Keeping and making new traditions… Christmas brings a time of old and new family traditions

Published 9:43 pm Sunday, December 22, 2019

One of the most anticipated holidays of the year, especially for children, will take place this Wednesday as another Christmas makes an appearance on December 25th.
While many at the writing of this piece may have already celebrated with family and friends by getting together for a delicious meal or perhaps finger foods and the exchanging of gifts, there are many that still stay with the traditions of their family from past Christmases or possibly have decided to start a new tradition with the arrival of a newborn or a new spouse.
Christmas brings a flood of memories from this writer’s memories of traditions my family kept over the years of my childhood even up until declining health or death forced the end of these cherished events.
One of those traditions as a small child was when my mother would take my sister and myself to see the Santa Train as it passed through on its way from Kentucky to Kingsport to kick off the Christmas season.
We would first go to Fort Blackmore, Virginia and pick up my father’s grandmother who absolutely loved to stand on the tracks with us as we awaited the sound of the horn from the approaching train that was bringing Santa Claus and an assortment of gifts and candy thrown off the back of the train as it passed by.
It was a time that my great grandmother would share stories of her Christmas past when if as a young girl she would awake to find a stick of peppermint candy or possibly a juicy apple or orange in their stocking, it made their Christmas.
She also told of those children who often did receive a lump of coal in their stockings for being not so good for that particular year leading up to Christmas.
As the train approached, I will never forget my great granny encouraging my sister and me to make sure we looked at Santa standing on the back of the train waving as he went by as his helpers tossed out the goodies.
I must honestly admit, I may have seen Santa a couple two or three times during those years, but my main concern was making sure to grab as much taffy, coloring books, note pads, and pencils that I could grab before they were swooped up by someone else.
We kept this tradition going up even to my own children had the opportunity to see the Santa Train but just as time changes all things, my kids didn’t seem as enthused as much as I did growing up so we haven’t been in quite a while.
I also remember taking Christmas baskets as a boy to those in our church who were shut-ins or maybe a needy family in the community. My father was a minister so I went with him to these homes and he and my mother would often sing those recipients a song, usually Silent Night or Away in a Manager.
It was a time that I saw many a tear flow down the face of someone who thought that no one cared or maybe it might be the only Christmas that they and their children might have as Fort Blackmore was a very rural area at the time.
Lastly, I remember my grandmother asking me when I was a teenager to go and find her a Christmas tree on the railroad tracks above her house which I did for several years.
My grandmother loved the smell of a freshly cut cedar tree for a Christmas tree and I would always try to find a cedar that was full and shaped in a pretty Christmas tree shape.
By the time I got back and had the tree ready to put in the house, she had pulled out the lights and the tinsel and garland. I would spend the afternoon stringing the lights and the garland and putting on the red and green Christmas balls she had to decorate with and then it came time to put on the fine, silver strands of tinsel all over the tree.
The final touch was a star that she had for her topper. She would always step up to the tree after it was decorated and take a deep inhale of the cedar scent that waffled throughout the house and I knew I had done well when that sweet, loving smile came across her face.
And while those were just a couple or so memories of traditions that I recollect from my early life, I thought it would be neat to ask some people how they spend their Christmas holiday.
The following are a few of the responses that were received.
Joanna Orr (No photo available).
“The second Saturday in December, the entire Orr family gets together – the John Orr and his siblings. They started out with several siblings but have whittled down over the years,” said Joanna.
“It started out at the Roan Mountain Conference Center and now it’s moved to the Lower Shell Creek Christian Church. John, Bill, Ruth, Frances, Jesse that’s all that I know of came and we had 24 this year and we have had as much as 40.
“All the men bring a gift and the women bring a gift and we have Santa Swap where we can change what we have with someone else. We then eat and fellowship and talk about old times and traditions that they had and carry on the family heritage.
“My father-in-law always has walnuts that he cracks out throughout the year,” Orr added. “He gives some to all the family so they can each make their own special dessert or dinner.
“We have a traditional dinner with turkey and ham. And we finish up by singing, ‘We wish you a Merry Christmas’.
Brooke Simerly from Stoney Creek said that Christmas is woven around her family.
“We go to church together on Sunday at Grace Fellowship in Johnson City and then make a bunch of food and then spend time together. Christmas to me is really about Christ’s birthday and spending time with my family.”
Kristina Reagan is from Loudon County and is going to school at ETSU. Reagan said one of the best things about Christmas is being able to go back home.
“My sisters and I open one gift the night before Christmas just to get us anticipating the next day. I have two sisters. I look forward to seeing people that I don’t get to see during the year and just getting to go back home.”
Chris Sims is from Elizabethton and said that most of his Christmas is centered around spending time with family and letting his children open their Christmas presents.
“We go to our Aunt’s house on Christmas Eve where we have finger foods and all different kinds of baked goods and candy. On Christmas morning, the kids wake up and open their gifts from us and of course, then we go to my in-laws’ house and they get more presents and we eat way too much there as well.”
Morgan Guinn looks forward to Christmas like many other young ladies.
“I am going to eat and open presents at my house and then we are going to my grandparent’s house that lives here locally.”
Lucy Maupin has plans to spend time with not only family but her friends during Christmas.
“For Christmas, I am going to spend a lot of time with friends eating a lot of snacks. I will probably watch a lot of Netflix as well – probably Grey’s Anatomy or Jane the Virgin, one of those.”
Sophia Paulson looks forward to doing things with her brothers as well as her friends for Christmas.
“During my Christmas, I plan on spending a lot of time baking Christmas goodies with my little brothers and going to lots of Christmas parties with my friends.”
Cagney Bennett is like many other young people who look forward to spending time with those closest to her.
“I am going to spend time with my family and friends. I will probably eat a lot of food and go to Christmas parties with my friends.”
Madison Mowdy’s says that she truly enjoys the Christmas holiday because it means time with her family,
“We get together and have a sleepover in our Christmas PJ’s then we get up on Christmas morning and make a big breakfast.
“We have eggs, biscuits and gravy, sausage, bacon, different breakfast casseroles, and a whole lot more. It’s just a special time that we have to spend time with each other and then off course we open presents.”

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