All Because of Chickens

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Saturday Morning Musings: Best Holiday Memories

Happy Saturday!

The holidays are nearly over and another year is winding up, but as with every year new memories have been made...will be made.

Today we're sharing our best holiday memories...see you next year ;)

Though I am Jewish and don’t celebrate Christmas doesn’t mean I have no memorable stories from that time of the year.

Since neither me nor my Jewish friends living in the building put up trees, we had friends and neighbors who did. One such neighbor and friend was our superintendent’s daughter. Every year her family invited all the kids in the building to come help them decorate their tree. I loved helping and especially seeing how beautiful the tree looked when the lights were turned on. And since Chanukah is also a winter holiday of lights, we on the other hand invited our friend to join us for candle lighting. This was a time when people cared about each other, shared their customs, and lived together peacefully.

Another memory is when I was four years old and was at my father’s outlet store before the Christmas holiday. I was being watched outside by the store’s security volunteer. A nun came up to me and asked what I was getting for Christmas. I turned and looked to her and proudly said, “I’m not getting anything. I don’t celebrate Christmas, but I’m getting eight gifts for Chanukah.” She stood their wide-mouthed not knowing what to say, and then left.

As I grew older I remember helping in the store. It was the busiest time of the year. People bought tons of stuff and many put their goods on layaway plans. That meant packing the goods in boxes so they could be taken to the basement for storage. Those that took things home also meant there were doll strollers and carriages to assemble, as well as tricycles, bikes, and baby strollers, walkers, and high chairs. I started learning the skills with tricycles as all it required was affixing the handlebar and the wheels. Then I slowly progressed until I was able to do it all. When we didn’t have assemblies to do, I was taught how to work the register and adding machine. I would take over when mother or an employee was on break. I wasn’t the only kid I knew who worked a register. At the Chinese restaurant we used to go to, the owner’s 9-year-old daughter handled the register. No one complained about kids helping out their parents who owned the businesses. On the contrary they complimented and thanked us for a job well done.

I learned many skills in those days. I learned to wrap gifts nicely, count money, give change, assemble items, and so on. Many of these skills served me well as I further grew up and continue to serve me well today.

So looking back though we didn’t celebrate Christmas, we surely felt the holiday atmosphere and busyness that went with it. Let me add one more thing, a Christmas tree is a Christmas tree and there is no such thing as a Chanukah bush, no matter what anyone tries to tell you.

I was just thinking about past Christmas’s and actually wrote a poem about it. I am Jewish, so most of my memories of Christmas are with other people. One that stands out is my neighbor’s Christmas tree. I had never actually seen a tree in person and when my friend invited me to her apartment to see their tree I didn’t know what to expect. What I saw was a 50’s over the top Christmas tree. Not only did they have lights, but they had bubbling ornaments and tinsel and snow around the base. I had never seen anything like that and it was in such a small space!! Then there was the one Christmas that my mother put presents under my bed. I had always had a stocking filled with goodies, but this was super special. She said Santa must have put them there. So on subsequent Christmas mornings I always looked under my bed. I never found anymore presents. I had Twas the Night Before Christmas and I would always read it with my parents.

But I never really experienced celebrating Christmas until we went over to my sister-in-law’s house every Christmas and since she was from Great Britain we had things like roast beef and homemade Yorkshire pudding. She gave my daughters presents and stockings and after dinner which always ended with a gigantic trifle, we sat around and popped poppers. After you pop them you get a little paper hat and a toy. So everyone was wearing these little paper hats and it was so much fun!

When my daughters were growing up we had one tradition on Christmas Eve that we never gave up until they were much older. I would read them Twas the Night Before Christmas then tell them that they had to be asleep before midnight so Santa could come. Then I would stuff their stockings and put together a big gift for them for Christmas morning. If it didn’t need assembly, which was most of the toys they wanted, I would leave it wrapped under their stockings. We never had a tree. The only time we had a tree was the first year we were married and celebrating our first Christmas. My husband, who had always had a tree, convinced me to celebrate Christmas and we bought a little tree and ornaments and decorated it. We lived in a very small town, so buying presents was difficult. One day we each bought presents for each other and wrapped them and left them under the tree. It was fun opening all the presents together.

When I was about ten, I really wanted a cheerleader kit (complete with pompoms) that I'd seen in the country store near our house. I'd told my mom and all my brothers my wish, showing it to them while we visited the store. I was certain one of them would get it for me.

Christmas morning we opened presents. I don't remember all the gifts I received, but the cheerleader kit was not one of them. Instead, I got a sled. That had brakes. I was sooo disappointed. I even cried. My mother chided me about my thanklessness for my gifts and encouraged me to go try out my new sled on the back hill.

And what a sled it was. Not only could you stop it, but if you pulled one lever at a time, you could turn. It was an amazing sled. And, while I never did get the cheerleader kit, I still have that sled in the shed at my folk's house.

I've had amazing, warm, huggable memories across the years. I'm torn between offering my musical memories, my food memories or my relationship memories. I guess I'll share food memories, and blog my musical memories at

I was raised in Northern New Brunswick, in the wilds of Canada. My village was located next to the Acadian (originators of the Cajuns) and food, especially festive food was influenced by the French-Canadians. My wife was raised on the Canada-US border, and her influences came from that happy place.

I brought to the marriage tourtière, or Meat pies, a herb-and-mushroom infused combination of ground meat and pork, encased in flaky pie shells. I can also make melt-in-your-mouth Scotch cookies, also known as shortbreads. My wife introduced me to 'moko cakes', which are home-made pound cake fingers drizzled in icing glaze and rolled in peanut crumbs. (She also brines our turkey...Respect!) She showed me how to make Strata for breakfast. Hint: use brioche, or egg bread for the bread slices in the strata.

Food has informed my Christmases since I was a child, but I've never forgotten: It's not what's on the table, it's who's around it.

By far my favorite holiday memory is how I spent Christmas 2012.  Over the course of three weeks, I gave my girlfriend a series of surprise gifts at many different locations. It was a scavenger hunt that started in Washington DC when her co-worker handed her a large scrapbook containing the first verse of an eight-part original poem. Each poem verse had a clue to the next part, and a gift attached. The scavenger hunt included gifts at my parents' house on Xmas Eve, her family's house in Delaware for Christmas Day, and eventually led us to a Bed and Breakfast in Williamsburg, Virginia. In Williamsburg, the last part of the poem was waiting, and that is where I proposed, and she said yes. 

My best Christmas was in 1988, the year our son, James, was born. We had such fun planning his first Christmas and buying presents although at only four months old, I expect the whole day passed quite unnoticed by James.

Thinking back over my life, it is hard to pick one. Of course, the hardest were the first ones with loved ones gone, but there was the Christmas my daughter was due on, but waited till January. Then her first Christmas followed by her first birthday. I believe each year's excitement is due because of who I'll be spending it with.

Keep reading and dreaming. If there’s anything you’re curious about just drop me a note:

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