It’s that time of the year again, when most of us rush around to finish this and that, complete our shopping, wrap up projects, and ensure everything is in place for the Holiday Season. If you are anything like me, you procrastinate a little and end up finishing things in the last minute. When will I learn?
I remember, as a child, my father would take my siblings and me, in the early hours of a November morning, down to the fish docks. We’d wait in long line ups, with other families, to fill our buckets with freshly caught herring. I can see some of your noses crinkling, but until you have tried this delicacy the way our family serves it, you truly don’t know what you’re missing. We’d fill at least 5 big buckets (I would say a good 100 of the tiny fish) and enjoy the smell of the sea filling the car on our trip home. I would then assist my mother in the washing and cleaning of the fish; removing the innards and filleting them. They would then get layered with coarse salt in big ceramic pots and sit in the dark of our basement cellar for weeks. The salt would cook the fish, so the end result would be to wash them off, and cut them up to ready them for salads. My mother always made a most delicious Herring Salat (German). It was mixed with cooked potatoes, pickles, hard boiled eggs, sliced apples and cooked red beets, and seasoned with vinegar, salt & pepper, and dill weed. I would always try to steal a few mouthfuls before it was served to the family on Christmas Eve.
Christmas Eve was the special evening of celebration with a family gathering and a pot luck meal. Mom would always invite friends who found themselves alone at this time of the year. After a short retirement to our bedrooms, we’d hear a bell ringing, calling to us to come to the living room to see the wonderment of a Christmas Tree and all the lovely presents underneath. Now mind you, we had to work for those presents. My siblings and I would have to prepare a poem, act out a skit, perform with instruments, or tell a story before any of us would be able to partake in the merriment of gift opening. Then we sang a number of holiday songs while some of us played recorder or the piano. The wait for that moment was always so long and arduous. I would often shake in fear that I would say something wrong, or play my recorder with mistakes, or would simply forget my presentation all together. However, I always succeeded.