As we get closer to the holidays, I always think back on the way we celebrated them when I was a child.
Don’t we all do that?
We didn’t have much, and aside from a brightly decorated Christmas tree, my mother never believed in a lot of frivolous decorating. I am much like her in that regard. I’ve never been one to get into all of that, but my mother was just too busy for it, with every day life. All of our meals were homemade from scratch, she washed laundry in an old ringer washer and hung them on a line to dry. She cleaned house very meticulously and Lord only knows what went on behind the scenes, like the Bible study and fervent prayers she prayed for us, that we never even knew about! I never saw her with “nothing” to do.
Thanksgiving was always a big day and I remember waking up to the smell of the turkey baking in the oven. She started that fairly early, but since we didn’t eat until about 4 pm., she never started anything else too early. As with all of Mom’s meals, she served them straight off the stove, piping hot, and dared us to be late! 🙂 Of course, we had no desire to be late because Mom was, and still is, the best cook in the whole wide world!
Just like YOUR Mom, right?
The “fixin’s” included mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, peas, bread stuffing with turkey flavoring, cheesecake and lemon meringue pie. I know, lemon meringue pie is not your usual fare for Thanksgiving Dinner, but it was always Daddy’s favorite and Mom made sure that he had it.
We never ventured away from the house for either holiday. My older sisters and older brother would usually come, with their families, but usually not all at the same time. Mom never paid much attention to that; she cooked the same meal whether it was just the four of us or whether the whole clan showed up. She made sure there were extras and it was easily my favorite day of the year. For a kid that was used to beans and taters most of the time, Turkey Day was a huge event!
Christmas was much the same, only the focus was on the gifts and stockings instead of the food. There was a still a nice dinner, but that wasn’t the main focus. Mom usually put up the tree about a week before Christmas, decked out with old ornaments, new ornaments, garland and enough tinsel to make you think the tree was chrome instead of green! I always loved that part the best and to this day, silver is one of my all time favorite colors.
Christmas Eve night, my little sister and I sometimes got to open one present each. Nothing too big. We couldn’t wait to get into bed early that night, knowing we were just one day away! Of course, as with all children, sleep never comes easy on New Year’s Eve night. But it does and still, even with only a few hours sleep, we were up by five am at the latest and slinking our way into the living room to see what was left under the tree.
We always got a doll when we were little. A different one every year, but we knew that baby doll was going to be there. Sometimes she’d have accessories, extra clothes, a doll bed or something to go along with it. And then there was usually another item. One year, we got chairs. They were pink, made of hard plastic and swiveled like a salon chair and we were SO excited! But one of them had a burn mark, about the size of a child’s fist, on the side. We were pretty concerned, but mom told us that Santa had accidentally let it touch the side of the chimney on the way down, which was good enough for us.
Years later, we found out that my brother had been hiding them for mom and delivered them late the night before Christmas. He had hauled them in the back of his truck, where he had smokestacks added to his exhaust system, and that chair had leaned against the smokestack and been burned. 🙂
After we opened out gifts, we got our stockings, which had fruit and wrapped candies. We could be sure there was an apple, an orange and a banana in each of our stockings, but the hard candies were usually different. An assortment of mints and butterscotch discs were sure to be there, and sometimes those little strawberries candies with the gooey centers. We tried to stretch them as far as they would go but in reality, they never lasted long.
These days, I still carry on those traditions in just about the same way as my mother. Our choices for Thanksgiving foods differ a bit than hers did though. Since I am a lover of yams and sweet potatoes just about any way you can fix them, I always have those, along with green bean casserole, though I don’t use the traditional recipe. And I make our dressing using the same recipe my husband’s mother has used, and her mother before her, and so on and so on. It’s a cornbread dressing with extra sage and is cooked in the broth made by roasting the turkey.
Christmas is a lot like Mom and Dad’s as well, but my tree isn’t real and the decorations aren’t nearly as flashy as Mom’s always were. I don’t know how she managed to keep all the tinsel ON the tree, but if I use so much as one package of the stuff, I’m vacuuming it up for months to come! I don’t recall ever seeing any on Mom’s floor, or anywhere else in the house for that matter. But we try to make it as special as we can for our own children.
How about you? Do you hold to the traditions of your parents or have you made your own? Are you reminiscent as you cook Thanksgiving Dinner, and do you pass those traditions down to your own children?