Tuesday, December 22, 2009

TOP STORY >> How Christmas brings joy to all

Leader staff writer

Elke Hunt, manager of the Family Dollar Store in Beebe, will spend Christmas with her daughter’s family. Being away from her home on Christmas Day is about the only tradition remaining from her childhood in Darmstadt, Germany.

Christmas Eve was the big day when she was a child, Hunt said. The tree was put up and decorated that night. That is also when small gifts were wrapped and exchanged. The two days following Christmas Eve were for visiting in other homes.
As for Santa Claus, or St. Nick as she knew him, he came on Dec. 6. All the children would clean their shoes and set them outside, Hunt said. If they were clean enough, St. Nick left candy in them. If they weren’t, he left a lump of coal.

She brought the traditions to America 40 years ago. But she said since her youngest grandson is almost grown, they have all but been forgotten.

“The German tradition, when you have no more little kids, it goes away,” she said.

The gifts that will be under our Christmas tree early Friday morning are stashed on closet shelves in the boxes and bags they were in when UPS delivered them. I could have wrapped them as they arrived, but I didn’t. I’m saving them until Christmas Eve night.

Staying up late Christmas Eve is a tradition my husband and I started when our three sons were small.

We made a lot of toys back then – painted blocks, wooden wagons, Indian headdresses, sock monkeys… And inevitably, the finishing touches weren’t completed until we were almost out of time.

Later on, we discovered that tricycles and bicycles are easier to conceal in the boxes they come in so we would stay up late putting them together. It was our time. Sitting on the floor with cups of coffee and scissors lost among piles of wrapping paper and ribbon became a sort of celebration signifying that the big rush was over.

Now, even though our grandkids are close to outgrowing toys and most of the presents we will wrap were ordered online, we will still be up late Thursday night.

Some traditions are worth keeping.

Mitch Spencer, the senior vice-commander of the VFW in Beebe, was selling handmade poppies outside Knight’s in Beebe Monday. It’s one of his Christmas traditions and he says an important one because all the proceeds go to needy or disabled veterans and their families.

But Spencer also has an unusual dish on his Christmas menu that he says got its start with his 92-year-old mother in West Virginia. He makes oysters just the way she still does, rolled in flour, sprinkled with salt and pepper and fried.

“They are really good,” he said, adding, “They don’t taste a bit like chicken.”

Allison Osterberg, the paralegal who spends her work days in the city attorney’s office in Cabot, said her family has a tradition that started 17 years ago with her son’s first Christmas.

Many parents buy ornaments for “baby’s first Christmas” but the Osterbergs buy surprise ornaments every year that represent some activity their two children have been involved in during the past year or some accomplishment.

The year Holly, 14, danced with her dad during a ballet recital, her ornament was a ballerina dressed much the way she was dressed. The year Wade, 18, played the beast in a school production of “Beauty and the Beast,” his ornament was the beast.

The year the family went to Sea World, a whale was the family ornament.

“The ornaments on our tree represent our lives,” she said.