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 Posted: Sat Nov 29th, 2008 11:49 pm
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pamc153PA
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Okay, on to something a little different: traditions.

I'll admit it: I am a Christmas fiend, thanks in part to my mother, who taught me well. I honor and appreciate the meaning of thanks in Thanksgiving (in my family, we have always been expected to come to the Thanksgiving table with one good thing to be thankful for, or else the rest of the family would wait until you came up with one), but also the advent of Thanksgiving means to me that Christmas is not far off. And though I know many people who deplore the commercialism of the holiday (myself included), to me Christmas is really about tradition.

For example, my family always followed the German tradition of hiding a pickle on the Christmas tree, and whomever found it first had good luck for the rest of the year. My mother used a real pickle (though now they sell ornaments shaped like pickles), and let me tell you, it's darn hard to find a tiny sweet pickle among the pine boughs. My mother also always made the same food each Christmas dinner, right down to the awful Lebanon bologna-and-cream cheese with horseradish rolls for appetizers, and hot toddies with peach Schnapps. So traditions run in my blood, so to speak.

Now, with my own family, we also have our own traditions. My husband and I have eaten the same shrimp and garlic pasta meal for about a dozen years on Christmas Eve, and we always drive to Longwood Gardens, a great garden about an hour outside of Philly, the day after Christmas, where we look at the lights and the spectacular indoor gardens of poinsettias, paperwhites, and decorated Christmas trees. Yup, Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without those traditions.

What about the rest of you? Considering we're scattered all over the country, and even across the ocean, I'm sure there are lots of unique traditions out there!

Pam

 



 Posted: Sun Nov 30th, 2008 12:07 am
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ole
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My tradition? Family.

An aunt with whom we often had Christmas dinner cooked a goose. When we didn't go there, we did something, almost anything together. (Unless you can call rommegrot and lefse and lutefisk a tradition.) Some years were lean and some were a bit better, so an actual, always tradition is vague.

As everyone in my family is scattered from Boston to Seattle, we settle for an annual reunion. Sorry. No Christmas tradition here. It's catch as catch can. Lately, my kids to their in-laws and roll around in their spouses traditions. Dear One and I have been going to one of her nieces (it's an overnighter) to just schmooze with her family. (We schmooze with mine at the reunion.)

I have a brother in Boise, a brother in Pierre, and a brother near Hamburg. My sisters live in or near Sioux Falls. I have a nephew in Seattle, a nephew in Raleigh-Durham, two nieces near Minneapolis and another in Phoenix, and a nephew near Boston. Even the family thing is getting difficult.

Guess the bottom line is that, in the early years, we didn't have the wherewithall to do anything consistently enough to make a tradition.

Although one of Dear One's nieces has a time-share near Sarasota, Florida where they are building their own tradition.

Ole



 Posted: Sun Nov 30th, 2008 01:36 am
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Crazy Delawares
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Every Christmas my father and I sing with a group of men in our church. We take one Sunday evening before Christmas and the men sing all the Christmas Carols in the hymnal for anyone who shows up. There never will be a prettier sound at Christmas than a group of men singing four part harmony. You should hear us sing "Silent Night" accapella. Some of the "Old Timers" in church tell us that it reminds them of their fathers and the "Good ol' days." Afterwards, we invite everyone down to the Fellowship hall for cookies, cake, juice, tea or coffee. It's just a good old fashioned Christmas celebration.
For what its worth, our church is rooted in the Evangelical United Brethren Church (German). To hear the Old Timers say it, those old Germans knew how to sing!



 Posted: Sun Nov 30th, 2008 01:55 am
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izzy
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The tradition that comes first to my mind is way presents were opened.  As kids everyone was handed a present from under the tree, then we opened them one by one so that everyone could see what the person got.  Xmas family time was enhanced by this.  Later my parents divorced and my mother remarried a man with 3 kids.  I was appaulled on Xmas morning when his kids ran downstairs and opened all their presents in a great rush before anyone else arrived.  Xmas was over before it began in my mind.  I have not gone home for Xmas since. 

 



 Posted: Sun Nov 30th, 2008 02:13 am
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PvtClewell
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Growing up in the late 1950s in the Lehigh Valley, this television presentation of 'Twas the Night before Christmas' by the Beaton marionettes was essential. Here is is:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TzNJxLvbRrM

Bring back any memories, Joe?

This presentation was followed by the Nativity story, also by the Beaton marionettes. I can't find it on YouTube, however.

It's nice to see this show was filmed in color, but our TV back then was B&W, and that's how I remember it.



 Posted: Sun Nov 30th, 2008 04:12 am
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susansweet
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One of my treasured memories as a child of Christmas time was Amal and the Night Visitors on Television.  A few years ago  in Visalia a verision of Amal was done at the local Fox Theatre.  I went with friends that lived up there.  It is about a four hour drive from my home to Visalia.  I sat there in the theatre enchanted by the story as I did when I was a child.  I realized too I knew most of the words to the opera . 

One of my family traditions too was putting money in the Salvation Army Bell Ringers pot.  I loved the giving part of Christmas as much as the getting.  I pulled into the parking lot of my local grocery last week and there he was a bell ringer.  I emptied my cup holder of all my spare change and dropped it in  I walked away grinning as I did when I was a child.

One of our family traditions was each year to add a new ornament to the tree .  Mom would take my brother and I shopping for one ornament .  They always had to be the same type ornament , just different color or style .  It started when my father's boss's wife made us each a Christmas ornament with our names and the date on them.  I still have mine but sadly my brother lost his when his dog knocked their tree over a few years ago.   One of our favorites was birds.  That year not only did we each get a bird our best friends, the Goodhue children got birds.  Our mothers did everything together.  The girls got bluebirds and the boys got parrots.  One Goodhue boy was not born yet and when he was older he complained he didn't have a bird.  Turned out worked well for him,  He got a huge bird instead of a small parrot !!

For years I have continued the tradition with my brothers children buying each of them an ornament to add to their tree. They are now adults and have quite a collection.

Susan



 Posted: Sun Nov 30th, 2008 10:08 am
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fedreb
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Ever since my wife and I got together, nearly 40 years ago, we have always taken the train just before Christmas to see the lights, decorations and shop windows in London. These days most towns and cities have their own lights etc., and a lot of them better than London but it has become something of a tradition and this year we will be going as usual but taking the grandchildren as well. Most times we have been able to catch the carol singers in Trafalgar Square and there aren't many other cities that can match that.
Unfortunately, something else that is becoming something of a tradition is that I am scheduled to work all over the holiday period!



 Posted: Sun Nov 30th, 2008 07:52 pm
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pamc153PA
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Susan,

I have done the same thing you've done for your nephews and nieces--I've bought my son a new ornament each year since he was born. I hang it on our tree that year, then when we take down the tree, I put that ornament into a special box with a tag on the ornament with the year and a little bit about why I chose that one. There are no particular themes, but so far, three of the six ornaments have a Thomas the Tank Engine theme, simply because that's what he's into. My hope is that when he moves out, I can give him the box of ornaments to start his own Christmas tradition with.

I was also thinking beyond Christmas to New Year's. Our tradition there is an old PA Dutch one: pork and sauerkraut. Saying goes that you can't eat chicken on the first day of a New Year, or you'll be scratching (as in, for money) the rest of the year. Why pork? I don't know--does anyone have an idea?

My husband has found a great recipe for sauerkraut that includes white wine and bacon, and makes the normally yucky food palatable to me! I've heard of other food traditions at New Years, but that's ours.

Pam



 Posted: Sun Nov 30th, 2008 08:11 pm
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PvtClewell
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Pam,

Eating pork as your first meal on New Year's Day will bring you good luck, according to the Pennsylvania Dutch. Here:

http://www.bellaonline.com/articles/art12697.asp

And look under "food", second paragraph, for this one:

http://www.snopes.com/holidays/newyears/beliefs.asp

We always had pork and sauerkraut on New Year's Day. It was an acquired taste for me as a child, but I love it now. Plus, sauerkraut is good for you, if you're into that healthy stuff.



 Posted: Sun Nov 30th, 2008 08:17 pm
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javal1
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Pam - while we hardly ever disagree, I can't tell you how dissapointed I am with you after reading this thread. Disliking sauerkraut is bad enough, but the ultimate sin is dissing those Lebanon Bologna/Cream Cheese/horseradish roll-ups. I loved them, and they remain one of my cherished X-mas memories from back home. (...walks away shaking head in disbelief).

But for my fellow Lehigh Valley natives, how about the Nutcracker at Symphony Hall and the annual Hess Toy program that used to air every year. Both of those memories go back quite a few decades.



 Posted: Sun Nov 30th, 2008 08:29 pm
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pamc153PA
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Sorry to diappoint, Joe. However, I only dislike the STRAIGHT sauerkraut--the kind with the white wine, juniper berries, and bacon added is way better. I'm sure that's not very Dutchy of me, but I've found that many things go down easier with some white wine. . .

As for the Lebanon bologna horseradish rolls, look at it this way: there'll be more of them in the world for you if I don't eat my share. I can send you some after Christmas. I'm sure I won't even have to pay extra to have them refridgerated for the trip!

What I remember about Hess' at Christmas is my grandmother taking me every year a couple weeks before the holiday to eat lunch at the Patio--and letting me eat Strawberry Pie as my whole lunch, if I wanted!

Pam



 Posted: Mon Dec 1st, 2008 02:13 am
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PvtClewell
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Hess Bros!

The Patio!

Man, you guys are taking me back. My grandmother took me to Hess's every now and then for lunch when I was a child, and I'd have club sandwiches at the Patio, finished off by a scoop of vanilla ice cream that had a sugar cookie stuck in it.

Getting back to Christmas memories, we actually lived in Fountain Hill for a while, and then later in Bethlehem. I vividly remember the Christmas tree and decorations on the Hill-to-Hill Bridge, and the star on top of South Mountain. And, of course, the candles in all the windows of the buildings on the campus of Central Moravian Church in an age before white candles in windows became so popular. It was breathtaking. At least, that's how I remember it.

Last edited on Mon Dec 1st, 2008 06:33 pm by PvtClewell



 Posted: Mon Dec 1st, 2008 02:18 am
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ole
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Good golly (eupemism)! You guys make we want to puke! In my lifetme, I've eaten some rather vile ethnic concotions, and I've choked them down and smiled broadly. But we seem to have stepped over the line. The gorge is building as we speak.

Ole



 Posted: Mon Dec 1st, 2008 02:51 am
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PvtClewell
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Club sandwiches and vanilla ice cream make you puke????

Moravian sugar cookies and toll house cookies also fire up the time warp machine.



 Posted: Mon Dec 1st, 2008 03:46 am
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javal1
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Pvt. -

Lived a short time in Fountain Hill myself (near Traubs Market if you remember that). Seeing the single white light in each window of the homes around Moravian was quite touching. Remember the star? I guess it was over the College, but that was always cool to a kid.

Ole, aren't you the one always talking about that fish soaked in lye or whatever it is. You're credentials as a food critic are thin indeed :P



 Posted: Mon Dec 1st, 2008 01:27 pm
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pamc153PA
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How about this one, Joe and Pvt, though it's not Christmas-related: My husband and I had our wedding reception at The Hotel Bethlehem! I was never inside of it until we were planning our wedding, and let me tell you, it was a beautiful place for a reception.

I do remember the star, especially waiting to see it for the first time each year. Far as I know, it's still there. My husband's parents still live in Center Valley, and when we can, we try to drive to Bethlehem to "see the lights" over Christmas.

Here's a question to anyone: do you put up a real or fake Christmas tree?

Pam



 Posted: Mon Dec 1st, 2008 06:30 pm
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PvtClewell
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The Hotel Bethlehem! Yes. A wonderful place.

Pam, I lived in Coopersburg for a few years, and I went to high school at Southern Lehigh. Rode my bicycle all over Center Valley. And Saucon Valley. And occasionally into Hellertown.

My wife and I put up a real tree, by the way. Needles everywhere, but we love the pine scent. And the tradition. Made strings of popcorn and cranberries for a few years until we couldn't stand it anymore. Less patience as we get older, I suppose.

Our cats drink the water from the base of the tree. Must taste good, too, I guess.



 Posted: Mon Dec 1st, 2008 06:35 pm
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Always a real tree!  My grandfather used to take me out on the farm and we would go to the live cedar tree he had picked out and cut it and drag it back to the truck.  I have never been much on artificial trees (I now use a balled tree and replant it after Christmas.

I do hang wreaths on my grandmother and grandfather's grave markers and still put a fresh piece of cedar in each year.  And this year will do the same for my father's tombstone. 



 Posted: Mon Dec 1st, 2008 07:25 pm
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Dixie Girl
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every year the entire family gets together and goes to my grandparents house and eats and opens presents from the family on Christmas Eve and we dont leave until 12 at night (when i was younger we'd stay half the night but as the folks get older they caint stay up as long as me without any sleep) then one of us invite the grandparents for breakfast on Christmas day and they come to all our houses and see what Santa left us. then on Christmas night we all go back to my grandparents house and play games all night.

i get a Christmas ornament every year. mom has gotten me one every year sense i was born. last year it was a baby squirrel in a swing that looks like a walnut and this year it was an acorn. i love squirrels!!! and we do a fake tree. something about hot lights and a cut tree inside the house that just dont mix.



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 Posted: Tue Dec 2nd, 2008 01:44 am
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Crazy Delawares
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We do the artificial tree. Too many allergies in the house.



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