Staff Traditions & Memories

*When I was in 6th grade, our teacher had us decorate a tree in the classroom with homemade decorations.  That was the first time I strung popcorn for a Christmas tree.  I have been doing it now for over 50 years and have added cranberries to the string.

*Christmas has always been my favorite holiday.  I would usually buy a new ornament every year and often received them as gifts.  I would write the date received and from whom on each ornament box so each year I would be reminded of that person and their gift when I decorated my tree.  I don’t keep the ornaments in their original boxes anymore, but have transferred the information to a book.

*My grandfather used to string candy kisses (they only had silver ones then) and hang them on the Christmas tree.  Everyone would gather at my grandparents’ house on Christmas Eve.  He would pull the candy kisses off the tree and pass them out to all the grandchildren.  I still string a few candy kisses for my tree in memory of him.

*Many years ago when we were all adults and no grandkids around yet, we started to exchange gag gifts to add a little fun back into the day.  The gift had to be free or no more than a couple dollars.  One of the gifts I remember the most was a keychain from my father that had one of my sister’s name on it.  If you have siblings you will understand being called by the wrong name.

*I have many recipes that have been passed down in our family for years.  My grandmother used to make a cookie at Christmas that was green, red and white.  Everyone usually only makes them at Christmas and we always just called them Grandma’s Colored Cookies.  The recipe is as follows (You can tell it is an old recipe by the ingredient spry (Crisco).  There is probably a healthier substitute, but I have never changed it.)

Colored Cookies

6 cups flour                               3 eggs

2 cups spry                               ¾ cup milk

4 tsp baking powder                 1 tsp vanilla

2 cups sugar                            1 tsp almond flavoring

Separate the dough into 3 parts.  Add red & green food coloring to two.  Leave one as is (white).  Take a little of each dough and roll together into a ball.  Roll in chopped walnuts.  Bake 350 degrees.

*Several years ago we started a Left/Right game at Christmas.  It is an easy, fun game for all ages to play.  A story is read aloud and every time the words LEFT or RIGHT are read, the gift (gifts) are passed accordingly.  I have modified it to where each person starts with a sealed envelope.  The envelopes are passed left or right through the reading.  When the reading is done, the envelopes are opened.  Each envelope has a chocolate piece inside, but one has a $5 bill wrapped around it.  There are several left/right stories out there.  Our kids like Twas the Night Before Christmas the best.  We have done a Frosty the Snowman one also.  We started with an adult reading the story and one of the kids has now taken that over.  Even the two year old had fun with this last year.

*The weekend before Christmas my family and I will have a fire, stay in our PJs all day, and make s’mores. We watch old school Christmas special (Charlie Brown, Rudolph, Frosty. etc…) and drink hot chocolate, and Skittle popcorn. A day full of sugar.

*One of my favorite Christmas memories is when I was an Army Brat in Germany. Christmas morning I would get 2 stockings. One from the American Santa Claus filled with toys and Kinder eggs. The other from the German Santa filled with fruit and nuts.

*My second is a Christmas Eve tradition where we would go to my Uncle and Aunt’s house to spend time with our cousins snowball fights and all. For dinner that night we all would eat tasty venison stew.

*My third favorite is a kind deed that my 6th grade teacher did for my family and I. That year we did not have much money so we were not going to have a Christmas tree that year. I was upset and crying. Miss Baker asked me what was wrong.  I sobbed and said I won’t have a Christmas tree this year. She went and bought a huge Christmas tree for our classroom. She said have your Mom come to school the day before Christmas vacation and I will give your family the Christmas tree.

*When I was little, we looked forward to Christmas Eve every year. We would go over to my grandparent’s house where we’d gather with all my relatives, share a big lasagna dinner and exchange gifts. My grandmother would always light a bayberry candle and let it burn out on its own. It had to be just the right size to burn out, right down to the nub, AFTER midnight. It is said to bring prosperity and luck in the new year.

*Every year, my cousins and I get together for our annual Christmas party, which started over 20 years ago. The party starts around 3 pm, and ends around 4 am. We bring a dish to pass, eat all day, and just have fun catching up. We bring a “grab bag” gift, which is based on a theme. No names are assigned to the gift, and we discuss clever ways on how to pass out the gifts. We usually gather each year for family events, but this is the one gathering that we look forward to!

*When my sister was little, among the decorations on our Christmas tree was little stockings. I would save up the money that my Nana would send me. I would go to McCrory’s after school and buy small chocolates for the stockings. I would wait till my sister was sound asleep and fill the stockings with the chocolate to surprise her with. It was so much fun watching her run to the tree every morning in the days leading up to Christmas!

*I have a memory that goes back to grade school. One year our teacher set up an ornament making craft project. We each received an orange, whole cloves and enough ribbon to wrap around the orange twice. When you push the whole clove into the orange rind, oh what a wonderful smell. I love the smell of oranges and cloves together to this day. I think that same teacher gathered dried milkweed flowers and seeds so that we could make birds in a nest.

*One year as a young mom frustrated with the commercialism of Christmas, I asked my grandmother about her Christmases as a child. I knew my great grandparents were not going out on Black Friday to buy toys made in China. She said each child received a simple toy, something to wear and an orange. I questioned, and orange? She said, “They had to have them shipped from Florida to New York.” I thought something so simple as an orange. We take for granted they are just in the grocery store on the shelf. Well since hearing this story of yesteryear everyone in our home gets an orange in their stocking each Christmas.

*My first Christmas memory that comes to mind is buying gifts for my parents.  They gave each of us $2.00 to buy Christmas presents.  Off we went to Ames or Hills Department store to pick out something that cost a little less than $1.00 for each of them.  One of my aunts would take us and pitch in extra change if needed. We did actually find some cute items although in this case it really was the thought that counts.

*My second memory is Christmas Eve.  One of my brother’s birthday is on Christmas Eve and we celebrated it with many of my aunts, uncles and cousins.  They came to our house every year and then we all went to Christmas Eve Mass.  It was so much fun.  Years later I realized as a parent that I could never throw a party on Christmas Eve and then play Santa Claus later putting gifts under the tree.  I’m still wrapping presents on Christmas Eve and for some reason that has never changed!