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Family Traditions

Most of us have fond memories of the holidays when we were children. I can still remember making Swedish Tea Ring with my grandmother Christensen, in her kitchen in Fresno. My little hands worked the dough, and sliced little holes as the wreath was made, revealing the red and green candied cherries, the nuts and cinnamon tucked inside. It wasn’t Christmas unless I could do that.

My grandparents sang Christmas carols in Danish, as well. My grandmother Fox told the story of how, as a new bride, they were snowed in one Christmas, and she couldn’t get to the store.  Instead of having a big feast, they had frozen sausages, pineapple rings, which she made with sprinkled red and green sugar, with red candy dots making the berries at the bottom of the wreath. To this day, we fry these little pineapple wreaths as we tell the story to the younger generation.

Our 37# bird this year. Cooked in a bag.

My little brother sang “Binkle Bells” at night when he was about three or four, when the whole house was quiet on Christmas Eve. I will never forget the sound of his sweet little voice echoing throughout our house.

We’d invite Stanford students from different countries to share our Thanksgiving tables. I remember Lali from Turkey, Bobo from France (his real name was Hubert), and our favorite vagabond traveler who had been all over the world, Currie. I could listen to his stories about his travels throughout the jungles and beaches of Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand years before there was a war there. My mother taught him how to bake bread and cook because he’d hired on to an Alaskan exploration crew as a cook, and didn’t know the first thing about it. Our friend, Harold, another student, taught my brother and I how to collect pennies.

I loved listening to Grandpa Fox’s sermons, and, although I was embarrassed having to walk down the church aisle behind Grandma Fox (because she wore 7 purses), it was a special time for the Fox grandchildren, because the church body loved us as much as they loved Grandpa. He was and still is the largest person in life, who had a big God and the heart big enough to envelop us all.

Butternut Squash from the garden

When my brother and I sometimes stayed with them in Napa, sometimes women and children would be sheltered there, hidden away from an abusive husband. We would be awakened, and asked to sleep in the living room, so the mother and her children could have a warm bed to safely sleep in at night. We also learned that homeless people learned they could get a free meal at my Grandmother’s rear kitchen door, and we knew there had been marking left on the fencepost, although we could never tell where those marks were.

When our kids were younger, we took a cruise at Christmas to the Caribbean, and were entertained by a local children’s choir with their island-flavor Christmas carols one special Christmas Day. We watched monkeys come up to us on the beach and large parrots with colorful foliage robbed us of our fruit at a picnic.

I remember my oldest, D.J., arguing with children at a Macy’s in San Francisco, talking to the “Talking Christmas Tree” and defending his honor, when these children called him stupid and made fun of the tree. “I’m your friend, Mr. Christmas Tree,” he told him. I was never more proud.

I was lucky. And so now I complete the cycle, spreading the stories. It’s so difficult now, because we can’t all sit at the same table. The little ones are so precious. My next-to-the-youngest last night told me this, “Grandma, I wish it was Christmas.”

I agree. With all four of my children safe and in the US out of harm’s way, their spouses and children by their sides, we were all together this year. I think that makes it about the most perfect Thanksgiving and early Christmas it could ever be.

What about you? What’s been special about your holiday so far? I’d love to hear about your traditions…

This Post Has 12 Comments

  1. My aunt had 4 boys and she always bought your sister and I posh slippers for xmas and she'd give them to us to unwrap xmas eve so we could wear them with a new xmas nightie. We also have hot pork rolls with xmas stuffing in on xmas eve.

  2. Wow Sharon…that was such a beautiful post. I love trying to keep traditions going with the younger generations. It makes the holidays (and anyday) that much more special. ❤ I am so glad you had such a special Thanksgiving with all of your family safe and together! There truly is nothing better than that! ?
    Wishing you a wonderful Christmas and rest of your holiday season!!
    Much Love!!
    -Erin Sheets ??

  3. I've been making Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners since I was 7 years old because my mom didn't cook. She loved to sew and would make robes and pajamas for the whole family for Christmas. I remember listening to the sound of the sewing machine late in to the night. She always wanted it to be a surprise so she would put everything away so we didn't know what color we were getting. For Thanksgiving and Christmas I would get up and make homemade cinnamon rolls from scratch with icing for breakfast with fresh squeezed orange juice. We never decorated the tree until a few days before Christmas and my job was the tinsel. My father and brother did the lights and my sister and mom did the ornaments but as the oldest it was my job to put the tinsel on. One strand at a time usually took 2 days but damn the tree was beautiful with all its silvery glitterness. We didn't have much and my parents both worked to keep the bills paid but they tried to make memories every year. My mom has been gone 37 years and my dad 10 and I can still hear that sewing machine and my dad reading a Christmas Carol every year. He had an amazing voice for stories.

  4. Sharon, fabulous stories about your family. Now I know why you're such a nice person. Glad that at last all your family are home together, & more importantly safe. My parents used to have underprivileged children from London come & stay with us for a short holiday. I still remember playing with them in the garden. In my teens we had various exchange students from France & Germany stay with us for up to 3 weeks at a time. It was great fun & many of them came back again to see us. Being 1/2 hour from London it was a good place for them to explore England.
    As my fathers hobby was scuba diving we often had many young single men visit us at Xmas. All the toys came out & Twister was very popular, particularly after a few drinks… It's only as my parents have got older & slower that there is no longer a key in the front door. Everyone knew to ring the doorbell & let themselves in. Even now I laugh at adverts on TV proclaiming the great memory of getting your own front door key. Not needed in my house. It was something I took for granted. Besides I knew how to break in anyway…… – if no-one was home a key was hidden nearby.When i read about other people's less joyful upbringing it makes me really how lucky I was. I took my experiences for granted. When I met my husband I was very shocked that he did not know how to peel a prawn! He also hadn't been to the seaside very much, whereas I'd spent most summer weekends on a beach. It's good that you're carrying family traditions on. My sister & I try to do the same. Take care xx Allinson

  5. Memories, pressed between the pages of my mind
    Memories, sweetened through the ages just like wine
    Quiet thought come floating down
    And settle softly to the ground
    Like golden autumn leaves around my feet
    I touched them and they burst apart with sweet memories
    Sweet memories
    Of holding hands and red bouquets
    And twilight trimmed in purple haze
    And laughing eyes and simple ways
    And quiet nights and gentle days with you
    Memories, pressed between the pages of my mind
    Memories, sweetened through the ages just like wine
    Memories, memories
    Of holding hands and red bouquets
    And twilight trimmed in purple haze
    And laughing eyes and simple ways
    And quiet nights and gentle days with you
    Memories, pressed between the pages of my mind
    Memories, sweetened through the ages just like wine
    Memories, memories, sweet memories
    Memories, memories

    Thank you for sharing those wonderful memories. You are an angel. xoxoxoxoxo, YP

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