Christmas changes over the years but spirit of family togetherness remains

John Oncken
The Oncken family gathers for Christmas in 2008.

Am I the only one who finds that the older I get, the more I think about Christmas celebrations of the past – often, the long ago past? I doubt it.

It’s logical. As our children grow up, go to school, move away and have their own lives and children, Christmas becomes more distant and less active for the older generation like me.

Last night I was sitting in my favorite chair, TV off, newspaper read and just thinking about Christmases of years gone by. I don’t remember anything really big or exciting about any holiday seasons of my past but I’m sure that at the time they all were.

Christmas shopping for the Oncken kids (John, Don and Audrey) was more about talking, planning and looking at Sears and Monkey Ward Catalogs. Although we lived only four miles from Oregon and five from Stoughton, we seldom “went to town” other than to church on Sunday.

Our big Christmas shopping spree came on a Saturday when Mother and us kids went to Madison to shop on the Capitol square that – would you believe – was lined with stores. Not the restaurants and bars of today, but dozens of clothing stores, dime stores, two sporting goods stores and other stores I’ve long forgotten.   

Santa always came to the Oncken house Christmas Eve after milking and church – it took me years to figure out why mother was always so late in getting into the car while we were all anxiously waiting to leave for church. Now I know. 

One unusual Christmas for Jan and me and our three children and their children was spent in Costa Mesa, California at daughter Laurel’s home some years ago in 2008. 

Seventy five degree weather, visits to the Chino Valley dairies and a tour of the Queen Mary now permanently docked at nearby Long Beach made for an unusual and interesting Christmas (and family reunion) for the Oncken family. It was great.  

Santa came and here are the presents to prove it.

The scary part is that since that California Christmas, my wife Jan has died, I’m a great grandfather twice over, grandson Joe has a PhD and works in Idaho Falls; granddaughter Megan is married with two daughters; granddaughter Nicole has a Pharmacy PhD; grandsons Trace and Cameron have graduated college (Chapman and San Diego State) and are in the business world and son John is president of a large John Deere dealership in North Dakota/Minnesota and his wife Joan is a manager in a large clothing store. Daughters Laurel and Lynne remain in Costa Mesa and Fresno, California.

Every Christmas is different as children grow up and Santa's gifts grow from dolls and toy trucks to gift certificates yet the spirit of family togetherness grows and the memories remain. Merry Christmas!