Before I was born my father was home for one Christmas. My sister who was four years older remembered it . I always felt jealous of her having that memory. I have been told that he came home so seldom that he was home on leave only five or six times during my first ten years. I remember drawing pictures for him for Christmas.
Then one year we were all sitting in the living-room. My paternal grandmother was there. And suddenly there was a rumble in the front hall. Loud rumble. And then a knock on the door and before anyone said : "Come in", there was Santa Claus, or Jul Tomten, as we called him. He came into the the living room with a large sack, and asked which of us children had been Good Children. Three of us responded Me, Me. I couldn't for I had been told so often that I was bad. (my Grandmother died when I was eight years old, so this happened when I was younger than eight.) But it is burnt into my mind. Tomten sounded like a nice guy and he even smelled good. As a grown up, on my first visit home from America I found out that Santa was played by my favorite relative. She and her husband was my children's favorite couple, they spent time with in Sweden, even though they didn't speak a word of English. That was the only time that Tomten came into the house. All other years there was a rumble outside and we would rush out to find the sack of presents outside the front door.
We usually got clothing as presents. Socks or PJs. Many years I wanted a grocery store. I don't now how I knew there was such a thing. I pictured it as rows of boxes made into a counter, and then flour and sugar and salt and maybe some goodies and I would pretend to weigh the items and put them in tiny little paper-bags for anyone who wanted to play with me. I never got one. All this happened before there were prepackaged foods. In my next life I may be a grocer.
I can't remember if I wrote about the Dipping day. It happened to come three days before Christmas Eve. Mother bought a leg of pork. She would put it in a giant soup-pot. Add pepper corns and whole All Spice and Bay leaves. It would simmer for hours. Then the meat was carefully removed from the pot. The liquid would be reheated and put on the middle of the dining room table and we had home made bread and we could either serve ourselves into a soup plate or dip the bread into the pot in the center of the table. It was the most delicious meal of all year. We all looked forward to the dipping day. If you were making a date for any day around this time you'd say "I'll see you at the windmill at 12 noon, the day before the dipping day.
The ham would then be baked with mustard and pineapple marinade. We would eat from this delicious meat all through the holidays.
Christmas eve we had boiled Lut Fisk. With it we had mustard sauce made with the seeds from the mustard that grows along the highways in the summers. We had a special bowl for crushing the seeds. It was smooth on the outside but rough on the inside. We had a canon ball that would go around and around as you swung the bowl to propel the ball. A few drops of water were added slowly It would be a long tiresome chore and a child was usually the one doing it. There was one other really tiresome job. Boiling the milk for the Christmas Rice pudding. It had to be stirred from beginning to end. After the milk boiled it usually took more than an hour to slowly let it cook until the rice disappeared into a thick pudding. One blanched almond would then be dropped into this huge pot. Then the rice pudding would be separated into eight serving dishes and then put in the cellar. We would use one of these for dessert on Christmas Eve, one for Christmas Day and one for Second Day Christmas, one for new years Eve and one for New Years Day, one for Epiphany eve and one for Epiphany day. In one of these lay an almond and all of us wanted to be lucky enough to find it. Various things might befall the lucky one, such as he might get rich or he might get married first. In all those years, I found it once and if that was the reason I found Sam, then I thank the almond deighty.