Sunday, December 15, 2013

Deck the Halls - 2013 The Carter-Taylor-Allen Christmas Traditions


  1. Do you have any special Xmas traditions in your family?  When I was growing up, we always had a Christmas Eve party at my Grammie Carter's house. I was the oldest grandchild and I got to direct the passing out of presents until I became an adult and my younger cousins took over. There was a buffet dinner and always homemade eggnog. On Christmas Day, after opening presents with my sister and parents, we would go for Christmas dinner at my Aunt Patty's house. When my children were growing up, we went for many years to my Grammie's for Christmas Eve and then my Uncle David started hosting the Carter family party. It eventually moved from Christmas Eve to another weekend date as the "grandkids" (my generation) grew up and had families of their own and it became harder to get everyone together on Christmas Eve. We started a Yankee swap that was lots of fun. My sons would beg for gifts before Christmas so we decided to start a 12 Days of Christmas tradition. Each day the kids got a small present. Often it was socks or underwear or gloves and sometimes a book or candy. It really kept the tension down as we headed into Christmas and were things we would have bought for them anyway. More recently it has become even harder to get the extended family together as people have moved away from Bethel. I have been hosting a Christmas Eve party and hope that as my sons have families of their own that we will evolve into the kind of party that my Grammie always had. 
  2. Is church attendance an important part of your Christmas celebrations and do you go the evening before or on Xmas Day?  Not as a child growing up or when my kids were growing up. However since I've remarried, we have gone to several Christmas Eve candlelight services. Bill and his daughter, Rachel, like to go to a midnight mass to see all the pageantry and be immersed in the Christmas spirit. I think that's too late to stay up considering how busy Christmas is already. 
  3. Did/do you or your children/grandchildren believe in Santa?  I believed in Santa until I recognized my Uncle Timmy when he played Santa at my school. After that it was a gradual realization that my parents bought the presents. My children believed in Santa and one memory is when my son, Josh, figured out that Santa wasn't real. He was very upset. We had a discussion and decided that what was important was believing in the spirit of Santa and what he represented. We both decided that as long as we believed in the spirit of Santa, he would always be real. I have one grandson, Sam, but he was born in October and I don't think he will understand much about Christmas or Santa this year. 
  4. Do you go caroling in your neighbourhood?  No and we don't have carolers come around either. I've had carolers once. That was when some of my students who were part of the Windham Chamber Singers came to my door. It was beautiful and I loved it! 
  5. What’s your favourite Christmas music?  I love the traditional hymns because when I was growing up, my town put on a living nativity every year and the chorus for that sang them so beautifully. My sister, Lorna and I had a favorite Christmas record by the Caroleers with children's Christmas songs. My sons really liked the "Very Special Christmas" cds featuring rock and pop icons singing both traditional and more modern Christmas songs. Two years ago my husband, Bill, found a copy of the Caroleers music from my childhood and I love it. Mostly I've been listening to the Pandora station I created that is a mix of traditional hymns both instrumental and choral, rock & pop singers, and cute kid's Christmas songs. 
  6. What’s your favourite Christmas carol?  When I was growing up, it was Away in a Manger. When my kids were growing up it was Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth by David Bowie & Bing Crosby. Now my favorite is Gabriel's Message by Sting.
  7. Do you have a special Xmas movie/book you like to watch/read? When I was growing up, Rudolph was my favorite because I loved the abominable snowman and Herbie, the misfit elf who wanted to be a dentist. Then A Christmas Carol with George C. Scott. As an adult I really like The Grinch - the original cartoon version because I really love the humor and the songs. 
  8. Does your family do individual gifts, gifts for littles only, Secret Santa (aka Kris Kringle)?  When I was growing up, it was individual gifts for everyone. When my sons were growing up, we did individual gifts for immediate family, my sister's family, and a gift swap for extended family. We have continued to do the individual gifts for closest family and a gift swap for extended family. 
  9. Is your main Christmas meal indoors or outdoors, at home or away?  Christmas dinner is always indoors in Maine! When I was growing up, we went to my Aunt Patty's house. When I had kids of my own, we gradually shifted to Christmas dinner at our house and inviting others to join us. When I remarried, we shifted to doing a big Christmas brunch and going to visit the Allen family on Christmas afternoon. Everyone brings a dish to share and it's lots of appetizers and desserts buffet-style. Nice and relaxed! 
  10. What do you eat as your main course for the Christmas meal?  Turkey dinner with all the fixings at Aunt Patty's. I used to make a spiral cut ham with brown sugar glaze. Now it's usually macaroni and cheese (my sister-in-law make a great one). 
  11. Do you have a special recipe you use for Xmas?  My mother always made cranberry nut bread. I made a lot of cookies (gingersnaps, snickerdoodles, gingerbread men, chocolate crinkles) and candies (different types of fudge, peanut brittle) when my sons were growing up. In recent years, I mix it up with some cookies and candies. I really like Needhams - a unique Maine candy with a coconut center and dark chocolate coating. 
  12. Does Christmas pudding feature on the Xmas menu? Is it your recipe or one you inherited? At my Grammie Carter's house, my great-aunt Becky always made a Christmas pudding. Sometimes it was plum or fig and other times it was "Indian pudding" - made with cornmeal and molasses. Either way, it was always an event on Christmas Eve when we all crowded into my Grammie's darkened dining room and she poured brandy over it and lit it on fire! Very impressive to a young child! I never made a Christmas pudding. A couple of years ago, my step-daughter, Katelyn made a traditional Christmas pudding during her semester in Ireland. It was delicious. 
  13. Do you have any other special Christmas foods? What are they?  None that I haven't already listed. 
  14. Do you give home-made food/craft for gifts at Christmas?  When I was growing up, my mother was a great knitter and often gave knitted gifts. After my grandmother died, I used to give my grandfather cookies because he loved cookies, especially my gingersnaps. I also knit and made my grandson a hat and mittens this year. Sometimes I give home-made gifts. 
  15. Do you return to your family for Xmas or vice versa?  Growing up, my family went to the homes of other family members. When my children were growing up, people came to us. In recent years, it's been a mix of people coming to us and going to visit at their homes. 
  16. Is your Christmas celebrated differently from your childhood ones? If yes, how does it differ? Yes, mostly because the family has grown and spread out. Most of my family was within a 30 minute drive when I was growing up. Now I have one son in Washington state and am almost 90 minutes away from my hometown. It's harder to get everyone together. 
  17. How do you celebrate Xmas with your friends? Lunch? Pre-Xmas outings? Drop-ins? We have a Christmas party with other WHS teachers. Otherwise, there isn't much celebrating with others before Christmas. My friends and I often do something during Christmas break - a movie or game night.  
  18. Do you decorate your house with lights? A little or a lot?  When I was growing up, we didn't do outside decorations. We didn't do much outside decorating other than a wreath on the door when my sons were little but did more as they grew a little older. Now we decorate with outdoor lights and wreaths - a moderate amount. 
  19. Is your neighbourhood a “Xmas lights” tour venue?  No.
  20. Does your family attend Carols by Candlelight singalongs/concerts? Where?  No
  21. Have any of your Christmases been spent camping (unlikely for our northern-hemisphere friends)?  No. I am one of the northern-hemisphere dwellers. 
  22. Is Christmas spent at your home, with family or at a holiday venue?  Home and with family
  23. Do you have snow for Christmas where you live?  Usually, I get really disappointed when we don't have a white Christmas. I hate a brown, rainy Christmas! 
  24. Do you have a Christmas tree every year?  Yes, always! 
  25. Is your Christmas tree a live tree (potted/harvested) or an imitation?  Real while growing up. Artificial while my sons were growing up (heated the house with a woodstove and the kids wanted the tree up for the whole month so it was hard to keep a live tree). Now we are back to real trees and I like them much better. 
  26. Do you have special Xmas tree decorations?  A few sentimental ornaments. This year my favorite ornament celebrates my new grandson, Sam. 
  27. Which is more important to your family, Christmas or Thanksgiving?  Christmas.

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