My brothers and sisters and I, Christmas circa 1959
As Christmas approaches I have been thinking about some of those uniquely ours traditions. On Christmas Eve we always had tuna noodle casserole. Now some might think "How mundane." But we all loved it. Particularly because my mother served it in chafing dish with a small candle lit underneath to keep the food warm. It seemed so elegant and to the best of my knowledge that chafing dish was only used on that one night a year.
Posing for a Christmas Card, circa 1965ishChristmas dinner was a very traditional English dinner including roast beef, Yorkshire pudding, roasted potatoes, the ubiquitous trifle and Christmas pudding to be lit afire and brought to the table flaming away. It rarely flamed and no one ever ate it but my mother, but we went through the ritual anyway. We also always had English Christmas crackers we would open, share the riddles, and then wear the goofy hats included in the cracker throughout our meal. Inevitably getting through this process meant the meal would be nearly cold but it never mattered.
My father's favorite cookie, the SnowballAnother tradition was cookies. Lots and lots of cookies. We would start baking Christmas cookies the weekend after Thanksgiving and they would go into the freezer to be pulled out by the plateful during the holiday season. My 80 year old mother is still baking lots and lots of cookies to share with her ever growing family. And the most special cookies of them all were the angel cutouts for each of us. Always decorated in a light blue frosting dresses, blonde hair, food color drawn faces, and our names written down the cookie. Of course there were many other holiday shaped cut out cookies but the angels always tasted the best. Then there were a large variety of other cookies, some tried and true favorites with few new recipes each year, some hits, some misses.
Another always present cookie at Christmas, Orange Slice BarsThe Christmas trees in our home had ever-changing decorations. Early on as seen in photos, my parents had the traditional green fir tree with lots of colored ornaments and copious amounts of tinsel hanging from the boughs. As we grew older they experimented with flocked trees decorated with different shaped gold ornaments or a green tree with red velvet ornaments and ornate red velvet birds. When we were young we would also have a tree in our basement "rumpus" room that was left to the whim of my sibs and myself to decorate. As my younger sister and I got older we often had our own little tree and decorated our bedroom as festively as we could.
Christmas decorations also always included a nativity scene set up on top of the big stereo which was usually playing Christmas carol records (any one remember Sing Along With Mitch?), a mistletoe ball hanging between the dining room and living room, the tree topper angel I made when I was a Campfire girl, and all the stockings hung on the mantle. There were lights hung on the outside of the house and wonderful smelling candles and fir boughs on the fireplace mantle top and Christmas china and the good silverware was brought out for our holiday feasting.
I think back on all of this with great fondness and appreciation for all the work it must have been for my parents. I recall no complaining from either of them as they made Christmas a magical time of year for all of us. For that I am forever grateful.