Christmas Tree, 2013.
I have spent twenty years in a row away from Minnesota during Christmas time and I admit that this time of the year, my heart certainly misses that sleepy little town called Rushford and all the good people who call that wonderful small town home.
I think of the Christmas Tree that must be lit up on Magellssen's Bluff, by the lookout. If you climb under the tree, do a ladder like climb down some 10 feet of loose sand stone, you will come to a cave--one of two on that Bluff. At night, that Christmas tree shines over Rushford---providing multi colored cheer from 600 feet off the valley floor.
To the east, there would be the "Star" lit up in white light on an opposing Bluff. I can't remember if it was a five pointed or a six pointed star. I used to hike up there once and awhile. If you hike around to the right of the star, around 100 yards or so, you'll find a cool little rock outcrop complete with a hole for some sort of critter. I remember it well from my childhood days. We used to haul tents up the hill to the top near the star and camp out, overlooking the valley.
Christmas in Rushford, in this close knit small town, has all sorts of charms. The Christmas displays on the street lights. The houses that had lights on them (my Dad went all out for this, nearly causing car accidents as cars would unexpectedly stop to watch the contraptions Dad had set up).
There is a tradition called "Yulebakking" where neighbors would dress up in costumes and try to appear incognito. You dropped in on a neighbor dressed in strange garb that hid your face, and the custom was that the people you stopped in on had to feed you until they guessed who you were. I think some houses had the custom of giving you alcoholic drink, but we had none of that in my family.
More traditions around food. Forgive my spelling. There were rosettes, and struell and fattimande (poor man's cake). All delicious. There were date cookies from the bakery. And lefse. Homemade lefse---every family with a slightly different recipe. One of my family's tricks was to let the potatoes cool outside on the porch. For some reason, that added flavor. Another trick is to roll it as thin as possible. Lefse is a potato tortilla, but much more than that: lefse is just the best food on the planet. Oh, how I miss it.
And blood Klub. Flour and blood made into a dumpling. It tasted the best the next day when you added butter and cream to it (and you wonder why my coronary arteries are clogged). It sounds gross but tastes divine. Anthony Bourdain really needs to explore these Norwegian treats.
And then there is Lutefisk; Cod fish soaked in lye. It has the texture of snot and tastes like rat poison. And I love it. You eat it with meat balls and potatoes. Lots of mashed potatoes with drawn butter poured over the whole thing.
I miss the Christmas Eve service at Rushford Lutheran with the candles. I won't go there again since they broke away from the rest of Lutherdom when the ELCA said it was okay to ordain Gay Pastors. Shame on them. But there is precedent because this church was the one that split away from a prior Lutheran Church back in the 1870's (in Rushford) because some Lutherans thought black people should still be slaves. Another church couldn't handle such a supposition and went on to create another brand of Lutheranism.
I miss Rushford during Christmas time. I would like to see that Christmas tree on the Bluff and that Star on the opposing Bluff one more time in my life. If anybody wants to take a photo of them and send them to me, I'd love it. I miss it so very, very much.