Our family Christmas Eve tradition


That word reminds me of a scene from Fiddler on the Roof when the character Tevye says, “And how do we keep our balance? I can tell you in one word. Tradition.”

He continues by saying, “Because of our tradition, we’ve kept our balance for many, many years…You may ask, how did this tradition get started. I’ll tell you. I don’t know but it’s a tradition.”

Traditions. We all have them and they pop to the surface and call attention to themselves at Christmas time. If your family is anything like mine, there are just certain Christmas traditions you don’t change or mess with.

Some of those traditions were passed down through our family from one generation to another. Some are traditions Papa and I started ourselves and our grown children say it’s just not Christmas without them. You know, keeping the season balanced, I guess.

I’d like to share just a few of our Christmas traditions with you. Like Tevye though, I don’t know how some of them started.

Bird ornament. When I was a little girl, I remember that my mom always had some kind of bird ornament hanging on the Christmas tree.  I don’t know why, but I recently discovered that such an ornament represents happiness and joy.  I do know that if you look near the top of our tree, you will see a tiny little white bird trimmed in red with wings outstretched. 

Hanging mistletoe.  Again as a small child, I remember mistletoe, which is not native to our area, hanging in a doorway of our family home.  I always giggled when someone kissed beneath it and as a teenage girl, I longed for someone to kiss under that greenery.  You just might receive a little peck on the cheek at our house when you stand beneath the mistletoe in the hallway by our front door. 

Candlelight service. One of my most favorite traditions is attending our church service at 11 p.m. Christmas Eve welcoming in the day we celebrate the birth of the Christ Child at midnight by candlelight while singing Silent Night.

Opening one gift.  Our children actually started this tradition of choosing and opening one gift only on Christmas Eve. When we lived in other areas of the country away from our families, packages would arrive by mail and rest under the tree.  Our kids had a hard time waiting until Christmas Day to open them, so we acquiesced to their pleading and allowed them to open just one the night before.

Christmas dinner menu.  Certain foods must be served or my kids are disappointed. In addition to the baked, glazed ham and twice-baked potatoes, there must be one of two salads – either their favorite frog eye salad or a special molded, multi-layered rainbow colored jello salad that takes forever to make. Growing up, Christmas dinner just wasn’t complete without my mom’s 24-hour salad – a tart fruit salad with homemade mayonnaise. And I believe I was the only member of the family who didn’t like it. So that’s why our traditional salad is different.

Cookies. There must be cookies – lots of Christmas cookies.  They can include old favorites like my mom’s tea cakes, peanut butter blossoms (Papa’s favorites), and M&M cookies, or new recipes but the tray must be full.  And there MUST be sugar cookies in the shapes of stars, trees, Santa, snowmen, and bells, and they must be iced and decorated.  This is a tradition that my kids loved growing up because they got to help cut out the shapes and decorate with scads of sugars and candies.

Candles in the windows. Even Papa inquires whether we’re placing candles in our windows for the Christmas season and we do, every year. Each window in the front of our home is lit up by one solitary electric candle.  This tradition came from my family. When I was young, my mother placed red wreaths, made out of some cellophane type of material, in each of our windows. In the center of those wreaths was an electric candle. I’ve heard that a candle in the window in colonial times meant you were welcome in that place. For us, it also represents welcoming the Christ Child into our lives.

Advent calendar.  Not just any old advent calendar marking the days until Christmas, but one that when you open each day’s door, you find a chocolate candy goodie waiting for you. There’s one in the kitchen right now that little one (our nearly two-year-old granddaughter) is enjoying.  A tradition she’s learning about already.

Chocolate oranges. Somewhere along the line, we started the tradition of having dark chocolate oranges – a chocolate candy flavored and shaped like an orange that you break apart into ‘slices’ for the holiday. As a child, there was always an orange in my stocking and I think it stemmed from that.  Just the other day, our middle daughter arrived home and said, “guess what I bought?” Yep, a chocolate orange to savor on Christmas. Another tradition we will probably be passing down to our granddaughter.

Christmas Eve sundaes. This one is an absolute must and our grown kids always ask to make sure I have all the ingredients for the special sundaes we eat only on Christmas Eve. Unlike some of our traditions, I know exactly where this one came from and how it started.

Back when Papa and Mama were young married folk with only one child, we lived in Oklahoma. Papa’s parents came to visit us for the holiday and we took them to Tulsa for a sight-seeing trip. 

We visited a quaint little ice cream shop – I can’t remember the name of it but do remember the sundaes we ate there. And those sundaes were recreated into our family Christmas Eve sundaes which we serve every single year after dinner.

Our sundaes consist of scoops of green chocolate mint chip ice cream with Hershey’s chocolate syrup in between the scoops. Whipped cream tops them off garnished by a red maraschino cherry, red and green sugar sprinkles, and either a mini candy cane or peppermint stick.  All served in a fancy glass as shown in my photo above.

Traditions. Good things with good memories.What are some of your favorite Christmas traditions?

“At the heart of every family tradition is a meaningful experience.” ~ unknown



I’ll be memed for Christmas

blogDSCN8295Christmas Eve will find me…reading my friends’ blogs on my laptop.

Yep, I’m sitting here on Page 24, Chapter 12, in my Opportunity book in my easy chair (resting my hip) with my feet propped up on the matching ottoman and I’m waiting for the Christmas Eve festivities to commence at our house.

Two blogging friends, Dianna at These Days of Mine, and Georgette at Georgette Sullin’s Blog have posted a Christmas meme and invited their readers to join them.   A meme, in the blogging world, is a topic that spreads from one blogger to another.

After reading their posts, I thought it might be fun be “memed.”  (If there is such a word?)  So read on for my answers to the Christmas meme questions.

1. What is a Christmas song you can listen to even in June?   It’s hard to narrow down the field here because honestly, I could listen to almost any Christmas song year-round.  So for me, it’s a toss-up between “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” and “Joy to the World,” my absolute favorite Christmas carol.

2. Hot chocolate, eggnog or mulled wine? Well, eggnog grosses me out,  I don’t think I’ve ever tasted mulled wine, so I’ll have to answer hot chocolate, even though I’d rather have hot tea (peppermint would be good!).

3. When do you put your Christmas decorations up? We always start decorating the weekend after Thanksgiving but never, ever before Thanksgiving is officially over.  I like to enjoy Thanksgiving and give it due honor.

4. What are you having for Christmas dinner? Ham, it is.  We also always have twice-baked potatoes, a couple kinds of vegetables, hot dinner rolls, a special multi-layered jello salad that I make every Christmas because it’s so pretty, and lots of cookies for dessert.

5. What’s your favorite Christmas tradition? When hubby and I were young marrieds, we visited an ice cream shop where we savored a special Christmas sundae.  Once we had our children, we began a tradition of making those sundaes every Christmas Eve before we attend church candlelight service.  We’ll be eating them tonight!

6. Have you ever gone caroling? Oh yes, Christmas caroling was definitely on our holiday agenda when I was growing up.  After hubby and I got married and had our children, our family always participated in caroling with our churches.  I’ve got lots of caroling memories stored in my memory bank, but in the last few years,  we haven’t gone caroling.   I miss it, so that’s something we need to  start again.

7. When did you discover the truth about Santa? What truth?? 😉

8. How do you decorate your Christmas tree? It’s a hodge-podge of miscellany: a couple cherished ornaments from my parents’ tree, gifts from friends, ornaments we purchased on trips, with a few homemade ones thrown in for good measure, multi-colored twinkle lights, red bead garlands, and until this year, an angel topper  (but her lights burned out permanently this year, so now there’s a brand spanking new lighted star).

9. What’s the best thing about Christmas? For me, the best thing is spending time with my family while we celebrate Jesus Christ’s birth.

10. What do you want for Christmas? JOY, JOY, JOY!

Perhaps you’d like to play along with your own Merry Christmas meme.  Or, if you’d like to respond to any of the above questions, feel free to do so in the comments.


Take 2 sisters, add 1 brother, stir in Christmas specials

blogDSCN8253When December, the month of merry-making, rolls around on the calendar, Christmas movies and specials also roll around on the TV guide.

Every Christmas season, our family delights in watching some of these specials that we’ve seen over and over again.

I can’t quite determine why those shows have a hold on us; there just seems to be some kind of spell-binding magic in watching them.

Somehow over the years, I’ve managed to cultivate tradition monsters in my three offspring.  Certain holiday rituals just cannot be trifled with, according to my adult children, and one is “the viewing of specific Christmas shows.”  Just the other day we discussed this topic and they were adamant that particular holiday specials must be watched at some point when all the birds fly back to the empty nest to celebrate.

A couple of those holiday morsels we must bear savor are television specials we taped on VHS when our children were young, including The Muppet Family Christmas and A Claymation Christmas Celebration, featuring the California Raisins (we’re talking back in the 80’s here).  It’s a wonder these tapes haven’t disintegrated from well-worn use and it’s also remarkable that we still have a working VCR in our home.

I tend to poke a bit of fun at my grown-up progeny for insisting we all watch these old and outdated shows (I forgot to mention Alf’s Special Christmas is another one!), but the truth of the matter is that hubby and I have our own favorite holiday movies from yesteryear that we love watching during this season too.

If Miracle on 34th Street is scheduled, we’ll watch.   Same goes for It’s a Wonderful Life and Holiday Inn.   But one of my all-time favorites is White Christmas.  My very grown-up sisters and I have been known to break into song when someone mentions “Sisters,” an Irving Berlin tune from that movie.

“All kinds of weather,

We stick together, the same in the rain or sun.

Two diff’rent faces,

But in tight places, we think and we act as one.”

Those who’ve seen us,

Know that not a thing could come between us.

Many men have tried to split us up but no one can.

Lord help the mister who comes between me and my sister.

And Lord help the sister who comes between me and my man.”

My sisters and I are bound together very tightly, but as the youngest of the family, I know that on more than one occasion, I was a pain in the ….well, let’s say neck, especially when my sisters were teenagers and I was the pesky, little squirt who bothered them all the time.

My own kids had their fair share of squabbles growing up too.  They argued, yelled, bickered, screamed, and even tried to inflict bodily harm on one another (just ask oldest daughter and son and you will hear hair-raising stories, slightly embellished over the years).

I fretted that they would never, ever be able to get along with one another.  I worried that their disputes would continue into adulthood and they would not be able to stand the sight of one another.  I even recall actually telling them they needed to love, forgive and cling to their siblings because “Someday when you are all grown up, Dad and I will  be gone and you will need to rely on each other!”  (Scaring your children into getting along is probably not the best parenting tip!)

Something worked though because I’m glad and relieved to report all the worrying, fretting, stewing and agonizing was for nothing.  Even though there were times then when they wanted nothing more than to rid their lives of their siblings, now they are closer than ever.  Oh, they still don’t always see eye to eye; they have disagreements just like everyone else, but for the most part, they like spending time together and they do love, respect, appreciate and support one another.

While shopping recently, I noticed the Christmas tree ornament I’ve photographed here.  It made me laugh out loud because I could picture any one of my children in their younger days writing this sentiment to Santa Claus with either the word sister or brother inserted and hanging it on our decorated tree.

So something occurred to me today in my book entitled Opportunity, Chapter 12, Page 6.  Little did I know all those years ago that these three twenty-somethings would willingly nestle up together on the family room couch, gather around the TV, and  watch the Muppets, Alf, and the California Raisins celebrate Christmas, just like they did when they were little.

Who would have thought it?

“Siblings are the people we practice on, the people who teach us about fairness and cooperation and kindness and caring – quite often the hard way.”  ~Pamela Dugdale


A wee bit o’ the Irish

pexels-photo-132420.jpegTop o’ the mornin’ to ya!

I’m not Irish.  As far as I know, I have no Irish blood coursing through my veins since most of my ancestors were English or German.

But there’s just something about St. Patrick’s Day that appeals to me and it’s not drinking green beer!

Maybe it’s just the wearin’ o’ the green.  Green is such a cheerful color, reminding me of spring – refreshing, lovely spring  – when my yard magically turns from a dull brown to a deliciously vibrant green and when blossoms appear on greening trees and hints of green sturdy stalks of flowers poke through the hard, bleak ground in promise of more colors bursting forth.  Yeah, I like green!

When I was a youngster still in school, we always wore clothing in shades of green on March 17 because if you didn’t, you would get pinched.  I have no idea why.  Later when thoughts turned more to cute boys than cute green shirts, I can remember wearing a button with this inscription, “Kiss Me, I’m Irish,” on this day.  Again I have no idea why.

As an adult, I never forget when it’s St. Patrick’s Day, even when my mind’s a little groggy.  Twenty-five years ago today, I briefly awoke from anesthesia after major surgery and saw my husband and my pastor (dressed in a bright green sports jacket) standing beside my bed.  What were the first words I uttered?  “You wore green for St. Patrick’s Day,” addressed to my pastor.  And then I promptly went back to sleep.

For some reason, the story behind St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, intrigues me.  It seems no one is sure where the legend and reality meet, and many stories about the man are considered just that – stories.

But here are the facts.  Born in Britain, Patrick, son of wealthy estate owners, was captured by wild Irish raiders in his youth.  Held captive in Ireland for years, he turned to his faith for solace.  After he escaped and returned to Britain, he believed an angel visited him in a dream telling him to venture back to Ireland as a missionary, which is exactly what he did once he was ordained as a priest.  He died on March 17 and is credited for evangelizing Ireland for Jesus Christ.

I came across a prayer called “St. Patrick’s Breastplate.”  Apparently, parts of the prayer ask for God’s protection and that’s why it is called a breastplate, an important piece of armor worn to shield the heart.  One section of this prayer strikes a chord with me:

“Christ be with me, Christ be within me,

Christ behind me, Christ before me,

Christ beside me, Christ to win me,

Christ to comfort me, Christ above me,

Christ in quiet, Christ in danger

Christ in hearts of all that love me

Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.”

I don’t know if St. Patrick actually wrote this prayer, but I do know placing Jesus Christ in all aspects of my life – each and every day – in the very heart of my being and in the very heart of my activity gives me strength to face whatever comes.   My life is so much more focused when Jesus is the breastplate in my suit of armor.

As I contemplate this today on Page 17, Chapter 3, in my book of Opportunity, my prayer is that if you don’t already wear this “breastplate” you’ll consider getting to know Him.   My wish for you this day, whether you commemorate a saint or not, is this Irish blessing:

“May God give you…For every storm a rainbow, for every tear a smile, for every care a promise and a blessing in each trial.  For every problem life sends, a faithful friend to share,  for every sigh a sweet song and an answer for each prayer.”

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!



blogThanksgiving 065Tradition rules in this household.  At least that is what my grown-up children believe.

I think I may have created Christmas Tradition Monsters.  Yes, it is true that my adult children have their homes decorated for Christmas long before their parents.   And this seems to have messed with their minds.

See, tradition calls for Mom and Dad to work themselves into a frenzy to have the entire house decorated inside and out by the Monday after Thanksgiving.  We’ve already broken tradition number one.

Sunday evening after my kids all sent me picture messages of their trees – two of them real trees – they all asked if their dad and I had ours up yet.  Here’s where tradition number two comes into play.

In our household, our family would trek to a tree farm on the Friday after Thanksgiving and cut down a real Christmas pine tree.   A couple of years ago, hubby and I did the unthinkable – we bought an artificial tree!  Oh, the horrors of it!  Our kids were appalled and still haven’t let us forget that we broke the beloved tradition of pine needles all over the floor.

After responding back and assuring them that their trees were absolutely beautiful (and they were!), I told them we actually had put ours up that same day.  Their dad (after some grumbling and fussing with lights that wouldn’t work) strung the twinkle lights around the artificial branches, but then we lost motivation for adorning it with the scads of ornaments we’ve collected over the years.

Oh yeah, that’s another tradition.  Every year since oldest daughter was born, we have purchased an ornament for each of our children, many of those they chose themselves.  My thought process was that when they moved out or got married, they would then have a box of their own Christmas adornments to take with them.

We also have ornaments from our vacation travels, so the result is that for 28 years, we’ve had a hodge-podge tree with, shall we say, an eclectic assortment of ornaments.   No beautiful theme trees for us at least not yet.  I’m fairly certain that part of my reason for not trimming the tree now is because I’m a little stymied about how I want to decorate it this year.

But I digress.  After telling the kids that the tree was up, lit, but not adorned, I’ve received a couple “scoldings” from them.  First came this text message from son:  “I didn’t realize that Scrooge and the Grinch were my parents.”

He’s a character, that one.  We can always count on him to crack us up with some joke, or silly enactment, or something just plain witty.  Of course, I had to text him back and ask which one of us was which.  His reply informed me that his dear ol’ dad had to be the Grinch because he is hairier.  (Well, thank you son for that one, at least!) Naturally I answered, “Bah, humbug!”

The next day, middle daughter left us a message on the home phone.   She had a question for me, but then after her usual “I love you, call me” sign off came this afterthought, “You better get busy and get that tree decorated!!”

I’m seriously considering leaving the tree as it is just to see what their reactions would be when they come home for Christmas, but I’m hesitant because I think it would really freak them out!

Yet another tradition we have is decorating the outside of the house a certain way – red lights on all the shrubs, white lights outlining the porch roof and around the garage, white candle lights and wreaths in all the front windows, spotlight on the front door.

Tradition says we should already have this all accomplished and our lighting display should be ramping up our electric bill by now.  But our house is dark and our neighbors probably wonder if we took off for Florida or something!  By now, the snow and extreme cold with wind chill factored in is acting as a huge deterrent to getting that light display arranged.  Oops, another tradition may go down the tube.

Inside the house, the traditions continue.  There are certain holiday decorations that have stood the test of time at our place.  Christmas stockings must be hung on the family room fireplace mantle.  Our collection of nutcrackers must line up in formation somewhere.   Ditto for the snowmen.   The nativity scene also must find a spot to shine.

And then there’s the Christmas village.  What a time-consuming job that is putting up all those little houses, people, trees, etc.  I’ve already relegated the Christmas village boxes to the basement.  This year the village is in hibernation.   I’m also seriously considering a minimal decorating job inside these four walls.

The food we serve at our house for Christmas dinner is yet another tradition that should be preserved, according to my young adults.  Baking cookies together is another.   When the kids were all still at home, we would spend an entire day baking and decorating dozens of cookies and then wrapping up containers of the goodies to be delivered to friends, neighbors and family.

But this year, I’ve been too busy at work and too tired when I get home to even begin thinking about holiday baking.  (Don’t tell anyone, but I bought some of that ready to bake Christmas cookie dough! I know, scandalous!!)

I have been contemplating preparations for Christmas dinner and mentally starting a grocery shopping list.  Dare I change the menu this year?  Not a wise idea.  I don’t want a mutiny on my hands on Christmas Day.  There are some traditions that just shouldn’t be trifled with.  And that reminds me, I better remember to buy that mint chocolate chip ice cream for our traditional Christmas Eve sundaes!