In keeping with the holiday theme, we have Karen Frisch, author of What's in a Name, Lady Delphinia's Deception, and Murder Most Civil.
PASSING THE HOLIDAY TORCH
No matter how much snow fell outside, inside our Christmas holidays were always about sharing and being grateful. When I was young every Christmas Day afternoon would be spent at my grandfather’s house, where my unmarried aunt presided over the kitchen. Holidays meant lots of people and lots of laughter. There were two Christmas trees, two dining tables, and lots of guests, some of whom we didn’t know. My aunt not only took in stray cats, she always invited friends and co-workers who were alone at the holidays. Conversations we had started with relatives at Thanksgiving often continued at Christmas. The numbers gathered added to the merriment.
There were presents for everyone under the large tree in the sunroom. As children, we had the honor of distributing them and watching as they were opened, waiting impatiently for our turn. After a second round of dessert, we would adjourn to the parlor where a tabletop tree was surrounded by smaller presents quickly encircled by children, with a wider ring of relatives on the periphery. The feeling it imparted was one of generosity, thoughtfulness, and love.
Beforehand, at home with our parents, Christmas meant putting candles in the windows, decorating the tree together, and cooking for my parents’ annual Christmas Eve party. I can still hear my dad singing along to Tennessee Ernie Ford’s Christmas carols with his strong, compelling voice. The activities held more significance over time. Memories of these rituals sustained us when those relatives were no longer with us.
Our large gatherings have dwindled down to a few, and all the faces have changed but mine. My children and I set the table the same way, with some of the same dishes. I still set out bread for my grandfather, an assortment of nuts for my great-aunt, and a loaf of cranberry bread for my mother. Though they are no longer present at the table, they are there in spirit. Now we know they were the gifts. They go, but they leave indelible memories.
Holidays and especially dinners represent the passing of the torch to others, a relay of traditions from one generation to the next. New generations means new topics of conversation. There is change, but there is also continuity in the children.
Which reminds me, it’s time to buy more cranberries…