Gospel adds joy to family traditions

When I think about childhood Christmases, many memories emerge.

Many practical preparations attended the Christmas season. For example, lutfisk, a type of cod fish that is dried and then boiled for eating, was placed in lye as early as Dec. 9, in time to be rinsed and ready for the Christmas table. There wasn't much of the fish left after it was boiled, and without strong mustard it didn't have much flavor. But it was part of Christmas in Sweden.About that time of the month, Christmas housecleaning began. Everything had to be spotless, from ceiling to floor. And we children got to help, like it or not.

One duty I liked very much was laundry. The washhouse was filled with warm steam, and the water sloshed and splashed when I, using wooden sticks, moved the heavy, hot laundry from the washtub to the large stone tub filled with cold water. Even in the winter, we hung the laundry outside until most of the water had dripped off. In the evening, when it was time to bring it all in and let the bed-linen and clothes dry in the kitchen and attic, the sheets were frozen solid and almost impossible to fold. We children had a lot of fun with father's long underwear, which were so stiff they could stand by themselves.

We lived in a three-room apartment, which was heated by a cookstove and tile ovens. In the kitchen was a gas-ring and a woodstove with oven. It was used often before Christmas, and the aroma of wonderful cakes blended with the crackle from the fire. Mother was a bit worried, however, because of us children, and would often hide the cakes so there would be enough left for Christmas.

The day before Christmas Eve, mother would work her magic. She would take out her Christmas decorations and tablecloths, and it was as if she had a magic wand in her hand. Our simple home became so beautiful!

I remember that we talked a lot in our home at Christmas about the birth of Jesus, but Father and Mother loved to go to religious service on Christmas Eve. Occasionally we children came along, but most often, my older brother and I stayed home and cooked rice porridge.

We would sit for a long time and eat the delicious Christmas fare at the kitchen table. These conversations around the table are cherished memories.

Often, relatives and neighbors visited us after the meal. My uncle would play the mandolin, and I remember that we played a lot - family games and quiz games appropriate to young and old. What fun we had!

The memories for which I am most grateful are from the years 1948-50, when missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints rented one of our rooms. We came to regard them as members of the family, and it was natural they should be included at the dinner table and in our company. Father said many times it was remarkable how far the food stretched when the missionaries were invited to dinner.

I remember these missionaries as happy people with great faith. Their bookcase was filled with thin pamphlets, and I understood that they came to Sweden with a message, which I, however, did not comprehend until 14 years later, when I myself decided to pay attention to what was so special about them. Their good example, their spiritual radiance, their joy in life made a much greater impression on me than they knew.

Some of those missionaries know it today. I have had the joy of telling them about it. I wish that I could thank them all. They gave me memories which made it so that I can now rejoice with my children and grandchildren over the knowledge that the Savior was born on earth, and with Him at the center, all that pertains to Christmas takes on eternal meaning.

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