Editor's note: This article is part of our lighthearted weekly series in which we asked Minnesota families to share their nontraditional holiday traditions.

This year, Jane Reierson's family will celebrate the Spirit of Christmas Past. Naturally, there will be some conjuring involved.

After 40-plus years of delighting his children and grandchildren with Christmas incantations, Robert Penningroth passed away earlier this year. But his "mirror, mirror" intimations will live on.

"It started when we were teenagers," said Reierson, 57, who grew up in Wayzata and now lives in Fifty Lakes, Minn., "and usually involved a gift that was too big to wrap and put under the tree."

So Penningroth would concoct verses based on the "Snow White" rhyme, such as:

"Mirror mirror on the wall,

Janer Janer, heed my call.

If you look beneath your bed,

You may find something bigger than your head!"

That entreaty led to the discovery of cross-country skis for young Jane.

Over the years, she said, these compositions became more about the hunt than the size of the gift, which might be a check. And the recipients would kick off the ritual with the "mirror, mirror" part.

But otherwise, little changed as Penningroth, "sharp and loving to the end," kept alive the tradition with his grandchildren:

"Mirror, mirror on the wall,

Meredith Meredith, heed my call

You'll avoid perdition

Finding 'erudition.'"

Meredith's Christmas check was in the dictionary, proof that learning can prove rewarding. For Penningroth's family, the rewards go well beyond the monetary kind.

Bill Ward • 612-673-7643