As we get older we forget some of the events in our past. However, there are some memories that leave an indelible mark on our minds that we cherish forever. Christmas time holds those memories for many.
Rising early Christmas morning and sneaking down to see if Santa came; seeing the presents under the tree in sparkly paper and bows; the shiny, new bike, the first Barbie, a cradle for your doll are some of our first memories.
The traditions immigrants from other countries brought to this continent have formed some of the country’s greatest traditions.
Christmas trees can be traced back to 16th century Germany, when devout Christians brought decorated trees into their homes. Santa Claus, or St. Nick, in his red suit, originated in Scandinavia and his arrival through the chimney to fill stockings points to a Netherlands tradition. His sleigh drawn by reindeer harkens from Switzerland and holiday parades may be a carry-over from Latin processions.
When native Americans held religious dances to coincide with the winter solstice, Franciscan monks were inspired to bring the celebration and the Christmas Holy Day together. The much loved song, “The 12 Days of Christmas” comes from the Appalachian mountains and is one of today’s most popular Christmas songs.
Pennsylvania’s Moravian population embrace Christmas with a “Lovefeast,” a service dedicated to Christian love.
The greatest variety in the traditions often comes in the taste of the Christmas feast — New England has lumberjack pie; Pennsylvania Dutch serve sand tarts; North Carolina features Moravian lovefeast buns (faintly sweet bread of flour and mashed potatoes); Baltimore serves sauerkraut with turkey; Virginia oyster and ham pie; Southern states have hominy grits soufflé and whiskey cake; Louisiana’s treat is Creole gumbo; New Mexico has the empanaditas; and Hawaii cooks marinated turkey teriyaki over an outdoor pit.
For Virginia Irving, Christmas morning brought back many memories of growing up in the small town of Tompkinsville, in Lackawanna County.
After opening gifts at her home, her parents, and two brothers headed to the family homestead to gather and celebrate Christmas with her many aunts, uncles and grandparents.
“In the days prior to the holiday, we would drag the tree down, after we cut it in the woods on our potato board (a large board used to pull bushels of potatoes), she recalled.
Irving, now 80, remembers that after dinner, if there was snow they frolicked in it, and later, they danced, sang and played pennies around the big old farmhouse table. Many of those traditions have stayed with her and her family and those early traditions continue at her home with her children and grandchildren.
Patricia Striefsky fondly remember her Christmas mornings. Some years, after presents were opened, her family hosted a Christmas brunch for as many as 50 people. “People would drop in from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. all during the day,” she said.
“Carole Kameen (her mom) loves people and surrounds herself with many as often as she can.”
Many of the yearly visitors knew they could look forward to the traditions of Grandma Kameen’s ham loaf and candy cane cookies. Carole also had souffles, bacon, sausage, shrimp, muffins, cookies, danish and many other dishes. Each guest left with a small gift as a remembrance of another memorable year of fellowship between family and friends in the small town of Forest City
Jessica Butler has many good memories of her past Christmas holidays, such as coming down to the living room full of presents, the gift of the family’s first foosball table and taking time to say Happy Birthday to baby Jesus at the manger in their family home. She has carried some of those very same traditions to her own home and shares them with her son.
Butler recalls the Christmas that her family tree fell over and many of the keepsake ornaments were crushed to pieces. She cried over the loss, and then many family members replaced those pieces with new ones.
Chris Farrell remembers dressing up in matching outfits with her sister and brother to go to their Nonna’s house.
“We had to wait to open presents from our Nonna’s Santa so we would rush through eating dinner and beg the adults to hurry up so we could open presents,” she explained. Then the family would have dessert and go to midnight Mass. The night was not complete without leaving cookies out for Santa and getting to bed so he could bring presents for them.
Whatever this holiday brings for you and your family, make it truly memorable and instill some very special traditions of your own.