Monday, December 14, 2015

Storytellers Christmas: Memories and Mrs. Claus

Christmas Story-telling by Sir John Everett Millais, 1829-1896
We begin our Storytellers Christmas today! Storytellers from all over have generously contributed stories, poems and memories to share with us during these days before the holidays begin. So, my friends, here are the first tales offered for your enjoyment. Grab some cookies and hot chocolate, settle back and feel the joy of the season.

Let's begin with Virginia storyteller Nancy Wanzong's memories of the Christmases of her childhood. Many of her memories are similar to mine, and sometimes I share her longing for a return to those days. 


I long for the Christmases of my youth. Nowadays with the youngest in our household being fifteen it seems at times that the Spirit of Christmas has died.  No longer are there children who anticipate with growing excitement that all important Christmas Day when they discover what Santa has left for them under the tree.  Teen-agers want new clothes and they have to be clothes they choose for themselves so off we go to the Mall weeks before Christmas to buy what they want. Of course these presents are wrapped and put under the tree but they all know what is inside of each.  As for the stockings hung by the fire, these are usually filled with necessary items like make-up and school supplies. If grown-ups choose something that they think the teen will like, it is quite often looked at quickly and laid aside never to be used again.  So each Christmas I find myself dreaming not of white Christmases, but of Christmases long ago when I lived with my mother, father, grandmother, grandfather, aunt, uncle and two cousins.  (My sister came later—much later.) 

 We knew Christmas was just around the corner when we were all bundled into a car for a trip to downtown Richmond. There we spent hours gazing into the wonderful windows of Miller and Rhodes and Thalhimers with their animated characters, model trains, carolers singing and snow-covered scenes. Another highlight was a visit to the legendary Santa at Miler and Rhoads. We’d get there early so we could watch Santa come down the chimney.  First of all would be the sound of jingle bells, then Santa’s boots would appear and finally there he was speaking to us in his jolly, booming voice. Afterwards we’d wait for what seemed forever to enter Santa’s wonderland for a private visit. 

As we waited, we would talk to the Snow Queen, a dazzling vision dressed in white with a sparkling tiara on her head. She would ask us our names, where we were from and if we had been good this year. Then she would check to see if Santa was ready. If he was, she would escort us into Santa Land.   It was truly a magical place with stars twinkling overhead, and woodland scenes with life-like, animated animals. We would follow a path lined with fully decorated Christmas trees to where Santa sat, enthroned in a gold chair lined with velvet.  Then Santa would look at us and smile: “Nancy, Jimmy, and Jane, come on over. How are things in Bon Air?  Now tell me have you been good?”  

Santa knew us by name, so we knew he was the real Santa. After we had assured Santa that we had been very good the entire year, he would ask us the most important question, “What would you like Santa to bring you this year?”  After our visit, an elf would take our picture and give us candy canes and coloring books.  Then we would go to the Tea Room for lunch, where we would be entertained with Christmas songs played by Eddie Weaver on the organ.  Dessert was always a big slice of Rudolph cake, in reality yellow cake with sprinkles on it.

The week-end after our visit to Santa we would bundle up and everyone would trek to the woods behind our house to search for the perfect tree.  Since we all had a different idea of what this perfect tree should look like, it usually took several hours to find it.  After cutting down the tree, we would gather holly, pine boughs and running cedar for decorations.  Returning to the house, we would be treated to hot chocolate and cookies and then the men with guidance from the women would set up the tree. Once the tree was up, it was my grandfather’s turn. He was the only one who could get the lights on exactly right.  My mom, aunt and grandmother would pop some corn and patiently using a straight pin attach a single kernel to the end of each branch of the tree so that it looked as if snow had fallen there.  Now it was time for Jimmy, Jane and I to place the ornaments on the tree.  Jane was the youngest so she got to place the angel on the top.  Grandmother and our moms would spend the rest of the week-end decorating the inside of the house.  When they finished the whole house smelled of pine and the windows were aglow with candles.  Christmas was officially here.

Not only did our house smell of pine but there were also delectable aromas emanating from the kitchen: cookies of every kind and flavor; Grandmother’s famous fruit cake; the traditional Smithfield Ham that had to be soaked overnight and egg nog. (My Grandmother’s was for adults only since it was made with 190 proof grain alcohol.)

Christmas Eve day was always spent at Aunt Marion’s house. She was my grandfather’s sister. All of her children and their children would be there.  We would exchange gifts and then have a huge meal. There was always several conversations going on at once and that combined with children running through the house playing hide and go seek made for a wonderful noisy lively time.  After spending the day at Aunt Marion’s we would return home. Jimmy, Jane and I would be put to bed only to be awakened around 10:30 PM so that we could go to Midnight Mass with the family. Back home after Mass, Jimmy, Jane and I would hang up our stockings, put out cookies and milk for Santa and carrots for his reindeer and be tucked back in our beds where we drifted off to sleep listening to the sounds of “Here Comes Santa Claus.”   One Christmas Jimmy and I decided to stay up and wait for Santa. “Children,” my grandmother warned us, “Santa won’t come as long as you are awake.”  Stubbornly we refused to go to bed.  

As we sat there determined to see Santa, we heard the jingle of bells.  My mother and aunt went to the front door and looking out shouted, “Santa, no use stopping here. The children are still awake.” Those words caused two children to race up the stairs and jump in bed shouting, “We’re asleep! We’re asleep!”   Come Christmas morning we weren’t allowed downstairs until our grandfather had turned on the Christmas tree lights.  From that time on the room was a flurry of paper, ribbons and shouts of “Look what Santa brought me!”   After opening presents, we checked our stockings.  Every member of the family had one even the pets.  A light breakfast followed so that everyone would have room for several helpings of the Christmas feast.  

If there was snow, we spent the afternoon sledding. If not, we played with our new toys and games while the grown-ups rested. That night everyone went to bed full of not only food but also that wonderful feeling known as the Christmas Spirit.  I would love to have such a Christmas again.

You can contact Nancy at   or on her webpage. A quick look at her biography:  Former Youth Services Librarian.  Member of Virginia Storytelling Alliance and National Storytelling Network.  In past year:  Was one of the New Voices at Stone Soup Festival.  In the past have told stories at festivals, daycares, libraries, schools, birthday parties and on public radio. Specializes in telling stories to pre-schoolers. Am also a clown named Tangerine.   Website:

Now, let's here from Mrs. Claus! Sometimes we forget this quiet woman in the background, but you know Santa can't do his job without her back home cooking, washing his suit, taking care of the reindeer, and probably answering a lot of those letters that arrive at the North Pole!

Ode to Mrs. Claus Poem

A certain woman named Mrs. Claus
Deserves to be heard from because
She sits in her den baking gingerbread men
While her husband gets all the applause!

- Unknown

Susi Wolf has been a professional storyteller for over 20 years, as well as performing as such characters as Mrs. Claus. She is a lively and interactive teller of worldwide folktales, parables, animal stories and more. She will teach about wildlife and her Eastern Band Cherokee tradition during her shows, as she sees Story as a clear and powerful teaching modality. Her love is healing storytelling which she uses with women in transition, addiction recovery, domestic violence and more. She has settled in the beautiful land of Albuquerque, NM and her roots there run deep. Contact her at and on her webpage Wolfsong Creative.

I hope your enjoyed today's postings. Come back tomorrow for more stories of this season!

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.


Mac n' Janet said...

Beautiful memories, but sad that her own children can't find the joy in Christmas. I can't wait for Christmas morning for our family to gather around the tree and open gifts, and not one of us is a child, just children at heart.

Gretel said...

How lovely! And I think a lot of women can identify with Mrs Claus...

Susi Wolf said...

My sincere thanks to Susanna for soliciting contributions to her blog. It was a pleasure to share Mrs. Claus with her audience. I have done Mrs. Claus for over 25 years and love her as dearly as one loves an old friend. She is the wiser part of myself and sometimes she amazes me with her wit and insight. She is definitely tuned in to a spiritual connection as her love is all-encompassing and unconditional. She has boundless energy (she wears me out) and ever tires of telling stories and singing songs. Over the years, we have shared performance stages together with song and dance routines, ridden fire trucks to open Magical Santa's Village, held the hands of terminally ill children and eaten our weight in chocolate chip cookies. How lucky am I that the Spirit of Mrs. Claus chose me and that we can take this adventure together. Come visit me and see all that I do at and - I have some fresh cookies waiting for you!

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