Fredericksburg Features

Columns and stories of life from the Fredericksburg area.

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Holidays hatch fun family habits


Not everyone hangs stockings by the chimney with care or burns a yule log over the holidays. Some of our readers have more unique traditions. And since this is the season of giving, they’ve agreed to share them with us.

—Edie Gross

I have never heard of the tradition that my husband’s family has. They don’t know where it started. It was carried on from their parents’ family.

The first one to call out “Christmas gift” on Christmas morning gets a gift from the person he yells it to. So, when they were all children at home, it was a yelling contest with ensuing arguments on Christmas morning as to who said it first. Now that they are all adults, it is a race to see who can call the other and yell it out first on Christmas morning, no matter how early.

All of our children do this also. Since we are a large family of 70-some people, the phones are constantly ringing on Christmas morning. I suppose it is now a texting battle with the younger generation.

—Betty Meadows, Spotsylvania

I come from a large family (I have nine brothers and four sisters). You can only imagine the size of our Christmas gathering.

With everyone mingling about one year, it dawned on me to put them to work for a charity. That thought was the start of an annual Christmas “wreath for charity” tradition. Every Christmas, a theme would be chosen for the wreath. Themes ranged from “all that glitters is gold” to “angels,” “bears,” etc. Every family member was asked to bring an ornament to decorate a wreath on Christmas Day. A table was erected with ribbons, glue gun, holiday floral picks and more. My sister-in-law Laurie was our official bow maker. Her talent was extraordinary.

Each person would glue or wire an ornament to the wreath when he or she arrived. As the day went on, the wreath evolved into a wonderful finished product, suitable for the raffle. During the wreath-making, the children would walk about the house selling homemade raffle tickets to family members. When the wreath was completed, a winner was drawn from the basket of tickets and the proceeds were donated to charity.

Each year we would pick a family member to choose the charity that was near and dear to their hearts. Some chosen have been Toys for Tots, SPCA, World War II Veterans Fund and more.

As with many traditions, time and loss within our family have given way to this tradition slowly becoming a fond memory of days past. I hope by sharing this story, other young (and old) families would consider doing the same for local charities within our Fredericksburg community.

—Cindy Winning, Fredericksburg

What started out as a way to impress my girlfriend on vacation turned into a family tradition more than 35 years ago. In Daytona Beach in 1975, I let my girlfriend try my Danish lobster tails, and she loved them. So on Christmas Eve that year, I surprised her with a lobster dinner, and that’s how it started.

After that, some years my mom and dad came or my brother and his wife came. Then came kids. Luckily, they did not like lobster, but they are big crab and shrimp fans. So lobster dinner turned into a seafood feast with lobster, crab legs and shrimp plus side dishes.

Then the kids asked friends, then neighbors, boyfriends and then son-in-law. So on Christmas Eve, our home can have 10 to 30 people over, and this year it will get bigger with our first grandchild, Riley Jackson.

—Phill and Sue Marcey, Stafford

Back in the late 1980s, when our daughters were 7 and 12, we started a tradition of watching the movie “Scrooge” (aka “A Christmas Carol”). Of all the film versions of this story, our favorite is the 1951 version starring Alastair Sim and, among others, a ridiculously young Patrick Macnee (John Steed in the 1960s TV series “The Avengers”).

Every year since then, we have watched it at least twice during the season. Our daughters have married and moved away, but we still follow the tradition, and they join us when they visit. In recent years, we have taken to watching it on one of the hottest nights of summer, as a sort of psychological air conditioning.

“A Christmas Carol” is a marvelous story of redemption, though the name Scrooge is still used to imply a bitter, miserly person. Hardly a day goes by, no matter what the season, that we do not find occasion to use a quote from the film! A deadline extended, or a nasty situation avoided? “Reprieved! Curfew shall not ring tonight!” Someone has put a great deal of time and effort into their project, whatever it may be? “They put their hearts into [Christmas] as it were, sir.” The weather is rotten but we have to perform some task anyway? “I am not in the habit of [conducting business] in the teeth of inclement weather.”

And that all time favorite, “Humbug, I say!” I used that one myself, when our local shopping center put up wreaths and started playing Christmas music before Halloween.

—Marian McCabe, Spotsylvania

The tradition that carried over to my family was to have our stockings put on the end of our beds. Mom and Dad stuffed them with all types of goodies to keep us busy so they could catch a few more winks of sleep on Christmas morning.

If we woke and saw that our stockings were not on our beds, we knew Santa had not arrived and to go back to sleep (that also meant Mom and Dad were still putting toys together downstairs for my three sisters and me). To this day, my husband and I still put our children’s stockings on their beds. By the way, our son, Taylor, is 28 and our daughter, Anne, is 24.

—Mimi Gehring, Stafford

I use the menorah for eight days straight, placing one more candle in an opening each day. When it comes to the eighth day, I place all eight candles on, and this causes wax buildup between the candle stands and on the menorah itself.

So what I do every night, before inserting a new candle for the next day, is I place the metal menorah gently in the freezer so the cold can stiffen the wax. I find it easy the next day to use an unsharpened utensil to scrape off the unwanted leftovers of candle wax. This is one of my holiday to-do list things.

Plus, I love to bake so I start with my cookbook and read directions on making bread. Once the dough has risen, I add all the ingredients and spices to it, and then bake and share with my close friends. This makes my holiday fun and everlasting!

—Anna Victoria Reich, Stafford