Deck the Halls

Nostalgia for Christmases past

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Like many others who appreciate Christmases past, Karen Tetzloff of Alpena remembers special times decorating for Christmas with her family. She grew up on a farm near Traverse City and had three older sisters, including Marilyn Ross of Alpena, and one younger sister.

“Christmas was a magical time with a big tree decorated with ornaments and lots of tinsel put on one by one,” Karen said.

She also nostalgically remembers the huge 12-foot mantel in her family’s home that always held a nativity scene showing the whole Bethlehem countryside with shepherds, sheep, angels and the three wise men.

“It took hours to get it just right, and because I was a ‘little sister,’ I could only watch,” she said.

When Karen was about 5 years old, her mother started letting her and her siblings pick out a new piece at the “5 and 10” store to add to the scene. They wrote their names on the back of the figures and some of Karen’s still have her name written in elementary school printing.

“We never put baby Jesus in the manger until Christmas morning,” Karen said.

The nativity scene she uses today at her house has some of the original sheep and a shepherd, but the rest of the pieces are like her mother’s, only they were purchased at a garage sale decades ago. Her husband built the stable years ago when their daughters were small.

Keeping the tradition alive of not laying Jesus in the manger until on Christmas morning has been the cause of some humor in the Tetzloff family.

“One of our sons-in-law thought it was strange when baby Jesus lived in the good silverware drawer until Christmas morning,” Karen said.

Along with the tradition of the family manger scene, Karen also remembers her sisters, who were 9, 13 and 16 years older than her, dressing up in their frilly blouses, black taffeta skirts and heels each Christmas to have their photo taken in front of the fireplace.

“I loved those outfits and couldn’t wait until I was old enough to have one just like it,” she said. “Unfortunately, they were out of style by then.”

Karen shared both a photo of the manger scene as it looks today in her home and a photo of her mother taken in about 1957. Her mother’s nativity scene is displayed in the background of the old photo.