Christmas is the day that holds all time together.
– Alexander Smith
Christmas is celebrated by families and families have their habits.
Habits become customs and customs become traditions.
I asked readers of The Augusta Chronicle to share what they do each time this year and many were quick to answer.
On this special day on this special morning, let me share a few with you.
PIZZA: THE HOLIDAY TREAT: “I’m the oldest of four siblings and the youngest is a sister 14 years younger,” Kathleen Morton wrote.
“Our family always opened the presents under the tree on Christmas Eve after eating dinner and cleaning up the kitchen. MaryDell, the youngest, was always the most anxious to tear open the presents. One year when she was 7 or 8, our father made pizza for dinner. That year we had a real meal: salad, dessert, etc. And we used china. MaryDell quickly realized that if we did away with salad and dessert, we would have fewer dishes to wash. Over time, we were allowed one plate, one napkin, and a glass. Take the last bite and the plate disappeared; likewise the glass after the last sip of drink. Never was the table cleared so promptly and the kitchen cleared so quickly as on Christmas Eve.
“As we married and moved away, we siblings continued the tradition of pizza on Christmas Eve.
“Last year my husband and I were in Maine, spending Christmas with our daughter’s in-laws. Katie’s mother-in-law offered to fix lobster, but Katie wanted pizza, and so we introduced our tradition to another family. (We had the lobster the day after Christmas.)”
FRUIT AND FESTIVITIES: “Growing up we had each other and not a great deal more,” Frankie May wrote. “However, every Christmas the best gift we received was fruit! Our parents would buy a large box each of oranges, tangerines, apples, bananas, along with lots of nuts, candy canes, chocolate covered cherries, and chocolate covered drops. These were prizes for us because it was the only time of the year we had fruit, so it was a luxury. And we made the most of it! Funny, I only remember a few of the presents in those years, but the fruit and nuts are a treasured memory.”
TRADITIONS INVOLVE FOOD: “My husband, Joseph, always makes lemon butter cake,” Lorinda Fournier wrote. “It has candied cherries, pecans, lemon extract, and raisins. After Christmas Eve services, the family would have lemon butter cake and eggnog.
“Memorable, but not a tradition, for the 1999 Christmas I told my family we should have an old-fashion Christmas. We had only handmade ornaments and no lights. Nobody was really happy with the result. Lights make a big difference in creating a festive spirit.
“Another memorable Christmas that did not become a tradition was the Christmas that it snowed in our house. Sometime after everyone went to sleep, it magically snowed four bags of white confetti all over the house. It did look beautiful, but was very slippery on wooden floors. Also anyone who tucked their feet under their legs would bring ‘snow’ up onto the sofas and chairs. The day after Christmas it took me three hours to vacuum up the snow … and for the rest of the year I would find snow that had not melted.”
A JOHN DENVER CHRISTMAS: Matthew Hodges says his Christmas tradition is simple. “We always listen to John Denver’s Christmas album that came out when I was a kid. Our favorite song growing up that we always loved to hear this time of year is Please Daddy don’t get Drunk this Christmas. Not sure why and how that became a favorite but I guess when you are a kid hearing the word ‘drunk’ made us laugh.”
GRANDMOTHER’S PJS: Susan Harbin has a family tradition that dealt with the sometimes sticky question of when children may open gifts.
“When I was a child,” she writes, “we were always allowed to open one gift on Christmas Eve and it was always from our grandmother. She always gave us new flannel pajamas … we would wear them that night. It was a special memory.”
A FARMERS MARKET CHRISTMAS: Hope Remsen shares a pretty interesting family tradition: “Our annual Christmas Eve trip to the Georgia State Farmers Market off Gordon Highway.
“Each year,” she writes, “we go on Christmas Eve morning and purchase fruit for Santa to place in our stockings that night. Then we go to Sunshine Bakery and eat lunch. And it all began with a husband’s desire to help his wife.
“Our parents, John and Dorothy Anderson, had four daughters. We were raised in a Christian home that taught us to make Christ the reason to celebrate Christmas. And we also enjoyed Santa Claus and the merriment that accompanied that jolly old man. Our Daddy loved our Mama and ‘his girls’ – and he loved Christmas! His girls needed to be occupied on Christmas Eve so that their mama could finish up her cooking, baking and a few last-minute Christmas details. Santa needed fruit to put in these little girls’ stockings; without oranges, tangerines and at least one banana hanging on for dear life right off of the edge of the stocking it wasn’t a truly filled stocking!
“Our daddy combined these two needs with his love of Christmas and a tradition was born. We would visit all of the stalls at the market, perusing each vendor’s selection. Daddy always tried to buy at least one thing from each vendor, even if just one apple.
“When this tradition began we had a very limited selection of restaurants to choose from as this was Christmas Eve circa 1950s and ’60s. So Daddy took us to either the grill at Woolworth’s in Daniel Village or Kelly’s Hamburger’s on Gordon Highway. When got older we began going to The Sunshine Bakery. Because a Jewish family owned it they were open on Christmas Eve (except on the rare occasion that it coincided with the first or last night of Hanukkah.) No longer relegated to kitchen and elf duties, Mama began going with us.
“As each of us married and had children, we continued this tradition. Over the years the market has seen us troop in with bundled babies and endured grumpy teens. We have documented these changes with a yearly family photo, always taken in front of that year’s most festively decorated stall. Sadly, there are very few stalls open but we visit each one and still make a purchase at each one.
“Our daddy has been spending Christmas in heaven since 2007. We enjoy the tradition of going to the market but it has also become a way for his wife, daughters and their families to honor the memory of all of those Christmas Eve trips with Daddy.”
KETTLE COINS: “Our family tradition,” Tricia Hughes says, “is to drop money in the Salvation Army Kettle each time we see one.”
(A good tradition for anyone and everyone, Tricia. Merry Christmas.)