Most families have Christmas traditions, many (in our family) centering around food! Sal's family offers an Italian flavor on Christmas Eve. My (Tom) family celebrated Christmas on Christmas Eve as well. Our traditional dish was lasagna. It had the beauty of being a one-dish meal, easily prepared and easily cleaned up so that the primary event of the evening, the opening of gifts, could be arrived at with a minimum of delay. In my family, following the Christmas Eve lasagna, my maternal grandfather found it necessary to visit his car. He polished that Cadillac incessantly, so a nocturnal visit was not suspicious. He would, normally, dash back into the house with a breathtaking report of activity near the front door. Subsequent investigations would disclose a cardboard box of goodies on the front step of our New Jersey home. Santa had arrived! Now, let us not enter into a discussion of chimneys, fireplaces, roofs, or what ever. That box full of stuff on the front porch needed no explanation.
In my youth, I once witnessed Santa's path across the face of the full moon. I suppose I was a pre-teen. I remember distinctly seeing the shadow of the gentleman and his vehicle and reindeer as they were silhouetted against the moon. Don't attempt to discuss it, much less refute it. It happened! Accept it! I did!
When I joined the Engle/Laws family on the Maryland Eastern Shore, I became a prime player in the drama known as the Laws' Traditional Family Christmas. The description of this event is chronicled by Victor Laws in his book Maude and Other Family Legends, (1990) It is reproduced here with his permission and with my love and devotion for the family.
|One fragment of the Laws and Hamblin country store survives as the genesis of
our traditional "Christmas breakfast." It happened this way.
Christmas Eve, William Levi was in the store and overheard a neighbor, Elisha
Givans, making his preparations and purchases for Christmas morning breakfast.
Givans was a tenant farmer in the Wango area, with a large family, struggling to
make ends meet. He was seldom able to afford store-bought goods.
Most of the year he and his family ate only what he grew and caught. For
this special day, as a rare treat, he bought oranges, whisky and cheese,
confiding in Hamblin that he always provided his family a Christmas breakfast of
a "dram" for all, followed by a whole orange for each one, plus sausage, eggs,
cornbread and cubes of cheese.
William Levi took the story and the special ingredients home to Cornelia, and told her he wanted to follow Givans' custom. They did so thereafter, and my parents and my sister and I have carried it on into the next two generations. William Levi and Papa interpreted Givans' dram as a "hot toddy," meaning a small measure of whisky to which hot water, sugar and a peppermint stick are added. In my house it's liable to be a whisky sour, but the basic message is unchanged.