For our family, Christmas Eve always started with the rush to get ready for church. Daddy got home a bit early that day. On this day he usually had a gift from Freehling Lumber Company with him. The Freehlings held an annual open house for the men who bought building materials from them. I remember some of the gifts were drinking glasses with a small glass tray with black and gold designs, which were very popular in the fifties. Once he was home we’d then rush to have a light supper and get the barn work done before getting dressed for church.
St. Luke’s was simply decorated. The Christmas tree was at the front of the church, on the right side of the sanctuary. It was suitable tall for the space, probably about fifteen feet high. There were poinsettias on the alter with some greens. While Poinsettias were traditional, they were not so common as they are today, so there were never banks or rows of them.
All the children of the church gathered in the Sunday School room. We were excited to see what our girl friends were wearing as everyone had special dresses for the holiday. I don’t remember what the boys wore – they were superfluous to me then. We were lined up by our Sunday School teachers. All but the youngest children had learned a piece to say that night. The youngest children sang Away in a Manger. We were warned to be quiet and sit still. The word used by many families was no rooching. That is a phonetic variant of a German word meaning not to wiggle. The German part of our heritage showed in language as well as the Christmas Eve celebration. Traditionally, German families celebrate the holiday on Christmas Eve.
We filed into the church, took our seats in the pews and tried to be still and quiet. When it was our turn to do our part, our class filed up to the front of the church and took our places on the steps. Each child said their piece.
One of the more special events of the evening came at the end of the service when the ushers came through the church distributing small boxes with candy in them to each child. The small boxes held some chocolate drops and hard candies. My first memory of this is of being in the balcony with my parents because I was too young to be in Sunday School (age two since I started Sunday School just before my third birthday). Even at that age I was terribly worried that the ushers would miss me because I was not down on the main floor with the other children. I was so happy when an usher appeared at the top of the stairs with a box of candy for me.
After church we would hop into the car and make the ride into Butler, which was about ten miles away, for the family Christmas Eve get together at Grandma and Grandpa Keck’s house. The colored Christmas lights along the way delighted me. I remember some years being terrified that we would not get through the snow but somehow Daddy always made it safely. Mother usually sang Christmas Carols while we traveled. She didn’t have a great voice but who cared! There was no radio in the car so it was us or no music!