One of my most cherished memories of Christmas was in 1967 when my Dad and his sister Madge reminisced on tape about what Christmas was like when they were children back in Beardstown, Illinois at the turn of the 20th century - 1900.
They lived in the parsonage diagonally across the street from the St. John Lutheran Church. In those days, except for perhaps a few wealthy families, Christmas trees were only a part of the season's celebration at church - not in the home. At least, that was the way it was in the Berg home. An evergreen tree was cut in the woods and brought into the church where it was ornately decorated with fruit, strings of popcorn, and unlit candles. The candles were lit twice during the season - on Christmas Eve and again on Christmas Day.
Because of the danger of fire, someone had to be on constant watch to extinguish the little fires that always erupted. It was my Dad's assignment to sit by the tree with a bucket of water and a long stick with a wet sponge to douse any flame the was started by a wayward candle.
Gifts were brought in and exchanged - particularly among the children - and Christmas carols were sung - in German. Dad and Aunt Madge tried valiantly on that Christmas evening in 1967 to remember the German words of those carols that they had sung in church 67 years earlier.