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No matter what your particular beliefs are, this is a season of traditions, memories, and reflection. So, I thought I would share some stories of my own. My family is a mix of Scot-English and German. I expect that this cultural heritage is behind a lot of our traditions, but I can’t say that for sure. Like most family rituals, I grew up with mine and didn’t question where they came from. It’s just the way we do things.
We have a Christmas tree. When I was little my parents would bring home the tree and then the family would all gather together to decorate it. While we were decorating, we would all drink eggnog, and my parents and older brother would eat smoked salmon. I never liked the salmon, so I got chocolate chip cookies. I have no idea why eating smoked salmon was part of the ritual, by the way. My father put the lights on, and then the rest of us put on the ornaments. In those days they were made of glass with paint that would eventually flake off, and glitter that would get into everything for weeks after. After the ornaments were on we would finish with the tinsel. It was made of metal and hung perfectly – not like that plastic stuff they came out with later that blew around every time you walked past and kept sliding off. Every strand had to be put on individually and pass my mother’s and grandmother’s inspection. I still have a package of that old metal tinsel. When I was in high school my mother sent my brother and I to buy the tree on our own for the first time. We spent an hour wandering around a tree farm and carefully made our selection. When we got it home we realized it was nine feet tall and wouldn’t fit in the house. Apparently we were looking at the trees from the perspective we had as kids and forgot to take into account that we were a little taller now. The tree always stays up until Epiphany January 6th).
My grandmother started baking cookies a week or more in advance and made at least 6 different kinds of them every year. She would also make three or four pies, each different so that everybody had their favorite. There was also lots of candy and a big bowl of mixed nuts in the shell. Christmas dinner was pot roast. Always. When I grew up I found out that the reason for that particular tradition was that my grandmother didn’t like turkey, so she made pot roast, and my mother followed the tradition. We still have pot roast every year, even though my grandmother and my mother are no longer with us.
Tradition in my house was that presents from family could be opened on Christmas Eve. That was when we got sock and clothes, and wallets, and ties. Toys only came from Santa and would not be there until Christmas morning. But the best present I ever got didn’t actually come from anyone. When I was seven years old I had a cat named Tabby. If any of you remember the cat food commercials that featured “Morris” – that was what Tabby looked like. About two weeks before Christmas Tabby disappeared. He usually slept on top of the clothes washer in the garage. One day he wasn’t there. We couldn’t figure out how he had gotten out since the garage doors were all closed. When he didn’t come back home for dinner or breakfast the next morning, I was heart-broken. He never stayed away that long. The only thing I wanted for Christmas that year was to have Tabby back home. When I woke up on Christmas morning, there he was, sleeping under the tree. He was thinner, his paws were bleeding, and he was filthy, but he was home. My mother said that he had shown up, meowing at the back door, early in the morning. We never knew where he had been, or what happened, but he was home, and it was the best Christmas for me, ever.
Remember, even though the Library is closed for a couple days, you can still download ebooks from the Library’s ebook page and use our NCLive resources. The Libraries will be back open on Tuesday. And feel free to share your own holiday stories with us.
Happy Holidays to you and yours, whatever and however you choose to mark the season. And Peace on Earth, Goodwill to all.