Please pass the Lutefisk and Limpa

I always blamed my Norwegian friends for lutefisk. It's traditional holiday fare in Scandinavian homes--and one of the few Scandinavian customs that we had growing up.

Yes, I blamed the Norwegians for lutefisk. As Swedes, we always blamed the Norwegians for everything. Even if it wasn't their fault. After all it was my friend Suzy's Norwegian mother who cooked it for us every year. And we would go to their house after church Christmas Eve for this traditional meal.

Unfortunately, we had to eat it.

I think lutefisk is Norwegian for "codfish-dried-in-lye-and-reconstituted-in-a-milky broth-that-is-inedible-and-you-may-
get-violently-ill-after-eating-it-or-even-looking-at-it." At least the Swedes doused it liberally with melted butter to make it palatable. Or camoflauge the real taste.

There was also some form of strange meat imbedded in gelatin. Kind of like head cheese. Something like silt. Stuff you wouldn't want to eat. Luckily, it only showed up Christmas Eve.

Maybe lutefisk ranks right up there with pfefferneuse when it comes to holiday food. Cookies so hard that if you drop them on the floor the tile cracks. Aunt Lill supplies them to us every year. We don't eat them, but please don't tell her. Other than a few rounds of "Oh Tannenbaum" and "Ring, Glocken" that's the extent of German tradition in the Hahn household.

There is, however, a Swedish sausage, flas korv, a delicious pork and potato sausage that we had every Christmas. I used to make it from my grandmother's recipe, carefully stuffing it into natural casings. Now I buy it, in Auburn.

Limpa bread as well. Christmas just isn't Christmas without korv and limpa.

Actually, we have few traditions in our household when it comes to the holidays. But there certainly are a few Christmases I remember.

The year Curt and I ordered an 18-foot tree to go right up to the cathedral ceiling. No one warned us that the tree would weigh hundreds of pounds, so getting it in the house and upright was accomplished only with the help of strong neighbor boys, a few bags of sand to hold it upright, and some 8-inch bolts. We bolted the tree stand through the carpeting and into the floor.

The year we wired the tree to the ceiling to keep it from toppling when the cats climbed it. They did anyway, and the wire didn't hold. Lost the coffee table and the tree.

The year the Saint Bernard set herself on fire when we (not advisable but we did) let her eat all the leftover turkey scraps, skin, fat, and gravy. She belched a great big Saint Bernard belch just as she touched me, creating static electricity and her "gas" caught fire! The flash was so fast we didn't believe it, but her burned and missing whiskers and eyebrows were proof.

The same Saint Bernard ate all the Christmas cookies while we were at Church one Christmas Eve.

Now, our cats are the thieves. They've moved the five stuffed reindeer off the piano. I retrieved the three big ones, but they've hidden the tiniest two. Maybe they're holding them ransom for the reindeer-horns made for well-dressed cats to wear for the holidays.

A truly memorable gift, probably the only one I remember from my childhood, was the bike. The Schwinn bike. Rose-colored and silver, and big and fat and flashy. Probably around 1950.

Which reminds me of all the family photographs of mom, dad, my brother Gene, and Honey May, the cocker spaniel. My brother and I were always wearing red flannel or red plaid and Kodak red eyes. Every picture.

Christmas memories. So many over the years. This year, I hope we'll create a few more. I've learned that it's the memories...the trees, the music, family...that is, of course, most important. When all the gifts are used up or worn out, when all the food is eaten, when the cookies are only crumbs, it's the memories that remain.

I hope you'll be creating some Christmas memories this year as well. And I wish each and every one a joyous season, filled with love, happiness and peace.gislature.

Meanwhile, Happy New Year, to all of you!

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