Saturday, December 11, 2010

Advent Calendar - December 11 - Other traditions

Another holiday tradition in our family involves giant stockings. We all love those really really big stockings and at one time, there were 12 of us with them. Santa has to come up with all kinds of things to fill those stockings, but usually included a coconut in the toe, and giant sized apples or oranges with the stems on them at the top, with candy canes of all colors hanging on the outside. Favorites in the stocking were unshelled nuts of all kinds, golden chocolate coins of all countries and books of Lifesaver rolls. A recent tradition has been added by our family of a bag of favorite chips at the top and a box of Queen Anne cherry chocolates. And yes, it has to be that brand, because they're liquid inside with a real cherry not gooey and not marachino. As you can tell by my posts, alot about our Christmas traditions revolves around food!

Advent Calendar - December 9 - Christmas gifts

What were your favorite gifts, both to receive and to give? Are there specific gift-giving traditions among your family or ancestors?

My favorite gifts have always been those that were either handmade with care or those thoughtfully purchased and made individual for me.

My family has a tradition of allowing each child to open one gift on Christmas eve, and once they had grandchildren, my mom started purchasing special Christmas pajamas for all the grandkids to open and wear. Traditionally, we open our gifts on Christmas morning, everyone all at the same time, with Grandpa or Dad doing the passing out.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Advent Calendar - December 7 - Christmas cookies

Baking was such an integral part of Christmas at our house that I really believe that we created some type of delight every single day of Advent! The cookies abounded. There were so many and such variety that I really believe we must have tried every recipe that my mother came across. My all time favorite though, had to be peanut butter, not just to eat but to make!

When rolling the soft dough, if my fingers could make it a perfect ball, then taking a fork and pressing oh so gently one way, then the next would create an absolutely round cookie with a perfect grid on top. What fun that was! We would make a batch of those that way, then another day, we would make the same recipe, but use our thumb to make a little groove on top. These cookies were baked and then, when soft out of the oven, we'd carefully press a chocolate kiss into the thumb groove. The warmth of the cookie made the kiss melt just a little into the cookie itself and that was a tiny taste of Heaven on earth!!

I do believe that I will create that memory in my kitchen this very evening! YUM!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Advent Calendar - December 6 - Holiday parties

Did your family throw a holiday party each year? Do you remember attending any holiday parties?

For our family, the entire season was a party! Cooking and decorating, singing and laughing. The most wonderful time of the year!

Our family did have a tradition of a New Years Eve party, where we played board games and ate snack foods until midnight, then at midnight, we all grabbed pots, pans and spoons and rang in the New Year (and woke up the neighbors!) It was great fun!! And then, everyone had to eat black-eyed peas for good luck, at least as many as you were old (for the little ones who hated peas!)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Advent Calendar - December 5 - Christmas Santa

Todays prompts involved Santa traditions.

I believe in Santa and write a letter every year. I don't remember visiting Santa to tell him my list ever when I was little. I think I would have been too scared. (Debbie, Melba? Did I?)

Our church sponsors a Breakfast with Santa every year and we've done that for 13 years running now to see Santa, take a photo, and give him their wishlist.

My children write their letters to mail to the North Pole usually the weekend after Thanksgiving. A few times I have had to send an update via chimney mail for them closer to Christmas, as things change (and with a December birthday!).

In recent years, we've also sent him an email to make sure he gets it.

We also LOVE to watch the NORAD Santa tracker and have done that for years!!!

Advent Calendar - December 4 - Christmas Decorations

Did people in your neighborhood decorate with lights? Did some people really go “all out” when decorating? Any stories involving your ancestors and decorations?

For many years, we were the only ones in our neighborhood that decorated with lights and there were not that many in our small town at all, actually. We had a chain link fence and my Dad would spend an entire day out there stringing those giant multicolored outdoor lights on the top of the fence and outlining the eves of the house. I love outdoor lights!

About 20 miles away, there was a house of an older couple who died and left a trust to maintain a Christmas display every year. It was an entire yard with moving elves on a carousel and merry-go-round and 'decorating' a tree, complete with music. There were candles in windows and lights all over the house. It was our family tradition to drive over there on Christmas eve to just sit in the street in front of it in awe.

Advent Calendar - December 4 - Christmas cards

I am late with my posts again. Sorry!

Did your family send cards? Did your family display the ones they received? Do you still send Christmas cards? Do you have any cards from your ancestors?

Yes, my family has sent out cards for decades. My parents would send out about 75 cards. We have a huge extended family and many family friends that they stay in touch with. My mom would always take about 4 strands of silver tinsel and create an entire wall draped with a zigzag pattern to hang the cards we received. And we have saved every card from everyone, all neatly arranged by year in boxes. I still send out about 30 cards each year. I have moved to an electronic version of the now-popular yearly recap letter complete with photos, to brag about my children.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Advent Calendar - December 3 - Christmas Ornaments

I talked a little about our special ornaments on my December 1st post, but the most cherished ones I have are the 2 glass ornaments that my parents got their first Christmas in 1948, and of course, the First Christmas Together ornament my husband and I got in 1995.

As a child, I remember stringing popcorn and cranberries with my Girl Scout troop, but I'm not really sure they ever actually made it onto our tree! One special time I can recall, Mom and I used cookie cutters to trace on Christmas sheet music, laminated the cut outs and put ribbon through a hole punched at the top. I still have 2 of those, as well.

Another very special ornament I have is a toy soldier bread dough ornament handpainted by my sister, Melba. The first in my special collection of soldiers (mostly nutcrackers) that have a place of honor on our mantle every year.

Through the years, my sisters and I have collected many many Hallmark ornaments to commemorate Family events. Some of my favorites are: Our First Home, Baby's first Christmas (yes, both of them), and Disney vacation.
We also collect special interest ornaments for different family members, like
Dad: Mickey Mouse, Denver Broncos, Boston Red Sox and Starbucks.
Mom: Unicorns, Star Trek, Precious Moments, Coca Cola and nativity scenes
Son: Sesame Street, Legos, Scooby Doo, Star Wars, Guitar Hero
Daughter: Princesses, Fairies, Wizard of Oz and many crystals

A very fun annual event used to be the 50% ornament sale the day after Christmas.
My sisters and I would get up really really early to be at the Hallmark store before they opened to rush through the door, sometimes even driving as much as an hour to get to the best places, or staking out different stores and calling each other to see what we still needed. It was a sweet time and great fun, usually ending up at Olive Garden for lunch afterwards. Its something I miss now that we live so far away from each other.

This year, we plan to make some ornaments and memories of our own. Taking clear ornament balls, we're going to drip and drizzle paint inside and swirl it to make patterns. I have a very artistic young lady in the house to help me with this!!

What a great "Advent"ure of celebrating Christ's birth this season is!

Advent Calendar - December 2 - Christmas Food

Did your family or ancestors serve traditional dishes for the holidays? Was there one dish that was unusual?

I know, I missed this prompt yesterday, but I'm doing it today anyway, because its fun!

My family always had these as our "traditional" foods for Christmas: turkey, cornbread dressing, gibblet gravy, devilled eggs, cranberry sauce, carrot raisin salad, a celery, pickle and olive tray and lots of pies. Sweet potato, buttermilk, cherry, apple, pecan and mincemeat, all with handmade crusts. Yum! Something unusual in a way, was that we always had some sort of fruit jello item, many times being green jello with whipped cream and nuts in it.

And what would the Christmas season be without all the candy and goodies? My mother would make tons of things: popcorn balls, fudge, divinity, rum balls, coconut macaroons, peanut butter candy, peanut brittle, peanut patties and cookies of every known shape and flavor!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Advent Calendar - December 1 - The Christmas Tree

This post is number 1 in a series of 24 for the 2010 Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories. On the 24th Day of Christmas, I'm supposed to talk about the Christmas Tree. Did you have a real tree, or was it artificial? How big was the tree? Who decorated the tree?

When I was growing up, we always had a real tree in the living room, decorated exactly like this photo. And every single year, there is a photo of me in front of it. We all decorated it together, and it had many ornaments on it that I made through the years, as well as our collectible Hallmark ornaments. It also had 2 special ornaments that my parents got their first Christmas together in 1948.

We always had a star, gold garland, silver icicles and multicolored blinking lights. On Christmas eve, we would leave the lights on all night long and many years I remember sneaking in in the middle of the night to check for Santa, and how the room seemed to be magically glowing.

Sometime in the mid-80s, my mom (like the rest of America, I think), got smitten with the silver aluminum Christmas tree, so from then on, we also had one of them setup in our dining room. One year, it would be decorated with all red and the next green. My dad still has that original tree. I hope to inherit it someday. A few years ago when my mom became homebound, my sister got her a new aluminum tree, this one with metallic green branches. She left it up year round in her bedroom.

Present day, our family has a tradition of going to a Christmas tree farm the Saturday after Thanksgiving, riding the hayride out in the fields, walking for miles to pick the right one and cut it down ourselves. Its usually about 8 feet tall and we spend about a week getting it decorated. Sounds cozy, right? We do live in Houston, though, so there are years when it could be 75 degrees picking out our tree! Its still jolly fun!