Every family has their own version of holiday cheer, from watching movies, decorating the house, singing songs, or bah hum-bugging the whole thing. Here are some favorite memories and traditions of the holidays from our own dear Stanberry family. May this give you some ideas for your own family or simply bring you a smile this holiday season.
Randy McDonald- Our family started a family tradition many years ago on Thanksgiving to hold hands in a circle and each individually tell the circle of family one thing they are grateful for. It's a wonderful experience, watching children especially, grow in their year to year thoughts of grace in their lives. Often a tear of happiness is seen rolling down the cheek of those that are listening, along with many big smiles. This year we had a new 10-year-old girl at the family dinner, she has a rough life at her home and spends most of her time after school and nights staying at my son's family home. With grateful tears, I am recalling her words as she took her turn: "I am just so thankful for this family that has been there for me and allows me to stay here and treats me like family. Thank you". You never know what rewards are coming from a Holiday Tradition, but you can count on them being wonderful as you see.
Josephine Hendrickson- I grew up in Germany, with a German mother. One of our traditions is Nikolaus Tag on Dec 6th. This is where Nikolaus puts candy, fruit, and nuts in your shoes that you have left outside, or the dreaded coal and switches. Your equivalent of being “naughty or nice”, which means he’s always watching. This is in the 50’s early 60’s when neighbors were only a shout out away over on the next balcony, or open window when everyone lived in apartments after the war. I was becoming the ripe old age of about 10, and starting to be a non-believer of such things as Nikolaus, when my snot-nosed self, smarted off to my mother, and she went to the window and called on the top of lungs……….NIKOLAAAAUUUSSSS……. and all I heard was a resounding deep loud voice from the high heavens… JAAAAAA…….. I immediately became a believer again! It took years for me to figure out that presumably a neighbor “knew” what was going on, and played along with my mom from outside the house. On that note……we always got goodies and switches combined.
Jenny Turney- Most of our traditions center around Christmas Eve. We make homemade pizzas for dinner and have an array of toppings. Groups of 2 get to do a quarter or half of a large pizza. After pizza we go to the candlelight service at church, followed by driving around looking at lights and then ready Twas the Night Before Christmas. Our kids are 18 and 20 and we still do this. Good memories.
Carol Loncola- My family tradition was for the whole family to sing “We wish you a Merry Christmas” and “Jingle Bells” behind my parents’ couch on Christmas Day while my Dad recorded us on his video camera. It is so much fun to go back and look at the old VCR tapes and see all the changes in us and the new additions (grandkids) over a 34-year span. Unfortunately, my Dad passed in 2009 and this tradition doesn’t happen now but I have traditions with my own family where I always cook pigs in a blanket for breakfast on Christmas morning and we all open one present on Christmas Eve.
Deb Dahlberg-Rowland- Christmas is a time for dreams to come true, and lifelong memories to be made. One of my favorite Christmas memories is the year that Santa surprised my brother and I both with puppies. We had clamored about getting a dog but my parents weren't all that thrilled with the idea. We were persistent though and we shared our Christmas wish with Santa when he was at our local mall a few weeks before he made his global trip to visit all the good girls and boys. And low and behold on Christmas morning, my brother and I woke up super early ( of course ) and ran out to see if Santa had come and low and behold there wasn't one dog but TWO PUPPIES, mini Schnauzers a male and female from the same litter. It just boggles my mind to this very day how Santa could pull that off! No puppies under the tree when we went to bed but puppies under the tree when we woke up at the crack of dawn. And nothing was torn up, no "mistakes" in the house. Santa must have given them the "talk" about how to be good. And I think a little magic from the sleigh ride rubbed off on those two pups because they were great dogs and lifelong pals for my brother and I. We named them immediately: Honey Dew and Friskie Fellow. To this day when I see an ad or a video about kids getting a puppy at Christmas I still tear up! Heck, I can't even type this without a tear or two of joy. My wish (whispered into Santa's ear) this year is that all of my Family, Friends, Customers, and Clients have a wonderful and Merry Christmas, a Happy New Year filled with Prosperity and Joy!
Missy Stewart- Christmas 1960- Katy, Texas: That Christmas I spotted a 14x14 package under our humble cedar tree with my name on it. I had been asking for a pair of white lace-up roller skates so I just knew my request had been heard. I opened Christmas Eve and I hope my disappointment wasn’t evident because I had the most caring, beautiful parents in the world. It was an overnight size of Samsonite luggage. That luggage carried me through my four years at SWT, now Texas State. I got nothing I asked for but everything I needed. God bless mom and dad.
Wanda Garcia- Here are a few of our traditions 1) we put the tree up and start decorating after Thanksgiving meal. 2)The last ornament on the tree is a nail which represents Christ. The nail is the last ornament to be put on. It is put on inside the tree, not on the outside. 3) Christmas morning I fix a big breakfast of eggs, bacon, sausage, biscuits, and gravy. After breakfast, we gather in the living room and pass out the gifts.
Edith Austin- celebrates Sinterklaas. The festivities begin each year in mid-November, when Sinterklaas "arrives" by steamboat, from Spain with his Zwarte Piet assistants. Sinterklaas parades through the streets on his horse, welcomed by children cheering and singing traditional Sinterklaas songs. The Zwarte Piet assistants throw seasonal candy into the crowd.
Before going to bed, children put their shoes next to the fireplace. They leave the shoe with a carrot or hay in it and a bowl of water "for Sinterklaas' horse", and the children sing Sinterklaas song. The next morning they find candy or a small present in their shoes. On the evening of December 5th, presents arrive, usually in burlap at the front door. The present is often creatively disguised by being packaged in a humorous or personalized way. Poems accompany gifts, bearing a personal message for the receiver. It is usually a humorous poem teasing the recipient for well-known bad habits or other character deficiencies. Pepernoten is the traditional candy during the festivities and a tasty tradition, enjoy!
Jenny Carroll- My Granny Ruth (on my dad’s side) got a little absent-minded and forgetful as she got older. She was always a funny gift giver and re-gifter is probably more accurate. My cousins and I would get monogrammed towels with her initials on them or stuff that she’d gotten from the 700 Club and we would just laugh and compare who got the weirdest thing. It was always very sweet and she got such joy in seeing us open her gifts. She was a round, rosy-cheeked kind of granny that would send you a $5 check in your birthday card and would always have a yummy treat for you to sneak when our parents weren’t looking. One year we all opened our gifts at the same time and pulled out the most enormous granny panties we’d ever seen. I guess they’d come in a pack and she’d split them up and gave all 6 of us one pair. We spent the rest of that holiday tying them on our heads, wearing them as vests, popping each other like they were gym towels and laughing hysterically about it. She thought it was simply delightful. She was an amazing granny and I miss her all the time.
Leslie Crider- We have been buying our children a Christmas Ornament every year since they were toddlers, that would represent something that they were into that year, such as sports, dance, Disney, etc.... Our children are grown now and we enjoy admiring our tree every year and reminiscing over the things in their past. We also have a white elephant gift exchange every year with my whole family. It is probably the most fun we have together as a family all year and the gifts are well fought over whether they are funny or nice.....the war is on to steal! After that, we will play an interactive game and laugh until it hurts! Good times.
Tami Cartwright- One of our Families traditions every year is for everyone to grab their favorite mug and we make lots of hot cocoa and fill up thermos's, grab blankets and warmies and drive-thru the amazing Prestonwood Forest neighborhood of Christmas Lights with the windows rolled down and Sunny 99.1 Christmas music playing. The children even as adults now look forward to this fun tradition every year.
Stephanie Pope- My Nana & Poppy lived in Syracuse NY, and their lake-front home was host to many family Christmas celebrations. They had an amazing double-sided, two-story stone fireplace, in which there was always a fire crackling. The stone hearth often served as a backdrop for family photos. One year, my Uncle Rick recorded himself, posing as Santa Claus, on a portable tape recorder. He somehow managed to secure the tape recorder up inside of the fireplace, and he played it late one Christmas Eve once that crackling fire had extinguished itself. My sister and I woke to the sound of Santa's voice, saying our names, and Ho-Ho-Ho'ing away...it was magical. And proof that Santa Clause does, in fact, exist!
Sharon Stanberry Rosshirt- My Pappy would be 117 now. Christmas with him was a quiet, country Christmas. The tree came from the woods across the pasture from their home, and gifts and decorations were homemade and modest. The house was an old Texas-style, with a front porch, tin roof, one big room, one-bedroom, and a kitchen. But never was a home more filled with the warmth and glory of love. I’d sit by my Pappy in his big rocking chair near the potbellied stove, and watch his hands while he pulled his pocket knife out of his overalls to peel a red Christmas apple for me. All in one long ring, mostly. He’d crack pecans for me with his hands, by pressing two together, hand me the pieces, and I would bask in the love and attention. Quiet peace. Feeling love and enoughness; this is the feeling of Christmas I carry in my heart… and wish for the world.
Ashley Cooper- I don’t have anything that really qualifies as a sweet or touching story, but my two favorite holiday traditions are: Watching National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation with my dad’s side of the family and listening/watching my dad quote the same lines every year and crack himself up. On my mom’s side of the family, I look forward to drinking coffee and eating her famous “monkey bread” all morning long as we open presents and chat.
Mary Ellen Franklin- Because our family is usually in 4 or more different cities at Christmas we do a fun Gingerbread House contest and we anonymously send pictures (through a single phone) of our homemade houses on Christmas day to the panel of judges (usually family friends that really enjoy the annual event). The winner is titled the "Master Gingerbread Builder" for the year… no prizes but lots of creativity and fun. The only rule is you must start with a simple kit that you buy at the store and all additions to the house must be edible. It's a great way to spend Christmas Day after all the festivities are over.
Deena Thomas- When I was a child, we always celebrated Christmas on Christmas Eve. But there was a lot of work to be done before that evening, as my mother, even to this day, makes the holiday magical by lovingly creating handmade decorations. I remember in mid-1970 her using her jigsaw and cutting out and hand painting life-size children dreaming of sugar plums to be displayed in our front yard under the spotlights. We were destined to be named favorite Christmas Yard Decorations in Bastrop. In anticipation of Santa coming to our house, my sister, brother, and I along with my parents would ride around looking at the beautiful Christmas displays at Bastrop homes while trying to sight Santa and his slay. Both sets of grandparents would meet us at our house, and we kids, with great anticipation, would dash to the Christmas tree loaded with hand-painted wooden decorations that we got to help my mom make, too.
As I and my siblings have become parents, my mom and dad have kept the Christmas Eve tradition of family gathering alive. When our kids were young, we would gather at Mom’s and Dad’s for a beautifully decorated buffet table with special foods my mom had prepared over the weeks leading up to that night. After loading our plates with extra-special delights like boiled shrimp, pickled mushrooms, tamales from the youth group, forget-me-not cookies and sand tarts we gathered around the Christmas tree, flanked by the hand-painted ceramic Nativity we painted years ago with my mom. Even before opening gifts, each family shared something special for that joyous evening as we anticipated our Savior’s birth. One year my, sixth-grade daughter who had just begun band played a crude rendition of “Joy to the World” on her trumpet. Another year, my little girls shared a choreographed dance decked out with a large foil covered bell cutout decorated with tinsel as their costume. And still hanging on my Christmas tree today a 1997 shell ornament with Bible scripture my brother made each one of us in the family to commemorate our family beach trip that summer. The evenings would end with us going to late-night Christmas Eve services at church.
Sadly, my parents’ retirement home at Higgins Hill was destroyed by the Bastrop Complex Fire in 2011. When they returned to sift through the ashes, very little was left. But, as a sign of hope that our Savior Jesus Christ provides, in the ashes Mom found Mother Mary and a sheep. You can be assured, these two pieces are displayed prominently today at her house.
Since the fire, my parents rebuilt their home on the same site. and my sister and I have built our homes at Higgins Hill. Now our Christmas Eve tradition is to have a progressive hayride amongst our homes where we each serve a course of the meal and share stories and gifts around each of our Christmas trees with all five generations who gather. My dad pulls the trailer with his tractor as we all load up to jingle bells and singing carols from one home to another.
Our traditions have changed as our family chapters have evolved. But the wonderful thing is when my parents evacuated during the 2011 fires, they took all the photo albums with them. Each year of Christmas traditions is documented with photos in two very special notebooks. The family members who have been born and who have passed are all represented there. And for today’s five generations who will gather, what we know to always be the truth is that Christmas is a time to worship the birth of our Lord and Savior who gives us strength and peace from one day to the next.