Traditions Live On!

Shared by resident Marianne Berkes

How wonderful in this season of peace and love, we are sharing holiday traditions. Baking cookies with my Mom and Grandma weeks ahead for family, friends and an elderly couple down the street first comes to mind. I also remember stringing popcorn for the “perfect” tree my Dad and I picked out every year in the lot downtown as the fragrant pine scent filled the air. I remember the special stockings my Grandma knitted hung by the fireplace. On Christmas Eve, my parents invited friends and family after church as we stood around the piano sharing our favorite carols. I can still hear my Grandpa’s deep basso voice. I remember enjoying a toasted slice of Grandma’s famous homemade stollen that was always best with butter on Christmas morning, and the Christmas dinner my mother lovingly prepared. Dinner was usually rouladen (see recipe on next page), thin sliced beef rolled up with onion, bacon, and sometimes a pickle inside, along with spaetzle and red cabbage.

Years later, my husband and I and our young daughter would also decorate a real tree, but it was bundled with roots. Bob dug a hole before the ground hardened, filled it with straw and after Christmas, placed the tree in the hole until spring when the ground finally thawed. By the time Missy was a teenager, we had eight beautiful pine trees lining our driveway.

I have fond memories of reading Christmas stories to my daughter on Christmas Eve as we snuggled in bed under a down quilt, the house all aglow with candles in every window, waiting for Santa to come.

Thirty years later my son-in-law read the now classic Polar Express every Christmas Eve, and Christmas day dinner would be my Mom’s rouladen recipe, now prepared by her granddaughter. And, of course, Christmas music always filled the air as we munched on homemade cookies the grandkids had decorated.
Last year those of us at John Knox Village with families in the area could participate in the hustle and bustle of the holidays. We could prepare Christmas goodies together. We attended church with friends and family. We enjoyed holiday music at the various venues in our area or attended a grandchild’s concert or dance recital. Some residents flew or drove to different parts of the country to join friends and family.

It won’t be so easy this year because of COVID-19, but somehow we will make it work. In December I’m asking my family to visit Yalaha Bakery, a delicious German bakery and restaurant in their area to pick up some stollen for me – not as good as grandma’s homemade, but the best store-bought you can buy. And on Christmas Eve I’m hoping to attend the church in Eustis where my granddaughter plays piano; but if I can’t make it, I will watch the service remotely which has been the way for many of us to enjoy things that we did in person before. Through Zoom or Facetime we can still sing together and share Christmas memories and perhaps read together the story of the first Christmas from
the Bible.

With young children, we might remotely read the familiar ’Twas The Night Before Christmas that Clement C. Moore wrote for his children back in 1822. This well-loved poem has been published in numerous illustrated versions over these many years. And, I’m thinking of asking my granddaughters (now 17 and 20) to check out the history of “Christstollen” which has been around for 700 years and prized throughout the world as one of the most beloved of all Christmas breads. There are still ways to make new memories together with our loved ones as we share family traditions that definitely need to live on.