I know it doesn’t start officially until Tuesday but….winter’s here.  With night times in the low 20’s and some days only in the high 20’s let’s not be fussy about dates.  A dusting of snow doesn’t bring thoughts of spring, either.

The 1828 Barclay Farmhouse.

I confess: the snow around the farmhouse is last January’s, not this week’s but you get the idea.  The land for the original farm is where Bob Scarborough built the Barclay Farm development in the 50’s.  Pet Peeve Note:  It’s Barclay Farm, not Barclay Farms which the shopping center sign says.

The farmhouse was saved by a group of volunteers beginning in 1974 (including my late wife who was dedicated to it for 25 years).  By 1978 it was on the National Historic Register.  Over the years the Friends of Barclay Farmhouse have overseen its period  restoration and furnishing and a useful role in teaching school kids about early 19th century Quaker farm life.  It was eventually acquired by Cherry Hill Township from the late Helen Barclay, the last surviving family member.  Helen actually lived at the farm as a child, and her restored bedroom with its massive Victorian furniture can be seen on house tours.  The farmhouse has an active life in the community, including a festive Holiday House program in December.

Another sign of winter is that my household humidity is condensing on the cold window panes.  When I raise the blind by the breakfast table in the morning there’s an attractive arch of moisture beads which makes the bare trees more mysterious.  Do you feel a picture coming on?

My trees through the moisture on my window.

But, the dark winter solstice (sun standing still) comes with celebrations of life as we rejoice in friends and family.  We remember many Christmases past, and those who were a part of it, some of whom have left us.   My father believed in the principle that nothing appeared in the house until Christmas Morning, and he and mother pulled it off Christmas Eve, retrieving everything from the attic after I had pinned my stocking to an armchair (no fireplace) and drifted off.  Invariably he had to call my Uncle Jesse to resolve some mysterious problem with the wiring of the trains but it was all there the next morning, bright and dazzling to a five year old excitedly rubbing sleep from his eyes.   I remember that I couldn’t run the trains on Tuesday mornings when Ruby, our ironing lady came.  It was the 1930’s; we had an ironing lady but only one extension cord.  Go figure.

My childhood Christmas garden.

Some of the houses in the village and the Lionel freight set were purchased for my brother’s youth, circa 1925.  I still have them.  The Christmas garden tradition continued in my family but one year, in our salad days, the best bargain I could find was this tree for two dollars.

My $2 tree.

I didn’t think it was so bad but my family has never forgiven me for “Dad’s weird tree.”  I prefer to think of it as an upscale version of Charley Brown’s tree.

Anyway, I’ve had a great December, highlighted by two splendid concerts.  The first was the Philadelphia Orchestra playing Smetana, Prokofiev and two lush Respighi works…The Fountains, and a roof-raising Roman Festivals.   This past week we went to the Philadelphia  Holiday Pops program which included a very full Pops orchestra, the Philadelphia Boys Choir, 1oo voices of the Pops Festival Chorus, some fifty voices of the African Episcopal Church gospel choir, vocalist Rachael York, and Peter Richard Conte (of Wanamaker’s Organ) at the Kimmel Center organ.  I felt as though I had been to a great party.  When all of those voices and instruments lifted up the Hallelujah Chorus, folks were waving their arms from one end of Broad Street to the other.

I’ve watched Scrooge and Miracle on 34th Street (please, the 1938 and 1947 originals, respectively).  I’ve checked out the Christmas Village on Dilworth Plaza, the amazing show at Comcast Center, and the traditional light show at Macy’s (i.e. Wanamaker’s).

Seen at the Christmas Village

My house is decorated, thanks to daughter Sigrid; my tree (real) is up and decorated thanks to my family; the tree lights are the old C7’s with colored aluminum reflectors that I found on ebay; and the tinsel is real, from my dwindling hoard that the EPA has designated hazardous.   I’ve had three festive dinner gatherings with friends, some of whom have been there for almost fifty years; others have left but we remember them.   The Christmas cards arrive, some with not good news about the decline of still other and older friends, and even an obituary notice of one whom I had hoped to see again.  But, life goes on and it can still be a wonderful life if one works at it.  Say, that might be a good movie title, “A Wonderful Life.”

I’ll close this post with my annual Christmas Greeting card.  The scene is my home after the December 2009 snowstorm.  To my non-Christmas friends, God Bless, Be Well, and have a Happy New Year.   To others, add

Merry Christmas.

The cards are in the mail but if yours gets lost, here it is.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year


  1. Linda Kamholz Says:

    Lovely reminiscences, Ralph. You have a wonderful writing style and I enjoyed your views of holidays past and present!

  2. Marilyn Says:


    That scenario was wonderful. I thoroughly enjoyed viewing and reading. Have a wonderful Christmas and hopefully, we will see you soon…at least when spring begins to show its face.


  3. Kathleen Says:

    Ralph, I so enjoyed your tale of Christmas’s Past. Got your Christmas Card yesterday, wow, the nicest one I got this Christmas. Thanks for taking the time to share your memories with us.
    Merry Christmas to you and yours!!

  4. Ralph Berglund Says:

    Thanks, Kath – I noticed your image of ice crystals on facebook this morning and, with my image of the humidity beads on the window, thought “Great minds…

  5. Dave and Buz Says:

    Thanks, Ralph, we too enjoyed your letter and pictures. Dave and Buz

  6. Vince Rossi Says:

    Nice post Ralph. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

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