It’s the most wonderful time of the year and four residents share their special memories of the holiday time.
I grew up on the family farm and was the youngest of 6 children. Christmas was a busy and energetic time, you can imagine with many siblings and with aunts, uncles, and distant relatives visiting. The year my 4 brothers were away and serving in WWII, the house was much quieter and today I can recall that very sacred time. But, as children we’d go to 69th Street in Philadelphia and see Santa. Going to Philadelphia was a very special trip for us growing up on a farm. I also recall my mother was a terrific cook. She’d create a big family dinner, often in the evening on Christmas night, and we share the meal with relatives. The food that was prepared was farm raised of course. I recall baking with my mother as well. Her specialty was the cookie sand tarts and date nut pinwheels. Today, I continue those traditions – bake cookies and spend time with family and friends during the holidays.
Sara Jane Withers
I grew up in a village in Ohio and recall Christmas as a magical time with music, lights, food, family and friends, and of course, snow. Every year my Mom invited my grandparents to come for cookies and candy making day and together with my Dad and brother, we made mountains of sweets – cream wafers, tiny decorated gingerbread men, peanut clusters, Chinese chews, fondant dipped in chocolate – enough to share with family and friends. There always was snow, sparkly snow, and Christmas lights, and lots of parties and dances. I detested wearing those ugly plastic boots over my patent leather heels and would abandon the boots in my date’s car before we pulled out of the driveway. And of course, we went to church on Christmas Eve, to the large Episcopal Church in Youngstown, where, in the flickering candlelight, we joined in the triumphant processional “O Come All Ye Faithful” as midnight approached.
Growing up, I was the oldest of 3. I recall our parents would put up the tree and decorate it after we went to bed on Christmas Eve. So, in the morning, the tree would be a big surprise as well as our presents. A special tradition at Christmas started when I was studying at UCLA in the French Department. A French couple befriended me and invited me to their home. It was there I discovered their crèche they brought from France. There were these little terra cotta figurines depicting the birth of Jesus. I loved it so much that later, I found a similar crèche of my own. Then, when I was a teacher at Wilmington Friends School, a fellow teacher, also from France, would go back and forth to France. Each time, I would give her some money along with my list of small figurines I wanted and little by little, I acquired anywhere from 75-100 little figures to add to my crèche. Today, my wife and I create an entire French Christmas village, complete with the grocer, butcher, and candlestick maker and the crèche.
I grew up in a very small town, Sylvania, in northern Pennsylvania and today the population is roughly 218 people. I grew up on a farm and my 2 brothers and we would go out and find a Christmas tree, cut it down, and bring it home. We’d decorate it together while my mother would cook and bake. At my in-laws, my wife’s parents were Pennsylvania Dutch, so in addition to a turkey at Christmas, her mother would make dried corn, potato filling, cole slaw, and cranberry sauce. Her special Christmas cookie she would bake was called “rocks” – which were date nut cookies in a round shape. Christmas memories were of family (aunts, uncles, their children) gathering in the family home. We’d go to church the night before and Santa would visit us there and bring us an orange and a box of hard candy. Today, with my children, we continue to visit with family and keep many of these special memories not only in our mind but in continued traditions.
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