Courtesy Maria Dryfhout/iStock/Thinkstock
As you finish up your Christmas cards and put your last batch of cookies into the oven, join the Hobby Farms editors for some story-telling, as we share our favorite holiday traditions.
For as long as I can remember, it’s been a tradition in our family to gather around the tree, turning out all the lights except those twinkling on the tree, and revel in the beauty and peace that the season brings. Huddled together on the couch, my family often listened as I played Christmas music on the piano—not always the easiest endeavor as I pecked and re-pecked at the keys. (I’m no Mozart, and my child self definitely should have practiced more before putting on this mini-concert each year!) They waited patiently for me to finish before we all piled on the couch to stare at the tree we spent hours unpacking, assembling and decorating together.
As we near the end of our farmhouse renovations, I plan to reinstate this family tradition—minus the piano, at least for this year as it’s still in my parents’ basement. Hectic schedules, last-minute shopping and all that comes with the busyness of the holiday season seem to be momentarily put on pause. The wonder of the twinkling lights and the warmth of my family members snuggled up on the couch pull at my heartstrings and remind me of the true meaning of Christmas in our household: a family’s invaluable and immeasurable love. —Stephanie Staton, Editor
Better Watch Out—Santa’s Coming
For as long as I can remember, my family has had a special relationship with dear St. Nick. Despite what must be a very busy day for the jolly old elf, Santa always manages to swing his sleigh by central Ohio to spend some quality time with our clan. Each year, as the adults cleaned up Christmas lunch, we children eagerly lingered around the living room awaiting his arrival.
Sure enough, just as the final dishes were put away, we would hear a thump and a jingle come from the upstairs of Grandma’s house. He was here! Santa would descend the stairs in his red suit and white beard, carrying a sack of gifts for young and old alike.
Despite all the grandchildren having grown up, this tradition of visiting with Mr. Claus continues on, though his visage has changed somewhat over the years. For awhile, he looked suspiciously like our Papa, who always seemed to disappear for a "nap” during Santa’s arrival. Then the baton was passed to Grumpy Santa (my dad), who dispensed gifts with curmudgeonly charm. That didn’t last long before Uncle Jeff proudly stepped into the role of Kris Kringle. Little did we know what we were in for from that point on.
One year, Santa’s "naughty” list—a ribbon of receipt tape several yards long—was the highlight of our holiday entertainment. We watched (and his teenage daughters cringed in embarrassment) as Santa checked and double-checked the list to ensure none of our names appeared on it. Two years ago, at the height of the Occupy movement, Santa and his trusty elf (his poor pooch dressed in costume) descended the steps with picket signs reading "We are the 99%!” and "Be elfish not selfish!” Rumor has it, our uncle is gearing up for this year’s Santa show. Now, instead of anticipating what’s in his bag, we wonder what persona Santa will gift us with this year. —Rachael Brugger, Sr. Associate Web Editor
Tour of Lights
One of my favorite holiday traditions growing up was taking special car trips with my sister and parents to look at Christmas lights. We usually went on Christmas Eve, after dinner and opening gifts at my grandmother’s house. We’d take the long way home to see the season’s fanciful attractions, such as a Santa Claus with reindeer suspended in the air over a neighborhood pond, a life-sized animatronic Santa waving from a home’s two-story balcony, and the ever-popular plastic candles and nativity scenes along the way. Sometimes we’d even stray from our route home to the "fancy” neighborhood where almost every lawn was outlined with the glow of white lights under clear, plastic milk jugs that had been cut in half. I always wanted to try that "fancy” idea in our front yard.
Maybe driving through the dark night looking at twinkly lights was just a way for my parents to wind us down after an evening of opening toys and eating candy before an early morning of doing more of the same. If they thought it would help us all get a few more hours of sleep, they were certainly wrong. Nonetheless, we did it every year and, no matter the motive, these excursions were purely entertaining and bring me joyful memories to this day.
Now that I’m married and live in another state, I still like to make special detours with my husband during the holiday season to the house in our neighborhood that syncs its Christmas lights with yuletide carols on a designated FM radio frequency or take guests on the "Southern Lights” driving tour through the nearby Kentucky Horse Park. There’s just something about slowing down to take in the glowing spectacle all around us that always makes me feel like a kid again on Christmas. —Amy W. Richardson, Associate Editor
My dad’s side of the family is large: He’s one of eight kids, and counting spouses, children and grandchildren, the Hershbergers now number in the mid-30s. Every Christmas Eve, all of us get together for a home-cooked meal, usually relegated to a garage due to space restrictions. Thankfully, most of my aunts and uncles have heated garages attached to their homes—a holiday miracle, really.
After we all eat too much, we sing a few carols a cappella, much to the chagrin of the younger kids, whose eyes never seem to leave their full-to-bursting stockings as they quietly mumble out the lyrics to "Joy to the World.” (My grandmother, who’s 91, still hand-knits a stocking for every grandkid and great-grandkid in the family, and every Hershberger under 13 gets that stocking packed full of presents every year.) After the adults are through "torturing” the young’uns, we let them open their gifts, and the wrapping paper and camera flashes soon start flying.
Eventually, the kids all run back into the house to enjoy their bounty, and we hold our annual gift exchange. The format changes from year to year, but it always involves us buying cheap, ridiculous gifts from a thrift store and doing our best to pawn them off onto other family members via some kind of game. Last year, we did a White Elephant exchange, and I went home with a pair of reindeer socks (complete with red pom-poms), a can of creamed corn, and a figurine of a little German boy in lederhosen. Let me tell you, the laughter from 30 people in an echo-y garage can get quite loud.
At some point in the evening, my aunts make their famous mocha punch, and we break up into groups to play various other games—euchre is a family favorite—before everyone heads home for the night. Every year, as I sit back with a cup of mocha, my annual holiday food coma nigh and my euchre hand worse than I want it to be, I realize anew that I wouldn’t trade these people for anything—hideous reindeer socks and all. —Cory Hershberger, Assistant Editor
Here are some holiday traditions you, our readers, shared with us:
- The weekend following Thanksgiving (weather permitting), I take a walk in the woods and cut fir and cedar boughs, mosses, rose hips—whatever strikes my fancy—and make beautiful wreaths. —Paula Lysinger
- My favorite tradition is driving around seeing the holiday lights! There's something so magical about them twinkling in the cold December air. —Linda Taggart
- When we were kids we always got PJs and a family board game to open on Christmas Eve. We'd put on the new PJs and play the game. —Carrie Ann Seal
It’s not too late to join in on the tradition chatter. Share your favorite tradition on the Hobby Farms Facebook page.