Originally created 11/26/03

Different ways to ring in holidays



Holiday and home are practically synonymous this time of the year, but that isn't stopping Augusta residents from putting in extra shifts at work, hopping onto a cruise ship or volunteering their time during the holidays.

Bill and Betty Sherill, of Augusta, rang in the new year last year on a ship off the coast of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Mr. Sherill said they have kept up their globe-trotting schedule of nearly 100 countries even as threats of terrorism have curtailed international travel.

"We've decided we're not going to let some guy named bin Laden who lives in a cave in Afghanistan dictate our schedule," he said. "When you travel, every day is a holiday. You create one with these things that you don't normally see."

Nancy Parris, of Morris Travel, said she has noticed an increase ofChristmas family vacations.

"They tend to be teachers who see this two-week break and figure they may as well take advantage of this time," she said. "This year, I've probably got four or five families going off by themselves."

Thanksgiving traveling is still mostly for visiting families. In Ms. Parris' experience, those who choose cruises or other changes of scenery at Thanksgiving often are dealing with tragedies that occurred during the holidays. It's not the easiest time to travel, though; she said the Sunday after Thanksgiving is the busiest time of the year and New Year's is the most expensive.

Charla and Steve Lear, of Weaubleau, Mo., will experience that firsthand as they fly to Atlanta to visit their only son, Jarett, who is stationed at Fort Gordon. It will be their first Thanksgiving away from their extended family.

"It was a real tough call because both of our mothers are in their 90s, and you never really know if you'll have another Thanksgiving with them," Mrs. Lear said. "But this is a very short window of opportunity, so we decided to have a little change of tradition this year.

"We kicked around the idea of having Thanksgiving a different day, but we told them (our families) we'd just pick up where we left off."

Artie Ray Washington, a chemical operator at DSM Chemicals, has his Thanksgiving and Christmas plans all set. He will be working a 12-hour shift at the company's Columbia Nitrogen Road facility, just as he has for the past 10 years. By the time Santa arrives, he already will have celebrated with his fiancee and two children the day before.

"I like to help other people see their families," he said.

It felt a little weird at first to work while everyone else was carving turkeys and trimming trees, but Mr. Washington said the longer he did it, the easier it became.

"If I ever need the day off, I don't have any trouble getting people to take my spot," he said.

Carol Palmer, a flight paramedic for Air Med at Doctors Hospital, also is used to forgoing normally scheduled holidays. In 16 years, she never has taken both Thanksgiving and Christmas off in the same year.

"When you get into this field, you have to understand you're sacrificing your holiday to help other people, which is the real meaning of Christmas," she said. "People are going to get sick or hurt any time of the year."

Her family understands this, too, because her mother, sister and brother-in-law also are nurses. This year, her family will celebrate Christmas on Dec. 27.

"Our whole deal with Christmas is, it's not when you spend it together, it's just that you spend it together," she said. "This year we're actually doing Thanksgiving on Thanksgiving, which is pretty rare."

Reach Patrick Verel at (706) 823-3332 or patrick.verel@augustachronicle.com