Tuesday, December 22, 2015

My Christmas Secret...Do You Believe?

My Christmas Secret!

Shhhhh!...When I was growing up. I had a Christmas secret that always made me smile. Not the I-can't-wait grin of anticipation, but the cat-with-whiskers-full-of-cream variety. You see...I believed I had an "in" with the Big Guy Up North...a connection no other child possessed. My very own grandmother was an official North Pole employee with the title "Santa's Helper." Her name was Patta Gray.

Patta and Richard Gray on their 50th Anniversary

Santa's Helper at Work...
She confided this to me when I was very young, and I believed her. Why wouldn't I? Her house was filled with dolls and toys all year long! Not to mention she excelled in making gingerbread cakes and cookies with brown sugar topping. And she was soft and pink and smelled delicious...just like Mrs. Santa Claus must.

Shirley, Mike and little sister Patti on a visit to Grandma Patta's.

Sometimes I got to visit for a few days. Grandma Patta and I spent the time up to our elbows in fabric scraps and patterns. The bodice of grandma's dress was studded with straight pins in lieu of a pincushion, keeping her hands free to cut and stitch the tiny clothes for all of Santa's dolls. With my awkward "help" she made designer outfits for Barbie, chic Chanel-style suits with real mink collars...just like Jackie Kennedy wore. Ruffled dresses for Chatty Cathy were next on the list, adorned with yards and yards of lace trimming. Even G.I. Joe got a new uniform or two! (Grandma hated Joe's big floppy feet...it made him hard to dress.)

Chatty Cathy...I didn't like her for some reason...she looked kind of bratty.

In the evenings, Grandpa Rich would get out his tools and work on the Barbie-size furniture he designed. He made four-poster beds and pink vanities with little gold knobs. The closet had sliding doors and rods filled with little pink hangers. With a hammer and wee brass tacks, he patiently upholstered miniature sofas and chairs. I was lucky enough to receive some of his furniture for Christmas one year.

My first Barbie looked like this one.

My first Ken had this fuzzy hair that came off if he got wet.

A Test of Faith...
I felt so special being let in on such an important secret. There were times I was tempted to brag about Grandma's unique job. But the kids I played with were starting to say awful things about Santa...that he didn't exist! Grandma had a saying...something about pearls before swine. Her secret was too precious to waste on non-believers.

As the years went by, it became more difficult to keep the faith. The pressure was on from friends and siblings to admit that Santa Claus was a hoax. But I stubbornly clung to the hope that they were wrong. One Christmas Eve I lined my dolls up on the couch so Santa could see that I took good care of my toys. My brother Mike teased me for being such a baby. "There's no such thing as Santa," he snickered.

Patti Play Pal.
I found out the hard way one Christmas morning that Grandma Zetta's lipstick is forever!
Poor Patti Play Pal!

A few minutes later, Mom came into the room and told us to get ready to go to Grandma's. It was almost time for Santa to come and pick up the doll clothes and take them back to the North Pole. He was a bit behind schedule and the elves needed to get the dolls dressed. I smirked when I saw the startled expression on Mike's face. He'd see!

Still...something deep inside nagged at me all the way to Lehi, where my grandparents lived. "He's not coming," the voice of doubt informed me. "He's not real." I remembered everything my friends had told me. They said it was all a big lie...our parents bought the toys and pretended to be Santa.

Miss Revlon had pierced ears!

Waiting and Waiting...
While the adults visited at Grandma's, I squirmed on the sofa. Anticipation and dread played tag in my stomach and I couldn't eat the cookies grandma had made. When you are a child, minutes seem like hours, and waiting is torture. He's not coming.

As I squeezed my eyes shut and focused all my faith into a wish...I heard the silver tinkle of sleigh bells. I knew that if I opened my eyes, the magic wouldn't work. But the sound of boots on the front porch stamping off the snow seemed real enough. Grandma hurried to the door.

How I remember Santa...so many years ago.

"Merry Christmas!" a hearty voice boomed. When I opened my eyes, a man in red stood in the doorway shaking snow off his whiskers. I watched in awe as Santa reached into his sack and pulled out a candy cane for each of us. My little sisters danced about with excitement and forgot to say thank you. But remembered! He winked at me, restoring my faith for another year.

Grandma made doll clothes for many years after that, taking orders from neighbors and friends. Even when I was finally too old to believe in Santa Claus, she still personified the Spirit of Christmas. I wish my own children could have known her.

Cute little brother Tommy and sister Lisa came along some years after this story.
Look at their sweet little faces. I miss these little kids.

"May your days be merry and bright,
And may all your Christmases be white..."

It's Snowing!
Merry White Christmas!!
I have posted this story before...but like "The Night Before Christmas" and other holiday tales...it gets taken out of the Christmas box, dusted off, and shared again and again.  This is my most cherished Christmas memory.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Merry Merry Miscellany!

Christmas Crafting...

Winter Fairy Gardens...
Christmas Deer and Other Woodland Creatures.

I'm still having a lot of fun creating little winter "Fairy Garden" scenes for Christmas.  Several of them will be given away as gifts.  No matter how much I love them, I cannot keep them all. This post will be mostly pictures...so I can finally get them blogged.  I am fortunate that my shopping is done for the most part.  Just have a few miscellaneous things to get.  

Today I am making Peppermint Snickerdoodles with white chocolate peppermint kisses on top.  I may have to make them twice...they are so yummy!  They remind me of some cookies my mom made for me to take to a Christmas party when I was in Jr. High.  I never tasted anything so good as those Snickerdoodles with a dab of pink icing and a little candy cane on top...a priceless memory for me. It makes me happy to think of my mom today.  I sure miss her...especially at Christmas.

This one is a favorite.
I love the rusty bucket and the tree full of bells and a rusty star.

The tiny deer is a salt shaker from Cracker Barrel.
I bought over a dozen little deer and owls to use for crafting.

A gift for a friend...rusty coffee can from Oatman, AZ.
Route 66!

I made 10 of these for gifts.
The cans were saved from Costco Chicken.
We had a lot of enchiladas this fall...lol!

A gift for one of my daughters...little Yellowstone Bears.

I re-did this wagon scene I made last year.
I like using Snow Tex over sheet moss.
Looks more realistic...snow-wise.

Random Decorations...
Pioneer Woman Christmas Cow Creamer.

Kitschen Korner.
Pedestal from Target...cute!!

Tiny Gingerbread Houses.
Just 1.5" tall...the candies are Wilton candy sprinkles

Jack Frost joins the hall decor...

...along with Dri-Shu Santa.

The Cookie Kings found a home in the kitchen. 

Pinterest-Inspired Three Tier Display.

Nicholas and Christ Child...

This is one of my favorite images this season...St. Nicholas and the Christ Child.
It reminds me of the book..."The Immortal Nicholas" by Glenn Beck.

I have it framed in my office to remind me of the reason we celebrate this time of year.
I just printed it 5" by 7" and used my coupon at Hobby Lobby for the frame.

That's it for now...
Merry Christmas!!!

Thursday, December 3, 2015

St. Nicholas Day...December 6!

St. Nicholas Day...
This Sunday, December 6, is known throughout Germany and many European countries as St. Nicholas Day.  Children in those countries put their shoes on the front step in hopes that the kindly gentleman will fill them full of treats.  Traditional gifts include chocolate, fruit, small toys and gold coins...chocolate coins most likely.  The legends about St. Nicholas begin with the story of a poor man with three marriageable daughters.  He could not afford to provide them with a dowry...in those days girls could not get married without a cash dowry.

Wooden shoes filled with treats...
Passing by the home of the poor girls one winter's evening, Nicholas was moved to pity by their penniless state and wanted to help them.  Wishing to remain anonymous, he secretly tossed a bag of golden coins into the window of the girls' room.  The story claims that the coins fell into some stockings hanging out to dry by the fire.  This is how the tradition began of filling stockings with gifts.  Next year on the eve of St. Nicholas day, it might be fun to have your children put their little shoes on the front porch.  Wouldn't they love to find a little bag of gold chocolate coins in their shoe when they get up the next morning?  Be sure to tell them to leave a carrot out for St. Nicholas' white horse.

A fun new tradition!

Our family tradition of celebrating St. Nicholas (Nikolas) Day only lasted a few years...but it was fun while it lasted.  We wouldn't wait until morning...St. Nicholas came just before bedtime in our little corner of Germany.  Children would get ready for bed and put their shoes on the porch.  Then there was a special program on television for them to watch while one of the parents filled their shoes.  Bedtime television featured a character call the Sandmännchen or "little sandman."  I suppose the purpose was to make children sleepy.  They might show a cartoon, then the Sandmännchen would tell a bedtime story.   When the Sandmännchen said "Gute Nacht...und schlaf recht schon" it was time to see if St. Nikolas had left candy or a switch in their shoes.  Nikolas had a helper named Knecht Ruprecht, a dark and sinister character who just might put naughty children into the big sack on his back.  There are many legends and traditions about the Knecht Ruprecht character...in some he later became "Der Weihnachtsmann," the German version of Santa Claus.

Der Weihnachtsmann shopping at the Christmas Market.
He could also be wearing blue or brown.

Christmas Eve in the home of our German friends, the Dahnkens, was the time when the Christ Child...or Christkindl...decorated the tree and left presents.  They didn't use Christmas stockings, but the Christkindl left plates full of cookies and candy.  In other homes, gifts were left by Der Weihnachtsmann. 

I loved learning the customs and traditions of Germany.  Thank you for letting me share the story of St. Nicholas Day.

Frohliche Weihnachten!
Note:  This is a repost from December 2013.