Originally Published: December 25, 2017 6:04 a.m.
Editor’s Note: The Daily Courier reached out to our readers to share their favorite holiday traditions. We appreciate all those who wrote or called in with their reflections, memories and continuing holiday traditions. These are what cement together this season of love, family, friends, giving and compassion. May we all revel in the holiday spirit as we prepare to welcome the New Year.
Alexandra Piacenza of Prescott:
“I’ve inherited several German traditions from my mother. Christmas always means having Lepkugen (gingerbread cookies), Pfeffernuse (spice cookies covered in powdered sugar) and Marzipan Stollen (coffee cake filled with sweetened almond paste).
One of the German traditions I love most is the legend about finding a bird’s nest in your Christmas tree. According to German folklore, finding a nest is a harbinger of health and prosperity in the coming year. With the advent of commercial and artificial trees (as opposed to chopping down your own in the forest), the odds of spontaneously finding a nest in your tree are slim to none. However, each Christmas, we improve our chances of a healthy and prosperous New Year by placing a nest, including mother bird and eggs, on the boughs of our tree.”
Her family, too, shares a tradition with fellow cat-lovers: including a multitude of cat-themed ornaments on the tree.
Linda Cates of Prescott Valley:
“A tradition we’ve had for years involves hanging our grandchildren on the Christmas tree and fireplace mantle. No, our last name isn’t Scrooge, and this ritual is as a result of unabashed love for our five grandkids. It started with my printing off a photo of our oldest granddaughter, now 17, who was then about three years old, trimming it out with pinking shears and a red ribbon and proudly displaying her toothy, little smile on the tree. As each grandchild made his or her appearance into the family, a new face was added happily on the tree. Now, we have five little darlings “hanging” on the mantle, for guests and family to see (and, oohing and aahing is expected, of course). It makes for a fun tradition in our family, as well as putting smiles on Nana and Papa’s faces whenever we turn on the lights....”Hi, Kids...Ho-Ho!”
Connie Thacker of Prescott:
“As a child, before my father bought the Christmas tree, he assembled the handmade, papier mache crèche from Germany on a table in a place of honor in the living room. My sister and I weren’t allowed to touch the delicate figures but stared in awe at the brightly colored arrangement.
My father kept baby Jesus in a drawer — after all, he was still in the womb — until after church Christmas Eve when, under supervision, my sister, Carol, and I got to place him in the crib. The wise men waited across the room and made the trip to the manger from the East on Epiphany, Jan. 6. When we married my father gifted my sister and me with a manger from Germany.
As a young married, with the arrival of Advent, I cut greens from trees in our yard and made an Advent wreath. I added four tall, thin purple candles and set the arrangement in the middle of the kitchen table in the breakfast nook.
Each week, we lit one of the tapers until all four burned brightly. On Christmas Day we replaced them with white. The table looked festive with Christmas plates on a red, plaid table cloth and grapefruit halves garnished with holly leaves and a cherry were ready for a special breakfast.
My three-year-old knew the manger was just for looking. Home alone with a baby-sitter, however, temptation took over. When I returned he had broken the angel, but in its place he had placed his G.I. Joe paratrooper. I was so touched I didn’t scold. I gave it back to him.
I wish now I had made G.I. Joe part of our manger tradition and let him stand guard over the baby Jesus throughout the holidays.”
Becky Fraley of Prescott:
“When my husband and I were married 20 years ago, on our very first vacation we picked up a Christmas ornament that was special to the place we visited and we continued the tradition for every vacation, thereafter.
Twenty years later we have amassed a wonderful collection of ornaments from all of our travels and every Christmas when we decorate the tree we reminisce about our wonderful vacations.”
Marlene Zuercher of Prescott:
Marlene’s favorite memory of her best Christmas dates back to the World War II era, one her mother long lamented, but she and her brother, Raymond, who died in 2001, always considered it the most special holiday they ever celebrated as a family.
“My mother was flat on her back on a board on the couch,” she recalled of that Christmas of 1944.
Divorced, Zuercher’s mother, Mary Jane Carlberg, living in Turlock, California, was the sole provider for her two children.
For Christmas that year, Zuercher’s mother, despite suffering a back injury, hand-sewed her a blue plaid dress. For her brother, Zuercher said her mother hand-sewed him a matching blue plaid shirt, making all the button holes and sewing on each button.
On Christmas Day, their neighbors all brought food to the house. Her brother owned a small Spanish guitar, and used the guitar to play some Christmas music. Neighbors who were storing their piano in their apartment harmonized with the guitar, she said.
“We all sang songs. It was wonderful,” she said.
At 81, Zuercher is a ham radio operator married to her childhood sweetheart, Leo, for 63 years. The couple has three children, two of them adopted; four grandchildren and two great-granddaughters.
After telling her ham radio friends the story of that long ago Christmas, Zuercher said several of her friends became teary-eyed. As this Christmas approaches, Zuercher said she wanted to recount the importance of family, and that the simple, one-of-a-kind gifts often prove to bring the greatest blessings.
“That was just a marvelous, marvelous Christmas,” she said.
Jeff and Linda Sandy of Prescott:
“Since our very first Christmas together 28 years ago, my husband and I have purchased, or handmade, a special ornament for each year. Something that captures a significant event for that year — a fun trip we took, an addition to our family, a photo to honor the passing of a loved one or one of many unique experiences we shared that year. As we decorate the tree we reflect on those priceless moments.
For this year, it is a vintage ornament of ‘Smokey the Bear’ encircled by wildlife. This past summer we were evacuated for seven days during the Goodwin Fire. Of course, we took our irreplaceable box of Christmas memories with us. This years’ special ornament will forever remind us of how incredibly blessed we are that we did not lose our home. May God bless our fire fighters and supporting personnel!”
Roy and Brenda Smith of Prescott:
Though not ones to engage in traditional religious observances, the couple said for years their tradition around the Christmas holidays was to go to the Kofa Mountain National Wildlife Refuge. They would find a place to camp and build a fire and then look and admire the stars above, not unlike what may have happened to those back in the ancient days leading up to the birth of Jesus Christ. They would often join with friends, sing songs and recite poetry.
This year, Roy is unable to travel beyond his Prescott home as he is recuperating from spinal surgery. So he expects he and his wife will stay close to home, possibly take a walk and appreciate the scenery in their neighborhood that has a scenic view of Thumb Butte.
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