Dr. Janet Gullickson

Dr. Janet Gullickson, president of Germanna Community College, has happy memories of her childhood Christmases in South Dakota. 

“As one of five children on a South Dakota farm homesteaded by my Norwegian great-grandparents, I experienced the consistency of shared ritual and tradition. We knew our identities well: farmer, Lutheran, daughter, winter-surviving, lefse eaters. (Lefse is a flatbread made with potatoes.) Among many, three practices helped form my Christmas heart. First, each of us received only one present. The gift was carefully chosen: a three-foot high doll, a watch, an angora sweater in my school colors, a record player. I can finally admit with the relief that a good confession bequeaths on the soul: I always found where the gift was hidden before Christmas Eve. My parents’ closet was usually a sure bet. I don’t believe, though, that knowing the nature of the gift ahead of time ever stole from my Christmas Eve anticipation.  Second, on Christmas Eve we would have lutefisk (think cod fish soaked in lye turned into Jell-O) and oyster stew. Now, keep in mind that our farm was in the middle of rural America, more than 1,000 miles from an oyster bed. But my mother, a city girl by nature, would order the lutefisk and oysters in advance. This meant a trip to town to pick them up on Christmas Eve day, often over snow-packed, wind-swept and ruthless roads. But the taste of that warm milk and butter broth and the pleasure of swallowing those oysters made risking your life worth it. The lutefisk? Not so much. Finally, before any gift-opening or playing with new toys, my father read the Christmas story, usually from Luke but occasionally from Matthew to keep us on our Gospel toes. “In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled ….” And so, on December 24, 2019, my family, too, will read this story. All other memories are just that. This story, though, is our eternity.”

--Dr. Janet Gullickson, president of Germanna Community College

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