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Christmas tea tradition continues

By Staff | Nov 22, 2019

A 45-year tradition will continue at First Lutheran Church in Rugby on Dec. 2 with a Christmas tea to be held at 7 p.m.

The first Christmas tea was held in 1975 at the former Bethany Lutheran Church, according to organizer Mary Jelsing.

“As far as I remember,” Jelsing recounted, “one of the ladies’ aid meetings (at Bethany Lutheran Church) decided to have a Christmas tea. It was just to be a fellowship. At first, it was only First Lutheran that was invited. They were our sister church.”

Jelsing said the tea was at first only for the ladies of the two Lutheran churches. “Then,” Jelsing added, “they decided, ‘Gee, why not invite all the church ladies in Rugby?’ So, then, everyone was included.”

“There was always a little program and then coffee and goodies. We don’t go to church unless we have food, you know,” Jelsing said with a laugh.

As the tradition continued, the ladies decided to request each church group to perform a musical number, reading or other form of entertainment.

Jelsing recalled two special performances: “I remember one lady from the Methodist church. She did a reading, and it was the best. It was beautiful. And, there was one lady who came from Berwick Lutheran, which doesn’t exist anymore. But she sang the same song every year for about five years a capella, and it was always beautiful.”

Jelsing added, “When we closed (Bethany Lutheran) and merged over here, we asked ‘Would this be a tradition we could carry on?’ (First Lutheran) agreed.”

First Lutheran plans to alternate the Christmas tea with performances of “Come to the Manger” every other year, according to Jelsing.

This year’s tea will feature something new in addition to its new location.

“There will be coffee and there will be tea this year. We’ve always called it a Christmas tea, but we’ve never had tea. But this year, there will be tea and punch,” Jelsing said with a smile. ” And there’s going to be dessert.”

Although Jelsing said she’s missed a few Christmas teas in 45 years, “There are always a few that stick out in your mind.”

Jelsing recalled one program held about 24 years ago. “The (tea) started when the weather was beautiful out. Well, as we were having our program, the weather changed big time. Some hardly made it home that night. There was a blizzard that came up. A lot of people remember that one.”

“A girlfriend of mine lives east and south a little bit from town, and she went off the road. She didn’t get out of the car. She put her winter gear on that was in the vehicle, but her husband and son came looking for her, and they found her,” Jelsing added.

“Another gal made it to another farm on her way home. She was going south. Everyone has their little stories of where they were and how they got home.”

“You never know in North Dakota about our weather,” Jelsing said. “It gets pretty crazy. I’m sure everyone has their special memory of one time or another.”

Although weather changes, Jelsing said she looks forward to hearing compliments from tea guests every year.

“This is the comment we get from a lot of people: ‘This is the perfect way that we start our Christmas holiday. You get in the spirit of what it’s really about.’ And that was really great,” Jelsing noted.

Although women’s groups from Rugby churches are invited to the tea, “If you’re a woman and you’re not affiliated with a church and you’d like to come, you’re more than welcome,” Jelsing added.

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