by Corine Mathiesen Peterka

Reflections on a Christmas past:
as we approach the holidays 
our thoughts often go back to our 
Christmases of long ago.

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When I was 5 years old my parents, 
Lena and John Mathiesen, and I moved 
to a farm on the south edge of Wahpeton. 
The farm was called the "Poor Farm". 
My father quickly named it 'The Richland 
County Farm", a home for the homeless. 
There were 5 residents when we came there in 1921. Fifteen years later we had 39 very special and dear old folks living with us.
My father managed the farming aspect of the operation. He and my mother had the daily duty to give to each of these dear and special folks T.L.C., Tender Loving Care. They gave to each one a special duty to perform each day. This not only gave them a sense of pride, but also made them feel an Important part of the family. These dear old people were very devoted to my parents, and called them "Momma" and "Papa".

Christmas was a special time at our farm. The "Old Folks" always had a tree in their parlor. After the evening meal on Christmas eve, we always had a special ceremony. My grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins came to the farm on Christmas Eve. In the evening we would all go into the Old Folks parlor. There we would all join with them singing Christmas Carols.

Then, as "the little one", I had the privilege of passing out the gifts. Each one would receive a little gift. Perhaps a pair of stockings or a red or blue bandana handkerchief. Then a special gift - a small brown paper bag of hard Christmas candy and peanuts in the shell. After this we would join hands and sing "Silent Night" amid tears and each one's own memories of his own family and his own Christmases of long ago.

In the Afternoon of Christmas Day we all looked forward to a special event - Christmas Day Vespers. A church in the area would come to the farm with the Pastor and choir. They would present a short concert of Christmas music. The Pastor always had a message and a blessing for these very special people.

At the end of a perfect day we all must have reflected on the many blessings the Christ Child had given to each of us.

God Bless us everyone!