Readers share their treasured traditions
Brenda Shelton of Eva said her best Christmas memories are of her grandmother.
"She was a special angel to me, and I think of her on Christmas Day at dinnertime because she loved Christmas so much and always had Christmas dinner for her family."
After her grandmother died, Shelton received some of her favorite dishes, bowls and casseroles. Now she carries on the tradition of cooking a big dinner, using her grandmother's dishes. "It makes me feel that she is sharing Christmas dinner with us," she said.
A pine cone in memory
For 24 years, Barbara Robbins has placed a special pine cone on her holiday tree.
"Loss of a loved one at any time is very hard," she said, but it makes it even worse when it happens around Thanksgiving and Christmas.
"In 1982, my husband's dad, Price Robbins, had a massive brain stroke on Christmas Eve. He died 11 days later, never regaining consciousness."
One of the floral arrangements sent to the funeral included a pine cone.
"We put that pine cone on our Christmas tree between two doves to remember him, and this has been a tradition for 24 years now," she said.
Christmas Eve meal
Years ago, Opal and Hillard Frost of Moulton began serving a nontraditional kind of meal on Christmas Eve. The extended family would gather on Christmas Day for turkey and dressing, so they served a finger-food menu on Christmas Eve.
"Now our two children and four grandchildren expect our traditional food," she said, which includes hot spiced tea, cheese dip, cheese straws, cheese ball, cocktail wieners, spiral-sliced ham for sandwiches, and more.
Frost said she decorates every room of the house, and her husband decorates the outside, and she will have several church, teen and office groups over for holiday gatherings, as well as family.
"My mom, Eva Roberts White or 'Mamaw E,' was a keeper, and so am I," she said.
Her mother was almost 96 when she died April 13, "so I have many things, and a lot of them are a little bit old."
Sherry Luker Sanderson of Danville shared her memories of a Piney Grove Christmas and the forgotten tradition of serenading.
"Your neighbors would dress up in some old clothes and attempt to conceal their identities. They would go door to door and see if anyone could recognize them," she recalled.
"Life was different in those days; neighbors all knew one another and sometimes depended on each other for their very survival," she said. Sanderson also remembers the annual trek through the hills and hollows of Piney Grove for the perfect cedar tree.
"I never had a bicycle of my own, and I don't remember a coat that wasn't a hand-me-down," she said, "but we had the most important things anyone can have at Christmas: the love of our family and the love of God, who gave us the gift of Christmas."
Vicki Waters of Moulton recalls putting her imagination to work on holiday decorations, whether it was cutting out snowflake garlands, stitching and stuffing cutouts of fabric scraps to create stars and candy canes, punching designs in tin cans or roaming the woods to look for red berries.
Today's families "sometimes give a child too many material things and not enough of your time and encouragement," she said.
Christmas is her parents' anniversary, too, because Ruth and Wayne "Red" Waters eloped on Christmas Day, just 10 days after they met, she said. Her mother "was a wizard with a sewing machine," creating their children's clothes and even 1-inch-high knee boots for their Barbie dolls. One year when their dad broke his leg and got bored while staying home to recuperate, he learned how to use the sewing machine. "That year we each got a complete wardrobe of custom Dad-made Barbie doll clothes," she recalled.
But he could never wait for Christmas morning for them to open their presents. "One minute after midnight, he'd be standing in our bedroom doorway, yelling that Santa had come and gone. Then he would call our Grandmother Waters and ask her if she could smell reindeer poo because Santa had flown by. Five little girls would scramble into the living room, indulge in an orgy of paper ripping and then start fighting over who got the best present and hollering 'Make her leave my stuff alone.' "
Waters still has a string of lights from the cedar Christmas tree the family cut from the pasture and remembers once dragging the tree home her self, tied behind Thunder, her horse.
- Patrice Stewart
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