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This year, on November 2nd, my father, Jack Smith, passed away. I had the privilege of spending the last 2 1/2 weeks of his life with him every day, with exception of one. I rubbed his feet, gave him sips of water and just generally sat and held his hand and did whatever it was he wanted done. He had cancer and from the time of his diagnosis to his death, only one month passed. It was quick and painless, just the way he wanted it.
Needless to say, I miss my dad. It's Christmas time and he's not here, but I am grateful for all the Christmases I got to have with him. He always wanted to include his elderly mother and his brother, whom had never been married, as well as pretty much anybody else he heard about that did not have a place to go for Christmas. My father was very selfless and giving.
My job at Thrifty Fun is submit recipes, of which I literally have thousands. While most of my cooking techniques were handed down to me from my mother, my dad also played a part, but usually only at holidays. His big specialty was ham. He always bought and baked a large, bone-in ham. Never have I tasted ham any more delicious than when my dad made it! I don't really know of anything special he did. I just know that ham tasted better than anything!
Christmas at our house while I was growing up was always a big deal. Many gifts were exchanged and there was much time spent with family, which really meant a lot more than the gifts that were given. My mother used to make candy galore and I helped her quite a bit. She was, and still is, a talented lady, though Parkinson's disease has made it difficult for her to cook much due to the severe shaking of her hands.
As time marched on, my husband and I moved 4 1/2 hours away from our family and we have not been able to spend the time there with them on the holidays as much as we have wanted to, but we have come to begin some of our own traditions. For example, every Christmas morning, my husband will gather us all around and read the Christmas story from the Bible of how Jesus was born. He can never keep a dry eye when reading this to all of us. We did this the whole time our daughters were small and we continue to do it every year and, hopefully, always will. We then pass out the gifts and take turns each opening a gift until all are opened. Then we have a large meal together, play games or just watch a good movie and snack on Christmas goodies and relax for the rest of the day. It's nothing fancy, but it's special to us because we are together. There have also been several times over the 20 years we have lived here that friends, who knew we were not able to spend Christmas with our extended family, have opened their homes and invited us to spend Christmas with them. Those times are just as special, as many of them have become like family to us.
I guess the reason I wanted to write this is because, especially now that my dad is no longer with us, I feel so impressed that family time together is so important. My dad always wanted his kids, and especially his grandkids, to be around him. How I wish I would have been able to make that drive more often to spend time with him. This Christmas will be lonely because I know he is not with us. There will be no phone call to wish us all a Merry Christmas from 'grandpa' this year. However, we will march on and enjoy the holiday together because that is exactly the way he would want it! There is also peace in knowing he will be spending his first Christmas in Heaven!
I know this little piece isn't about food, but I felt the need just to remind all of us, myself included, of just how important our families are and how important time spent together is. This Christmas, be thankful for your family and friends and try to remember just how blessed we really are. And if you know of someone who has no place to go this year, please consider including them in your plans. Reach out to someone who needs you to care for them.
May all of you Thrifty Fun readers have the Merriest Christmas ever!
Editor's Note: Thank you, Robin, for such an eloquent Christmas message. We are all so sorry for your family's loss, your dad sounded like a wonderful man.
ThriftyFun would like to wish all our readers a very Merry Christmas and New Year.
When my children were very small, I wanted them to have fun with Christmas and Santa, but I also wanted them to understand what the true meaning is behind this holiday. Of course we watched the TV shows, read the books, and talked about Jesus, but to make it more personal for them, I took it a step farther. We would sit down and have our traditional Christmas dinner and I would always remind the kids to 'save room for the Birthday cake!'
When we were finished eating, we would clear the table somewhat, then I would bring out a small cake we had made or purchased (the 1st birthday size), with a brightly burning candle, and everyone would sing Happy Birthday to Baby Jesus before having a small sliver of cake - traditional pie and stuff was saved for later.
We were not much of a strict, church-going family, but I always wanted my children to understand and have a relationship with God. They always enjoyed and looked forward to this Christmas tradition and took it very seriously, as if they were singing to someone sitting right there in the room with them. And it made God/Jesus more real to them, rather than just being an idea.
By Judy = Oklahoma from OK
When our kids were little, we bought or made two ornaments with dates each year for the tree for each child. When the oldest got married and left home, we were able to give him a box with all the ornaments from his first Christmas through the most recent.
When the Christmas tree is up, place a blanket near the tree, turn off the lights and have a picnic. Soft Christmas tree lights, great food and a special person to enjoy it with!
This was a Christmas Tradition for years when the kids were young. I would turn my basement into a craft area, decorate it for Christmas with a tree, and then invite all of my sisters and brothers to drop their kids off from noon till 8 pm.
Growing up we never had much money, but we always had a nice Christmas thanks to Mom. There were 4 of us kids and we got at least a few presents each, but it was very important to Mom that we had our stockings also.
I just wanted to share a wonderful tradition that I started about five years ago and I've enjoyed it so much. I call it my "Christmas Eve walk." I had been feeling a little depressed this particular Christmas Eve and was trying to come up with something I could do to make myself feel better when an idea came to me...
Start a Christmas tradition with your kids. It will be something they look forward to every year as they are growing up, and will remember with fondness all their grown-up years.
On Christmas Eve, my family has our two girls try to find the Christmas box Mrs. Santa left for them. It always contains a new set of pajama's. After they put on the pajamas, our family drives around town looking at Christmas lights and live nativity scenes in different neighborhoods. We've done this for 21 years and they still love this tradition that officially starts Christmas for them.
I grew up in a family of eight children so the holidays were always hectic. To calm the morning madness and make sure we all had the chance to see and open our presents ...
When my first child was 4 years old, I decided to start a Christmas tradition that was inexpensive but fun. My son, Joe, was old enough to chew hard candy (with supervision). I bought him a "LifeSaver" Christmas box of LifeSavers that had a small ornament attached. ..
We have a large family. So in October, each child draws a name from other children in the family. That is the only gift giving, besides buying for my mom, that we do. It has cut cost way down for our family.
We, as a family, write out a note on what and why it is that we appreciate each other, separating each reason why with the next family member's name, until all in the family are written out on the paper.
We have an unique Christmas tradition at our house. When the kids no longer believed in Santa and the thrill of the moment wasn't as intense as it once was we started this. On Christmas morning each child receives a small piece of paper with a poem/hint on it and they have to figure out the clue and follow it just to find another clue. After the third clue there is their gift.
Every year the day after Christmas my family and I go to camp in Fort Wilderness at Disney for a week. We have done this since I was very young. My cousins used to come from Michigan and the two families would make lots of wonderful memories that we STILL talk about today.
After I moved off to college, my family started a new tradition. Every year we'll all get together the week after Christmas in a city that's about equal distance for all of us. We'll stay in a nice hotel, watch as many movies as we can, do some shopping, go to a museum or two, and catch up. This is when we exchange our family gifts.
My Family were not church going people and neither was my husband's so we had to come up with our own traditions. In doing Geneology for both families I saw that we had a lot of German ancestors so I went on line and found out about the german tradition of the Advent Wreath.
To reinforce the meaning of Christmas in a Christian home to children, parents can hide the Baby Jesus from their Nativity Scene on Christmas Morning.
Every year, I buy everyone in the family a special ornament that has something to do with their past year, their interests or accomplishments. When I got divorced and had 2 young girls, we started some holiday traditions of our own.
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Our family has started a new tradition as of last year, choosing a specific country and doing their traditions and meals, etc. for Christmas. What a wonderful time we had with Italy.
This year we chose Germany. I am researching their customs, foods, etc., but would like to know if anyone has their own original ideas. Goose seems to be the main course. This will be interesting as I've never eaten or made goose before.
I'm wondering what kind of centerpiece to use also. On Dec. 11th we will all be taking the train into Chicago to shop at the Christkindl Market in Daley Plaza. I am going to see if I can buy a German Christmas pyramid on eBay along with a German smoker. Any other ideas would be greatly appreciated. I so want this to be fun.
By Bonnie from Zion, IL
Germans serve something sweet and something sour on their tables ex. sweet pickles-dill pickles or maybe German Potato Salad is an idea for you. I visited Germany and maybe there's a pic or so in my album I can email you and then you can duplicate for your table or walls for a German themed Christmas. Provide me your email in a message and I'll scan some pics your way.
I don't know what you call them, but I always think of those wooden decorations that hold candles, and the rising heat from the candles turn little fans. That was a really bad description, wasn't it? :-) I was born in Germany, and my dad's side of the family has a lot of German in it. Maybe my dad will know what they're called. But I think they're a fairly traditional decoration. And, of course, there are the German nutcrackers.
I'll try to remember to ask my dad about food. I recently asked him about holiday traditions, and one thing he remembers (he's in his 70s) is his mom giving the kids a spoonful of some sort of oil (Castor?) the night before a big holiday. It was supposed to clean them out. I don't know if it was to make room for more food, or if it was just a good thing to do on a holiday.
We did German food for Thanksgiving a couple years ago. We cooked schnitzel. I made German potato salad, and Mom cooked some cabbage. I think we had traditional Thanksgiving desserts. It sounds like a nice tradition you're starting. I hope you and your family thoroughly enjoy it!
I've always tried to make Christmas morning fun for my kids since they began to question Santa. They are in their late teens, but still come home for Christmas vacation.
I am looking for a fun, creative way to surprise them with gifts on Christmas morning. I've wrapped the room (all doorways) so they have to crash in the room, led them on gift finds with yarn throughout the house, Santa's bag didn't quite make it in the house and they had to fish it out of the chimney, treasure hunts with five or six clues, and created a winter wonderland overnight in the room.
They've started to expect to be surprised on Christmas morning. And I love doing it. It keeps Christmas special and fun. But I'm stuck this year. What is a wacky, fun way to start the day? Any ideas?
By Nancy from Macon,GA
How about doing a Christmas "obstacle course" with tasks they have to do before opening a gift.
Some ideas: sing a Christmas carol,
Take a straw and suck up a marshmallow and go to other side of room and drop it in a bowl.
Toss wrapped candies into a bucket from 6 ft away.
Name Bingo: everyone wears their name printed out on paper-use either Scrabble letters or make your own paper ones to draw from hat and call letters out>>they have to have all letters of their first name called before moving on
Candy Cane game>each person has to put a candy cane in mouth (hook side out) and then go to table to latch onto another candy cane--can't use hands, then transport it to someplace else (or...can have them pass the cane from one to the other down the line).
And for the finale: save one gift for each person that would be good for anyone to receive and play the game I submitted>>LEFT, RIGHT Christmas Gift Exchange>>>www.thriftyfun.com/
That should entertain them! have fun :D
A fun Christmas eve tradition can be giving the gift of pajamas and then modeling them for a holiday photo. This is a page about starting a Christmas pajama tradition.
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Our Christmas traditions started about 15 years ago when we moved a long distance from our family. It was just us, our own little immediate family of 4. We knew that we needed to start some of our own traditions so every year on Christmas morning my husband reads the Christmas story from the Bible and then we all open presents.
The biggest change in our lives, though, has been that now, instead of sharing Christmas with our extended family, we share Christmas with all the close friends we have made over the past 15 years. Those friends have become our family and we are so thankful for them. One Christmas we spent with one of our closest friends and their family playing games, talking and laughing until 2:00am. Another time was two New Years ago. We spent it with another family and sat up until 4am just laughing and talking. It was such fun! It is a true blessing to have such close friends now that we live so far from our extended family.