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Locals remember past Christmases
Ceres residents share a favorite Christmas memory
Shep colorized
Leonard Shep Shepherd as a 13 year old boy with the bike he was gifted during Christmas. - photo by Contributed to the Courier

Leonard Shepherd & the Christmas Bike

When I was 13 years old, I worked for some friends doing yard work. Every Saturday I would walk a mile to their house and mow lawns and whatever else they needed done.

Three weeks before Christmas I was asked to refurbish an old bike. They had all that was needed to do the job. I worked hard to make it like new.

Two days before Christmas they called and asked if I could help them with the bike. I thought that they were going to sell it and I would ask if I could buy it. When I got there I went into the barn where I had worked on the bike. They told me to get it and bring it outside. When I saw it, it had a big red bow and a Christmas card with my name on it.

It was their way of thanking me for helping them.
The picture is me and the Christmas bike.

Robin Johnson & ‘Nut Prize'

Norwegian traditions flavored the Christmas season when I was a child. Thanks to my beloved grandmother, Elsie (Fossan) Albonico, we had a competitive and delicious tradition called the "Nut Prize." Prior to our Christmas Eve dinner, we would all be served a small bowl of cooked white rice (known as "risengrynsgrøt" in Norway) with an almond secretly nestled in one of the bowls. We would excitedly add butter, cream, cinnamon and sugar and then begin our journey into the Scandinavian mixture. Of course, we all hoped for the nut and if you did happen to scoop it up in a bite, you had to keep it hidden until everyone was finished. When all of the bowls were empty, the lucky recipient would proudly reveal the nut and get a beautifully wrapped prize from my grandma. You can only imagine the bragging rights and silly photos through the years as family members would celebrate having the nut in their bowl.

To date, this special Norwegian tradition has been shared down to four generations in our family and someday I hope to serve a sweet bowl of rice to my own grandchildren.

Dick McKay

The younger years of magic moments around the Christmas tree seem difficult to recall. Sharing those years with four siblings reminds me of the difficulty in finding a Christmas gift for everyone in the family. It did prompt all of us as kids to put our mind to work and produce a gift we could give to each other with the special gift saved for Mom and Dad. Of course, 75 years ago we did not have internet to assist us, nor the money to spend either. Looking at catalogs was the best way to prepare a list of wants for Santa.

I do recall two of my most cherished gifts, received at different Christmases. One was my first bicycle, which I rode with pride, after adding playing cards to the spokes and removing the fenders.

The second gift, my own .22 single-shot rifle, meant a lot to a 12-year-old boy. Since we lived in the country, I could go hunting whenever I was able to save to purchase shells for my gun.

The other memory was Dad making fudge. This was a joy all of us kids looked forward to and only made better by smelling the fudge being made.

Our church would produce a Christmas play, which everyone wanted to be a part of, in spite of the time spent in memorizing parts. One of the words I had to remember was "limousine," which believe it or not, I did not know what limousine meant, let alone how to remember how to pronounce it.

And, of course, the best thing about Christmas today, as in the older days, is when our family comes together to enjoy the reason for Christmas.

Marge McKnight Derby

My 81 years have blessed me with all my Christmas days to be spent in Ceres!

Although my family photos are safely stored away, I have the pictures in my mind that I shall not forget. In the 1930's and 1940's the majority of Christmas festivities were with family and church. The Ceres churches kept the spirit alive and welcomed all to join them. Our family belonged to the Ceres Methodist Church and I well recall the Sunday school teachers helping us make ornaments for our tree at home.

The Christmas program always had a program and miraculously found a role for all of the children, right down to the youngest child being placed in the manger. We wiggled and giggled but did our very best to entertain our proud family and friends. At the end of the program we would receive a net Christmas stocking filled with hard candy, walnuts and an orange.

Gifts under the tree at home were few with most made with the loving hands of my mother. There was no doubt we understood the meaning of Christmas and we would never have believed the shopping frenzy we witness today; nor, the price of the gifts now seen under trees and certainly not the quantity.

The most exciting thing for me was when my mother and father (Jean and Claude McKnight) would go through all the charge accounts at his Ceres Drug Store. Our town was small and my parents knew almost everyone. I never saw the names on the charge accounts but Mom and Dad would choose those people who they knew were having a particularly rough year. It seemed to me that they selected a generous number and Dad would write up their bill they would receive routinely each month and under the amount due he wrote the words, "Paid in full. Merry Christmas." Isn't that the real sense of Christmas?

We must continue to reach out to help those who, through no fault of their own, are struggling. I thank my parents for helping their girls learn the reason for our celebration in December.