Christmas on the Farm

This vintage newpaper column first appeared on Dec. 23, 1976 in the Lake Keystone News.

By Zola (Bellis) Sample

You can hardly beat a Christmas celebration you experience on a farm. When you first hear a cock crow before the day has a good chance to break, you’re up and at ’em.

The coals in the kitchen range have already been rekindled, the teakettle is boiling and the water is warm in the reservoir at back of the stove (to wash your face). When your mother cracks the oven door, you can smell your old barnyard enemy that ran at you hissing and trying to get hold of your dress tail, that is being basted with Chuck Stoneman’s cider.

Mincemeat (homemade from fresh butchered hog) pie is steaming on a side kitchen table, all bubbly with a golden brown hog lard crust. The pumpkin pies that were made the day before along with buttered crust homemade bread waits for the grand rush at mid-day.

The atmosphere throughout the entire house has a spicy odor for those days you raised your dill, sage, peppermint and other tangy spices instead of paying 89 cents for a teaspoonful of seasoning in a package.

If you failed to raise it yourself, one of the children could take a short run through the meadow to Mrs. Nancy Stoneman’s and borrow … What a treat to get to go to the Stoneman’s. She always had something for you and would go a piece up the lane past the grape patch, wrapping her hands in her apron. She was a darling and no bigger than a bar of soap after a week’s washing … but with a heart as big as all outdoors.

The kitchen with the wood-burning range was always crowded. For it was there that boys and father hung their jumpers and hat when coming from the barn after doing chores. Generally, there was a cat or dog, too, managing to slip in to browse back of the stove in a corner nook. The door to the front room was always open, since we couldn’t hang a door there. Mother always said it would be in the way but I think she loved to look across the front room to the corner where he organ always stood cornerwise.

Oftentimes, between mixing dough for molasses cookies or rolling and twisting Swedish crullers or frying doughnuts, she’d wash her hands, dry them on her apron as she sashayed across to the organ to play a new church song that she had “picked out,” as she called her method of teaching herself to play by note.

I guess it helped to keep up her spirit in the rowdy bunch of youngsters.
When we all gathered to eat after all the steaming, spicy, delightful flavored foods were lifted, it was another uproar to manage enough chairs along with the homemade bench to seat us all.

Sometimes, we used the organ stool. I felt like I was really growing up when I graduated from the chair between Pa and Ma, over by my own, to the stool that I could whirl round and round until it locked and quit squeaking. Sometimes I was reprimanded for mother and father required us to have strict manners at the table.

If Christmas happened to be a cold, blustery day and there was ice on the pond over by the barn, we youngsters could bundle up and go sled riding or try our luck at skating.

The old farm was so loaded with the fullness of the earth, to which our work contributed, that surely the atmosphere of our happiness must have risen to Heaven on the day of Christ’s birth.

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