Readers share their holiday traditions
By Angie Long
Did you know that the first state to declare Christmas an official holiday was Alabama?
So it seems only fitting that so many of us who live in or hail from this area have such a deep love for Christmas and its traditions.
Here are some of the favorite holiday customs past and present shared by our readers.
For Jennifer Coghlan, music and merriment combine over eggnog each Christmas season.
“My family gets together every year, usually a few days before Christmas, and my grandmother, who will be 90 years old in March, and my mom make homemade eggnog,” said Coghlan.
“The eggnog is put into special glasses. Each glass has one of the 12 days of Christmas on it. Everybody has to sing their part of the song, depending on which glass they get. It makes for lots of laughs and fun each year. My mom plays the piano afterward. It’s such a fun and festive time and we’ve been doing it for as long as I can remember.”
Nicki Myrick McFerrin and her teenage daughter, Hannah, enjoy a favorite Christmas Eve tradition.
“On Christmas Eve, we open one — and only one — present before bedtime. The gift is the same every year — new pajamas. I started doing this when Hannah was born,” McFerrin said. “It may be simple and silly, but it’s our special time on Christmas Eve night.”
For Susan Till, a special Christmas breakfast is a long-time family tradition.
“My mother-in-law has one that has lasted for over 100 years — her grandmother and granddad did it, and she was told their parents did it also,” Till said. “Breakfast was a green (non-cured) ham, boiled and made into sandwiches, with an eight-layer chocolate cake and a six-layer caramel cake. I’ve been in the family for 33 years, and every Christmas morning you went to the in-laws and ate this for breakfast.”
Linda Norton shares sweet memories of Christmas past.
“The Saturday before Christmas, we kids would roll out dough to make sugar cookies from the Christmas cutters we had. Mom would have made the dough the night before and laid out all the flour, rolling pins and cutters we needed,” Norton recalls. “After the cookies were baked and cooled, we iced them with confectioner’s sugar that we mixed up in all the colors we could come up with. Then we added sparkles and sprinkles to them. Gift boxes and plates were filled with our creations and on Sunday afternoon after church we would take these gifts to all our neighbors. The smiles we received were our rewards.”
Helena Shirley finds Christmas magic in its songs and carols.
“It is the music of Christmas that is interwoven through every memory of this precious time of the year,” Shirley said. “Scenes play in my mind of sweet times with family and friends with Christmas carols uniting all. As a young child, I vividly recall the times my parents and I joined other church members as we serenaded homes nearby. Then there were the Christmas pageants at school that allowed us to present the miraculous story of Christ’s birth as angel choirs raised grade school voices in praise.
“In high school, our Madrigal Singers visited community sites with voices blended in harmony to bring traditional carols to all.
As life fast-forwarded and children joined my life, all joy was found in sharing the melodies of the seasons and joining them in children’s church productions depicting our Savior’s arrival on earth. Each Christmas is different—new times, new people, even new places. But it is the thread of familiar songs and carols that unite each memory for me to the true meaning of this joyous season.”
For Sonya Rice, memories of getting back to nature and family time together for the holidays remain vivid.
“When my children were growing up, we used to rent a cabin way out in the woods or in the mountains. The only decorations I would bring were cans of gold and silver spray paint,” Rice said. “After getting settled in, we would spend two whole days collecting large leaves, pine cones, berries, any and everything from the woods that we could spray and use as ornaments for our tree. We would also walk forever and a day looking for that extra-special tree and cut it down.
“The children had so much fun doing all of this, and so did I. Plus, the cabins had no TV, no telephones—and this was before cell phones–or even central heat. We also cut our own wood and kept all the fireplaces going for warmth.”
Rice said after all the decoration was done, the family would play board games and read stories, along with putting on plays.
“I so miss those days,” she said. “Now, everybody lives so far away, they just enjoy being at home in Greenville during the holidays. But we still play all the games.”