Sandusky's Janet Senne recalls Christmases past filled with family, food, fun

SANDUSKY As the owner of a local thrift store, Janet Senne knows the value of simple holiday pleasur
Annie Zelm
May 24, 2010



As the owner of a local thrift store, Janet Senne knows the value of simple holiday pleasures.

To this day, the 87-year-old Sandusky woman recalls running downstairs in her pajamas and smelling the sharp pine of the newly-decorated tree Christmas morning. She also remembers feasting on platters heaped with assorted homemade cookies.

"It was a real family day," said Senne as she reminisced about Christmases past in the back room of Grace Episcopal Thrift Shop, 142 E. Market St. "We used to visit three or four houses and exchange cookies -- we always loved that."

Senne, who grew up in Tiffin, said the holidays were heavily influenced by her family's German heritage.

Her grandmother made lebkuchen, a honey-molasses cookie flavored with citrus and spices, springerles and hirschhoernchen -- known as "reindeer horns" in German.

The reindeer horns were like flat cakes that combined almonds, candied fruits and spices and were fried to perfection in the kitchen.

"I still make it to this day," Senne said. "The kids insist on it."

As a child of the 1920s, Senne said Christmas decorations and gifts were far less elaborate.

Her family's decorations consisted of a simple lighted wreath in the window and a tree that did not appear in the living room until Christmas Day. Hanging the wreath was a coveted task between Senne and her two brothers, who each plugged in a separate set of lights and tried to make them all glow at the same time for an awe-inspiring effect.

Her brothers usually wished for toy cars, cast-iron farm equipment miniatures and trains. The family had an electric Lionel model train set that traveled around the tree, and each year, they added a few new cars.

There were also Lincoln Logs, Erector sets and tiny bricks they'd use to build small houses.

But for Senne, the best gifts were dolls.

She still remembers window shopping with her grandmother and wishing for a black doll with three braids sprouting from her hair like sun rays.

It was a wish that came true -- and to this day, the doll sits in the Follett House Museum.

As children, Senne and her brothers often pooled their meager allowances to buy nicer gifts for their parents and relatives.

"We gave a lot of handkerchiefs -- those were probably about 25 cents," she said. "My allowance was only 35 cents a week when I was in high school, so that was a lot back then."

Christmas also has a special meaning for Senne and her husband, Don -- who will celebrate 60 years of marriage this spring. He proposed to her on Christmas Eve. This year, the Sennes plan celebrate in town and travel to Columbus to visit family two days after Christmas.

Until then, they will bring out the old ornaments and keepsakes as they decorate the house and reflect upon many decades of Christmases.

"We both still have ornaments from when we were kids," she said. "You have to keep all those up for the memories."