Family puts on Christmas Dinner once more

Published 9:26 am Friday, December 24, 2010

Every year around Christmas time, Gladys Bliss receives the same phone call from reporters.

She answers the phone and talks to the person on the other end, telling them how her family started a Christmas dinner for the community. She tells how her son, Peter Klein, died from a motorcycle accident. She talks about how the family didn’t think it was right to celebrate the usual Christmas without him, as it would be too painful.

“Somebody does a story almost every year,” Bliss said.

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The Bliss family has put on a Christmas dinner every year since 1998, the year Klein died. It’s become a Christmas tradition for Bliss’s children and grandchildren to put on a massive Christmas feast for those in need.

Since 2001, St. Olaf Lutheran Church has let the Bliss family serve Christmas dinner at their church, as it’s centrally located and everyone in town knows where it is, according to Bliss. This Bliss family tradition is all some of the younger grandchildren and great grandchildren remember, Bliss said.

“We still don’t exchange gifts,” Bliss said. “They have been there every year unless it was by chance one of them had to work.”

Work starts early in the morning so the Bliss family and volunteers can make Christmas foods like turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans, sweet potatoes, coleslaw, Jell-O cherry fluff and all kinds of desserts, if they haven’t already prepared dishes beforehand. Each year they plan for about 250 to 275 people, and with the help of Thrivent Financial Services’ donations they always feed everyone who comes to the door. Any more donations they receive—people have been very generous over the years, according to Bliss—goes straight towards their food budget.

“God has provided every year for us to have enough food,” Bliss said.

This year there won’t be as many family members helping out, as one of the grandchildren is married and will attend Christmas on her husband’s side of the family. There’s also a surprisingly small number of volunteers this year. That won’t matter to the Bliss family, however. As soon as the meal is done this year, they’ll go back to Bliss’s house to play games and eat snacks and treats as a family, about 30 people altogether.

This year’s Christmas dinner takes place Christmas Day from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., when the Bliss family stops serving. Bliss would prefer people call the church in advance to let her know they’re coming, but no one is ever turned away and she isn’t bothered by reservations this close to Christmas.

Bliss doesn’t mind the press she and her family get this time of year. In fact, she welcomes it.

“When it’s in the paper, more people might call and go to the dinner,” Bliss said. “That’s the whole thing that we want. I just don’t know what more new things to say.”