas greeting was also exchanged. After this, everyone present would do the same with each other until everyone had exchanged a hug, a Christmas greeting, and a piece of wafer. Then we all sat down and enjoyed the wonderful dinner. As the years passed, we all grew up, got married, and my grandparents passed away. Most of us carried on the same tradition as much as possible, especially the part with the Christmas wafer. The candle holders and little pillow were given to my cousins. The little statue of the in- fant Jesus was given to me. I've had it for 16 years and it is priceless to me. Every Christ- mas eve, since the "little Jesus" was given to me, I would place him on a bed of cotton in the middle of the table and place candles next to him. I would then say a family Christmas prayer and we would all follow with the traditional Christmas wafer. After Christmas eve dinner, I would place in infant Jesus back in a little white box and put it in the top drawer of my dresser. About three years ago, on Christmas eve afternoon, as we were setting the table for dinner, I went to my dresser drawer to get the small white box with the statue of the infant Jesus, but it was gone. We tore the house apart looking for it. I really felt bad. The precious family heirloom was no where to be found. We had to have Christmas eve dinner without it. I remember asking our Lord in prayer to help us find the statue of the infant Jesus. The following March I opened my top dresser drawer to get out a handerchief, and to my surprise, was the little white box with the infant Jesus in it. My prayers were answered. God answered my prayer in His time, not mine. No one in my family or I could explain how he came back. For a while, I wondered how he disappeared and reappeared three months later, but we will never know the answer to this Christmas mystery. So for the last two years, little infant Jesus was placed on his cotton bed for our Christmas eve dinner and hopefully we will be able to have him with us for many, many Christmas eves to come. Richard Burek Evansville A family tradition When I think of Christmas, one of the first things I can recall as a young child was that the whole family got involved. One of the highlights in preparing for Christmas was to select a Christmas tree. When we would arrive home with our tree, my dad usually ended up cut- ting three feet off the top and at least two feet off the sides just to fit the tree into the living room. My mom would grit her teeth and question why our father would allow us to pick out a tree bigger than all the Johnsons put together, but dad always reassured us that it was per- fect. The Johnson tree was unique. Our tree had toys from my dad's tree which dated back nearly 70 years. We had homemade ornaments by my brothers and sisters as well as musi- cal instruments that worked. Under the tree, we had a paper mache reindeer which my brother, Richard, made in sixth grade. My sister-in-law always questioned why we had a dog with a red nose underneath the tree. Another important part of the Christmas tree was our manger scene. My parents appar- ently purchased the plaster figurines when they were newly married. My dad even made the stable from God knows what, but it had lots of love and served the purpose. We would fight to see who got to put baby Jesus in his crib. Jesus was fortunate to be placed in the crib hundreds of times during the holidays. The camel was missing one leg. Apparently, my older sister, Jane, ate it one year. My parents were smart to let us touch the manger scene as we learned the beauty of Christmas and realized it is because of Jesus Christ we celebrate Christmas. Bless my mother. She would take each child out individually to Franklin Street to pick out one item for our other family members. Our parents stressed the giving to others, not only at Christmas, but throughout the year. We always had our big festive dinner Christmas Eve, then opened our gifts. My brother, Bob, was so good about helping morn with the dishes, as we would all anxiously wait to open the gifts which my dad encouraged us to shake. It never failed that my dad would go to Kuester's on Christmas eve and buy games for us, as though Mrs. Claus hadn't done her job. Another part of the Christmas tradition was midnight Mass. My brother, Richard, and I always had to get some rest before midnight Mass. I can remember putting on my pajamas at 8:30 trying to rest until 10:30 to attend Mass. We would load up to head to St. Boniface about 11:15 because we wanted to listen to the choir. As the bells chimmed at midnight, the lights would dim, and I remember the glow of candles as the priest and servers approached the altar. It was always fun to drive home after midnight Mass because the streets were lifeless. Morn would get us down for bed, so Santa Claus could come. Christmas has changed at the Johnson household as all the little ones are adults now. With mv brothers and sisters living in three different states, many of the traditions are kept ali -h our children. T" :: ou, room and dad! Sharon Ruder Evansville Memories of Anna- What is your favorite Christmas memory? As this headline, it really caught my attention. December: was quickly approaching and my returning more and more frequently. I feel I'm at a where my thoughts of her are happier ones painful ones that invaded my mind so constantly after her death. So what is my most favorite Christmas ally, my most favorite is the entire December of 1992r many people came together for the good of my little i daughter, whenever a child has a fatal illness it natu- rally pulls at your heartstrings. Something that Anna ,: told me on the day after Christmas really put it gether for me. I asked her whose birthday it was that were celebrating and she answered, "Jesus." I that Jesus lived in heaven and that people go to be with Jesus when they die. She quickly me, '/eh, when no get better!" I have to admit it pat lump in my throat. "I offer You praise, O Father, heaven and earth, because what YOU have h the learned and clever You have revealed to the children." Luke 10:21 Christmas always has and always will be season for me but that Christmas is the one that a new beginning for me on my journey to Jesusin heaven Thank you for the opportunity to share my It gave me a reason to put some of my feelings into words. St. Receiving two gifts A favorite Christmas memory of mine occurred was nine years old. Since my parents were nancially, this particular Christmas was promising tO very unhappy one for me. I longed for a bicycle, but was no way my parents could afford one. Being wasn't able to understand. When Christmas eve came, I was sad. I room quite early. Around 9 p.m., my mother Slowly and dejectedly, I strolled to the living there, in the middle of the floor, was the most blue-and-white Western Flyer bicycle that I had How surprised I was to learn that my 17-ye Bob had saved up to buy me the bicycle! It was a cold night, but I felt warm inside as I new gift up and down the street. I had received The bicycle, for sure, The most precious gift of my brother Bob. I still remember that night as yesterday. Benedictine Sister A splendid realization When we think of Christmas memories, we recall the Christmases of our childhood. My most rable Christmas, however, occurred in 1985, six months pregnant with my fourth child. I had been with my husband, and away from since 1972. Every Christmas season saw parents, my home in St. Louis, my childhood. though I made the season pleasant for my child ren' sorrow was an ever-present guest. I Christmas music was on, even the decorated the house and tree, it was a given that would shed some tears. Then, that Christmas of 1985, a wonderful pened. I happily decorated the house and tree, my children joyfully dance to the Chipmunk's, Mass and sang all the carols, all this without tear. I didn't even realize this until I was down. But what a splendid realization it was! ing memories for my children, my this was the family God had entrusted to my My parents are gone now, the house in St. my childhood long gone. They are just ple But every Christmas I create new memories for dren, Jim, Joe, Danny, Heide, Billy and Kathy. day they can look back on them, not with tears, the sweet thoughts that I now have when I Christmases of my childhood.