If you searched the trunks and attics of households across northwestern North Dakota, you would probably find quite a few. But you don’t have to look hard to find a special memento belonging to Mr. and Mrs. Gary Ganske of Minot.
Hanging on the wall amid the photos, artwork, and other décor is a framed, oversized Christmas stocking. “This is the stocking that our son, Dale, came home in from Trinity Hospital in 1964,” Gary said.
For many years, the Trinity Hospital Nurseries with the help of Trinity Health Auxiliary carried on a charming tradition. Every baby born at the hospital during the holidays received a special gift – a handmade Christmas stocking large enough to hold a newborn.
“We don’t have an exact date, but our best estimate is that the tradition of the Christmas stockings was started over 50 years ago by the wife of Howard Semingson, who was CEO at the time,” said Candice Starr, Nurse Manager of the Transitional and Newborn Intensive Care Nursery. “The nurses would put the infant’s name on the stocking with glitter glue or paint. Then the infants would be placed in the stocking and have their first picture taken in it, and the stocking would be sent home with the patient.”
The Auxiliary, which has a long tradition of creating unique items for sale in the hospital gift shop, continued to make the stockings up until two years ago. The tradition had run its course. The Auxiliary still provides a hat to every newborn and donates a generous gift basket of items for the New Year’s baby.
Gary says he always assumed the tradition applied only to babies born on Christmas Day. His son was born on December 25, 1964. But Candice says the tradition would last the whole month of December or just the week of Christmas, depending on the number of stockings donated and the census in the NICU at the time.
Ganske wasn’t able to witness his newborn son’s homecoming. As a Great Northern employee for 37 years, he was working a shift on the railroad at the time. But the stocking has meaning for him nonetheless. “It was our son’s; he came home in it.”