This Christmas will look different for many. COVID-19 has been wreaking havoc all throughout the year...and continues to do so. 

Our Christmas traditions have changed over the years, as I suppose, most do. I remember when I was a kid our big family celebration was on Christmas Eve. My mom and I would go to the Christmas Eve service at church, where the kids would always receive a brown paper lunch bag full of peanuts, fruit and candy (one of the best parts of the day!). Then my siblings, their spouses and children, my Grandma Sawatzke, my Auntie Florence and a few others would descend on my parents house. My mom made the best Christmas dinner...there was usually a ham or turkey and the usual fixings...but my favorite part was always when she made porcupine meatballs. 

After dinner we would gather in the living room and exchange presents. There was never anything huge or extravagant under the tree...but it didn’t matter to us. The biggest gift of all was being together as a family. 

My dad usually had something sly up his sleeve for my mom. He would buy her something for the house, such as a vacuum year he bought her a band saw. Yes, that one was more for him, but he said since he used it to cut out the ornaments and things that she would later paint, that it was a gift for her too. The biggest ones I can remember are when he bought our first microwave and our first dishwasher. Let me tell you I was excited for that one!

Over the years the numbers dwindled...after my dad passed away (over 20 years ago now) it was kind of like the glue that kept us all together was gone. My sister moved out of state, and changes in family dynamics made getting together more difficult. We went from a large family gathering of 20 some people, to just mom and my family of three for dinner. 

Now with my mom gone, we have started new traditions. We celebrate with our chosen family...both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. We have created the Christmas Eve Elf...who typically brings pajamas for the whole family to wear on Christmas Morning, along with some treats of course. Last year we started a gingerbread house making competition...which can be very interesting when you have a bunch of very competitive people in one family. 

Waking up and heading over early in the morning to see the kids’ faces when they open their presents from Santa, what can I’s the best thing ever and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. 

Even though things aren’t what we wish they could be, keep in mind the most important reason we celebrate Christmas...the birth of Jesus. I think that is what I will miss the most this year...going to church on Christmas Eve, I miss my church family.

So, from our family to yours, we wish you the Merriest of Christmases. 

Jennifer Yocum-Stans is the Editor of the Hinckley News, Pine County Courier and Askov American. She can be reached at 320-384-6188 or


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