My most fond Christmas memories are of the church I attended all of my life. Trinity Lutheran Church in Silver Creek was an important part of my childhood, youth and adult life.
My mother died when I was 11 years old. My father, Henry Staehle, took on the role of mother and father to my sister Martha and me. He was faithful to our church and made sure that we attended Sunday School and worship services, which were sometimes said in German.
Right after Thanksgiving, our Sunday School teacher would hand out the pieces that we would be expected to perform on Christmas Eve in front of our family and friends. Every time a relative came to our house during Advent, my father would ask us to recite our piece. These recitations were from the Gospel of Luke Chapter 2. During the service we would sing many of the old favorite hymns: "Silent Night," "While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks by Night" and "Oh, Little Town of Bethlehem." My dad always sat in the back of the church. Every once in a while I would see him rise up a bit from his seat in order to see us performing. Of course the church was always full during Advent and we were dressed in our Sunday best rather than costumes. There was always a decorated real tree in the small church.
This photo shows the Christmas program that Ruth Timmerman directed at Trinity Lutheran Church in Silver Creek in 1981. Left to right: Scott Fryberger as Joseph, Jennifer Groat as Gabriel, and Janet Schulenberg as Mary.
Added excitement came at the end of the service. A member of our congregation, who owned a local grocery store, made sure that each child received a small box of hard candies. A special treat was the years when the box contained chocolate drops with white cream filling, which was one of my favorites. In addition we were given a small gift from the Sunday School teachers. This was sometimes an apple or a religious storybook.
When I was a bit older, we celebrated Jesus' birthday with a cake.
I soon became old enough to teach a Sunday School class myself. One year the Sunday School superintendent came to the teachers and said that he didn't think we would have a children's Christmas program. After discussing this among the teachers, I wrote a program based on Luke 2 that our children would be able to present. Because I wrote it, I also became the director. I had the best time!
My sister Martha worked at Sidey's in the fabric department. She found patterns for costumes for our production and donated some of the fabric for the costumes. The Ladies Guild and individual members of our church donated money to purchase some of the items we needed. Our angel choir wore little white collars and sang "Away in a Manger." The first Joseph we selected was Scott Fryberger, seen in the accompanying picture. He was so excited about being Joseph that he never complained about the fact that the headband I sewed for him was too tight and hurt throughout the program! The manger we used was one that had been used in previous years and still is to this day. Shepherds' staffs were made by Hank Espersen, one of our members.
These are my greatest memories of Christmas. I was proud to have taught my daughter, Diane, as well as my grandsons Daniel and Robert. I still receive Christmas cards from many of my Sunday School children. These serve to remind me of how blessed I am.