Sisterhood Sharing Sessions | Life Lessons Learned | Parenting: Holiday Traditions-The Book Of Jane Series
What I’ve Learned
Over the years I’ve come to learn and appreciate the importance traditions play in your childhood. Traditions become a foundation from which your life is built upon. When you have them, they are not easily forgotten, and often become the starting point for every childhood memory. Many of my fondest memories are of those things that shaped my beliefs as a child.
My Mother in particular, made the holiday traditions of my childhood memorable and beautiful and as such, something I wanted to continue as an adult. Because traditions are recurring events, it makes the process of invoking specific moments in time flow effortlessly. Once you have managed to tap into a fond memory, the feeling is nothing short of magical.
Identify something special you can borrow from your childhood and bring it forward into your adulthood, or create your own tradition and share with your children or family of friends.
What began as a paragraph or two about 'Holiday Traditions'turned into an homage for my Mother, as I reminisced about the 'Holiday Traditions' of my youth. A special read for her. I hope it invokes fond memories for you to enjoy as well. ~Sister Of The World
Every Thanksgiving my mother was charged with cooking the massive holiday meal for her immediate family, her children, and all of her extended relatives. Our house was the epicenter of activity. My Mother, perhaps like many, would begin preparation for this event the evening she arrived home from her last day of work before her holiday break. After working until about midnight, she would then rise between 3:00 a.m. and 4:00 a.m. to begin this dance of drudging together a holiday meal that stretched out over a two-day period.
Joy of Cooking
While preparing a holiday meal for the masses was unmistakably an enormous amount of hard work, my Mother seemed to take pleasure in the process. She was always buzzing around like a busy bee, with minimal help from her children. I think she preferred it that way. It was easier to dash through each dish without stumbling over little people.
I remember fondly how my Mother’s thick dark hair would always flop down in her face like Elvis Presley’s swooped bangs, and a droplet of sweat was always on the verge of dripping off the tip of her pointed nose. She always managed to divert the sweat from landing in the bowl of flour she was sifting, or the pile of potatoes she was mashing. With one fell swoop of her forearm, she took care of the would-be droplet dribble and the wild Elvis bangs, tamed.
Joy of Eating
As a child, it was glorious. The constant smell of delicious aromas floating through the air, from fresh homemade Biscuits, Honey Glazed Ham, and Baked Sweet Potatoes with Marshmallows, to decadent pies and other sweet treats made from recipes she pulled from the local newspaper. Throughout this two-day holiday event, my Mother would offer tiny morsels of meat and other tidbits to tone down her children’s rumbling tummies. Scraping up the remains Mother left of the thick dark chocolate or creamy vanilla cake frosting from the bowl and licking the spoon clean, always a treat, and a treasured part of the holiday tradition.
After much anticipation, finally an invitation to sit down to the dinner. Ah, the joy of eating the meal your stomach and all of your senses had been craving for two days. A feast fit for a Queen and King, and something truly worthy of being thankful.
The Perfect Tree
The Christmas Tree in our house had a life of its own. My Father always picked out the perfect tree. Nice and broad at the bottom with a perfect Tee-Pee trim leading up to the top. The tip of the tree always just shy of touching the ceiling, leaving just enough room for the angel Mother would place perfectly centered at the top. The natural trees were enticing with the deep aroma of pine that permeated the entire house. The smell, Christmas itself. You get lost in the beauty of a strong healthy Spruce. The thick blue-green prickly branches stacked closely together and extended invitingly to receive the garland, Christmas bells and lights, and all the other trinkets that would later adorn it.
Decorating the tree was a family affair. I liked the years Mother popped fresh popcorn, and me and my Siblings helped string it and convert it to garland, but not before popping a few handfuls in our mouth. The popcorn and pine spell together was truly a heavenly scent. Then there was the box of goodies gathered over the years, from Christmas school projects that always made their way onto the tree. It seemed as though the weight of the items over the years would topple the tree, but it only added to its beauty and charm. Mother made sure every item from every child was placed. Of all the things that smothered the Spruce, the single most important decoration that most complimented our efforts were the soft multi-colored bulbs that wrapped the enormous tree from top to bottom. Perfectly spaced, the illumination for the lights were mystical and mesmerizing. The soft glow engulfed the entire living room and created a peaceful ambiance.
The Perfect Gift
I later learned that Mother saved and planned for months in advance to ensure she obtained just the right gift for each child. She was always spot on. She captured our personalities to a tee. Because there were so many of us, there were gift bags protruding from the base of the tree every year. Clothes were always a stable item. Mother would strategically stretch out each apparel item to have the appearance of an abundance of presents. It worked. For us kids, it didn’t really matter so much what was in our box, just that there were so many to rip open.
Mother knew her Children were little sneaks at Christmas time, and that we were on a constant mission to sniff out those presents we knew Mother held back placing under the tree until we were all asleep. We never found one of those presents. Mother invariably succeeded in making the extra gifts an added bonus reserved for Christmas morning.
Dad’s role, waking me and my Siblings up at an insanely early hour of the morning, usually between 2:00 to 3:00 a.m. to pull our presents from underneath the ever bulging base of the tree. We literally had to climb under the prickly pine to retrieve some of our gifts. This naturally drove my Mother mad. Yet, my Dad had no interest in ending this insanity. That, was his tradition and he was sticking to it. And so, that too became a cherished childhood memory.
New Year’s Eve
Black Eyed Peas and New Year’s Rockin Eve
New Year’s Eve was a pretty laid back Holiday for our family as a whole, but more specifically for Mother, no hustle and bustle to get things done. New Year’s Eve Holiday for our family included two constants. The first, gathering around the television to watch all of our favorite entertainers perform at Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin Eve extravaganza. The special always featured the most popular performers in music at the time. As a viewer, you were never disappointed. It felt like an indoor concert experience.
After hours of musical entertainment, we joined in on the count down and the anticipated ‘Ball Drop’ at Midnight that solidified the new year was official. You didn’t have to be there on the streets of New York City in Times Square to feel the energy and excitement. It was palpable and extended into our living room. It gave you a feeling that you were bringing in the new year hand in hand, and side by side with the rest of the world without leaving your house.
The second New Year’s Eve Tradition, no matter the entre, the meal was accompanied by a freshly made pot of perfectly seasoned ‘Black Eyed Peas’. Why this brand of bean? Well, there are many Southern stories behind the bean as a favorite for the start of a new year or new beginnings, but with one consistent theme, luck.
Candy dishes filled with peanuts and corned candies adorned the house for the full month of October. Homemade costumes allowed us to be creative, and pillowcases ensured no ripped or snatched bags. My mother would always make dinner on Halloween night. Even though she knew no one was going to eat, she made it anyway. After arriving home with our free goodies, the haul was spread out over the bed and the bag checks began before we could eat one tasty treat.
After an all-clear signal, Mother would sift through each pile to find a little something for herself. This was part of the tradition, and It was an honor when she found something in your bag she wanted. She made it a special moment by getting excited about each item she found in each bag as though it were a treasure only you possessed. We all giggled and laughed at these moments. It was the same every year.
While Easter is a Holiday that traditionally recognizes the Resurrection of Christ for Christians, it had multiple meanings for me as a Child. My Childhood memories were Chocolate Covered Easter Bunnies, Peter Cottontail, and Easter Egg Hunts at school and dressing-up in our Sunday best for Church services. On occasion, me and my Sisters had nice new frilly dresses and shiny black shoes to wear to what was referred to as ‘Easter Sunday’, and our Grandmother might slip me and my Siblings a couple of coins for the offering tray. If she didn’t have a close eye out, only half went on the Silver plate, and the remainder went to the local candy merchant around the corner.
Of all of the different events that surrounded Easter, my absolute favorite was when me and my Siblings gathered around the Kitchen Table with Mother and colored eggs together. This activity was like an art class, and my Mother was the instructor. She started each of us off with a couple of hard-boiled eggs of our own. There were bowls of different colors we could choose from to paint our eggs. The process included an apparatus that balanced the egg while you dipped it in the paint color of your choice. After your egg dried, the coolest part, you wrote your name on the egg. The pin appeared to be magic. Your name was invisible upon writing, and it slowly became visible.
After admiring the colored eggs for a while, we cracked them open and ate them.
This year, look back and remember the magic of each holiday.