Wednesday, December 09, 2009

GUEST – Deborah Grace Staley

Christmas Traditions

There’s just something about December, isn’t there? Chilly weather, comfy sweaters, scarves and gloves, cheery fires in the fireplace, savory soups bubbling on the stove, Christmas decorations, festive lights on houses and wreaths on doors, family, and always, good books. December is my favorite month of the year. It’s a month-long celebration for me with my birthday (which is today!) at the beginning of the month and Christmas and New Year’s Eve at the end.

When I was growing up in Upper East Tennessee, we always put the tree up on my birthday. Mom would get me a birthday cake decorated with Christmasy things like Santas, wreaths, Christmas trees, and Christmas candles on toothpicks. We put them on the tree after we had enjoyed the cake. I still have some of them on my tree. When I unpack them each year, they never fail to bring a smile to my face and warm memories to mind.

Other Christmas traditions at the Grace household included getting very dressed up for church service the Sunday before Christmas. We made dozens of cut-out and decorated Christmas cookies, some of which would be left with a cold glass of milk for Santa. We would make a least one trip around town to look at the Christmas lights. We each got to choose one gift to open on Christmas Eve. You didn’t get up on after going to bed on Christmas Eve on threat of your life no matter how badly you might need to go to the bathroom. I was always the first one up on Christmas morning, and very early I might add! I would go check the tree to confirm that Santa had come, and then I would run screaming through the house, Santa was here! Santa was here!

Christmas Day, we’d have a big family dinner, and then we would play board games most of the day while Daddy watched football on TV.

Now that I’m older, the Christmas traditions vary a little from year to year. I put the tree up as soon as I can, and I’m ashamed to admit that with a Christmas book that I’ve been promoting every weekend since the beginning of November, a full-time job and masters classes, I don’t have my tree up yet! But soon I’ll have it up. I buy at least two Hallmark ornaments every year: one for the family and one for my son—something that is reflective of an event in his life the previous year. I’ve done this since he was born so that he’ll have a set of ornaments when he has his own tree.

I try to make cut-out cookies with my sister every year. She usually comes to spend the weekend so we can make them. If I can twist her arm, she also makes us Chex Mix. After all the goodies are made and stored, we go to the convenience store to get hot chocolate and Krispy Cream Doughnuts for a ride around town to look at Christmas lights.

The week of Christmas involves family gatherings with my in-laws and my parents. But Christmas Day is sacred at my home. It’s our day to be together at our home. My husband, son, and I get up and open presents. I’m still the first up, and I usually have to coax everyone out of bed. I still can’t wait! I usually make cinnamon rolls for breakfast. For lunch, we have a spiral sliced ham, biscuits, and side dishes to snack on all afternoon. In the evening, we go to the movies.

Oh, and I always read at least one holiday romance before Christmas. So, I guess its no surprise that I was inspired to write a Christmas tale of my own. A Home for Christmas was inspired by a home near mine. At Christmas, the two-story white Victorian complete with wraparound porch puts icicle lights in every eve. It looks like a Christmas card! So, I took the liberty of writing a novel where the hero is renovating that house. In the first chapter, he’s hanging out the Christmas lights.

So what are your Christmas traditions? Share them today and maybe we can get Dixie Ferguson, Miss Estelee, and others from Angel Ridge to join us and share theirs!

All the best,

Deborah Grace Staley

FROM DEBRA DIXON- One lucky commenter chosen by Deborah Staley will receive a copy of A HOME FOR CHRISTMAS from BelleBooks.


Linda Henderson said...

For Christmas we usually gather at my sister's to open presents and have a big meal. I don't know that we will get to do that this year because she just had a total knee replacement last week. So she might not be up to company. Usually my youngest daughter picks me up around 6 AM and I go to her house to watch my grandkids tear into their packages. Then I go to my other daughters house and we open presents there. Then we usually end up at my sisters.
It's usually a pretty full day.

Gail said...

On Christmas Eve we go to my sister's house which use to be my mother's house. We have a huge Christmas dinner and open gifts, this is what I look forward to the most! On Christmas day we go to my MIL's house for dinner. We have done this every year for the past 25 years.

RKCharron said...

Hi :)
Thank you for taking the time for this excellent guest post Deborah.
My Christmas traditions are: We watch It's A Wonderful Life. We're allowed to open one present Christmas eve. And for me, personally, I watch my "Christmas" movies: Die Hard I & II, Lethal Weapon I & II, Home Alone I & II (All set at Christmas time).
Thank you for sharing,
Happy Holidays,

RachieG said...

Fun post today...and I <3 Holiday traditions!!

My mom's birthday is Christmas Eve, so we usually have all of our celebrating on that day instead of Christams. We open presents, have a big meal, everyone comes to my house (ha!) and we have birthday cake. I honestly don't know if I could do a Christmas without cake now. Then on Christmas day, I stay around home with just my Mom and we watch movies in our pajamas and sometimes the little ones play with their toys.

It's a grand thing and I hope to continue the traditions for years to come.

OH! ANd you should try having cake on Christmas, it's wonderful. :)

rachie2004 @ yahoo (d0t) com

Lyoness2009 said...

My daughter and nephews come up to open presents at my house. I try to cook a meal and we spend the day together. We almost always watch "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" as well.

lyoness2009 AT hot mail **dot** COM

Silvia said...

My family bakes gingerbread cookies. This tradition started when I was a child. My grandmother came to visit us and she’d help me make pretty people. I would made a mess but she straighten things out and we had lovely cookies in the end. Now I always bake them with my daughters (and who knows maybe granddaughters in the future). Another tradition I “inherited” from my grandmother was to wait with decorating the tree till Dec. 24. We would all assist and dress the tree with ornaments many of which were homemade. I now have collected other ornaments but we still wait with decorating. I believe it makes for even more excitement about the family finally coming together and adding Christmas to our home. On Christmas itself we watch our favorite movies have a nice meal and then go for a walk. Seeing so many houses decorated with lights and families together inside celebrating is a wonderful experience.

Caroline said...

Good morning, Deborah, Happy Birthday!!! Your home seemed like a wonderful place to be growing up!! You sound a lot like me as a child, running through the house shouting about Santa's arrival! LOL

We usually play a round of two of the Christmas can. It's a game of sorts I got many years ago. It's a can filled with little cards with questions about what your feel about things or asks you to do something. Sometimes it will tell you to act out a scene from a Christmas song for the others to guess, or read a certain scripture. My boys always groan when I bring it out, but we all end up laughing and talking---and passing it one more round!!!

Merry Christmas!


PS-Your book cover is delightful!!!

Helen Brenna said...

Happy Birthday, Deborah! And welcome to the convertible!

We usually get a tree on Thanksgiving weekend. The only other tradition we still keep is just the 4 of us making eggrolls together. I know, strange, but it works!

What a beautiful cover!

Deborah Grace Staley said...

What wonderful Christmas traditions you all have! It's interesting to see the similarities as well as the more unique ones--I've never heard of passing the can!

Thank you also for the birthday wishes. I always feel a little sad for others with December birthdays, especially for those whose day falls closer to Christmas. The combo gifts are sooooo not fair! :)

And as for the cover of A Home for Christmas, Belle Books has a fabulous "art department!" Seriously, DD does an amazing job. I think she may have missed her calling. It must be such a burden to be so amazingly fabulous at so many things!

I just know that I am blessed to be a part of the Belle family!

Keep the traditions coming, and tell us, if you could change one thing about Christmas, what would it be?


lois greiman said...

welcome Deb, and thanks for taking the time to join us on your birthday.

as the kids get older, i find things have to change (this year my oldest son is going to Egypt and my daughter to india on xmas) but we try to keep things as traditional as possible. the too big meal, the sledding. but mostly it's just spending time with the people we can't live without

Debra Dixon said...

Deborah-- LOL! Yes. Such a burden to be sooo fabulous. Don't I wish!

traveler said...

Thanks for this lovely post today. It warmed my heart. My birthday is next Mon. We have a special feast at my house every year which is a delight to host. Great food, loving family and friends and warmth.

Virginia C said...

I was very, very lucky to have wonderful holdiays with my family. My mother and I lived with her parents, and the four of us were a "family unit". Mama could sing and play piano. She said she "played by ear". I always teased her about adding extra notes to the music! My grandmother was the greatest cook ever, and we had so many good things to eat! My grandfather was a "Christmas Tree Specialist". He and I always picked out the tree, and he very precisely added the lights. Then we added the ornaments (and I mean all the ornaments). The silver icicles had to placed on the tree one by one. More than once, I got scolded for throwing little handfuls of icicles at random. Hey...I was a kid! I have to admit, they were beautiful trees. Paw Paw knew what he was doing! He also taught me that if you have more than you need, you have enough to share. He worked with a man who had a large family, so I passed some of my clothes and toys along to them each year. My Granny filled the house with edible delights. Fruitcake, fudge, cookies, country ham, homemade rolls, pies, turkey & dressing, mashed potatoes & gravy, veggies & could we even move! We also had a "gumdrop tree". Our stockings were filled with tangerines, peppermints, nuts and chocolates. The scent of Christmas is truly a magical fragrance! I love Christmas, and I carry the spirit of Christmas in my heart all year long.

gcwhiskas at aol dot com

Kathleen Eagle said...

Welcome, Deborah! What a gorgeous cover!

My parents both grew up in the little Tidewater town of Colonial Beach, Virginia. One of my most treasured memories is the Christmas my cousin, Kate, took us out in the woods to gather stuff that doesn't grow in Massachusetts (where we lived at the time--I was about 12) like holly and mistletoe--I think we found mistletoe. We also gathered magnolia leaves from Gamma's yard, and then we made decorations. To this day (I still live where that stuff doesn't grow) I buy magnolia leaves at Bachman's and use them in my decorating.

Deborah Grace Staley said...

Ahhh... you are triggering more memories for me. We always did silver icicles, too, and bunching was a big no-no. And two lucky people would break the wishbone under the the table--no cheating. Then we would hang it over the door frame. The superstition was that if you were single, the next single person to walk through the door would be the person you would marry.

Daddy would get us some mistletoe when he'd go hunting, and we'd hang it up as well. Oh, and egg nog! I adore egg nog, but no one in my family likes it except for my best friend.

Mom would make fudge from the Kraft marshmellow creme recipe. I make it now, and it's not Christmas at my house without it!

Keep the traditions coming!


Virginia said...

We usually put up the tree and outside decoration on Thanksgiving weekend! I also try to make a lot of homemade candies at Christmas. Pecan rolls, fudge and things like that.

Debra Dixon said...

Virginia C--

"The silver icicles had to placed on the tree one by one."

Oh, absolutely! We had to give them up because of cats when I got married. The cats would eat them!

And I remember the lovely HEAVY ones and not the plastic(?) ones they make now.

Deborah Grace Staley said...

My most memorable Christmas gift was a beautiful amethyst ring in a one-of-a-kind setting that I admired at a craft fair in New Orleans. I told my husband about it, but he declared it was too expensive. We were newly married and didn't have much money. I teased him on the way to the airport (we were there on a business trip) about sneaking off to get it. He told me so emphaticially, again, that he did not, that I forgot all about it.

For Christmas, he asked me what I wanted. I was thinking I really wanted that ring from New Orleans, but said instead, it would be nice to have a leather coat.

So, under my tree, on Christmas morning, there was a large box which I was sure contained my leather jacket. I opened it up, trying not to show my lack of enthusiasm. Inside, I found my old, ratty, and somewhat nasty silver ski jacket (remember when those were in vogue?)

Shocked, I exclaimed, "What is this?"

He said, "I don't know... Let's see."

He moved the jacket, and there, taped to the bottom was a ring box containing the amethyst ring from New Orleans.

So, what was your favorite or most memorable Christmas gift, and how did you receive it?


Deborah Grace Staley said...

FYI--the lovely print you see here is called "Christmas Eve in Kingsport," by Pat Fuller. Kingsport, Tennessee is my home town, and what you see here is Church Circle--it's a roundabout in the road and there are churches all around the roundabout. At Christmas, they put up a Nativity scene that progresses across the properties of the churches.


Cindy Gerard said...

Welcome, Deborah and Happy Birthday. Lovely post, lovely cover.
We're all about tradition too - one strange one is we always have oyster stew and egg salad sandwiches on Christmas Eve. I know. Almost as odd as Helen's eggs rolls but it what we DO :o)

LSUReader said...

Your Christmas traditions sound great. (So does your book.) We, too, enjoy baking and decorating cut-out cookies and putting some of those cookies and milk out for Santa on Christmas Eve. Happy Birthday and Merry Christmas.

robynl said...

since our parents have passed away we have Christmas either at my sister in the city or my brother on the home farm. It isn't necessarily on the 24th/25th either because the family has grown so much and many want to be at their own home for Christmas morning with the kids.

I wish Christmas focused more on the birth of Christ and not so much commercial things.

Christie Ridgway said...

Deborah: Thanks for joining us and I love the story about the ring. What a great guy.

Re: presents. I've confessed this before, but for years as the only woman in a houseful of guys, I've been known to Christmas shop and come home with things for myself that I wrap and put under the tree to "even" out the number of presents. I just make vague references to who game the the new slippers, or whatever.

Anonymous said...

what a wonderful post...

please include me in your fabulous book giveaway...thanks


catslady said...

I started a tradition of having a tree trimming party - it began because we had an uncle with no real family and now has grown to my grown children and spouces and other friends and family. Everyone helps with the tree and we enjoye food, drink and laughter and end with a nice dinner. My newly married daughter is also carrying on the tradition so now we have two parties and that way those who can't make one can make the other!

I also read the Littlest Angel to my two daughters (now 25 and 22) and they come with a box of kleenex because I can never get through the book without sobbing.
And we have to watch National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.

Pamela Keener said...

Happy Birthday Deborah! I loved your blog! On Christmas eve we go to my boyfriends brother & sil house for a Christmas eve party. We stay overnight and welcome in Christmas Day early by watching my BF nephew open presents, he is now 5 years old and such a delight. Then we are off to a dinner at another brothers home.
Love & Hugs,

kimmyl said...

On Christmas Eve we open gifts at home and on Christmas Day me and my brothers, sisters and their family go to my parents and have Christmas breakfast and open gifts ino ut pajamas. I love it.

Deborah Grace Staley said...

I loved reading your comments so much! Almost as much as I loved guest blogging with you:) The Riding with the Top Down Ladies will have to have me back more often! This is so much fun.

Christie, I love, love, love the idea of buying things for yourself and wrapping them to open. I too live in a house full of men. Even the dog is a boy! I'm going to have to try that one:) I also wish Christmas was less commercial, but I have to admit, I love getting and opening gifts!

I wish all of you a blessed, happy, and safe holiday season.

Keep in touch!

All the best,

Deborah Grace Staley