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Posts Tagged ‘traditions’

Summertime Fun!

summer sun

Summer days are in full swing, children are out of school, families are taking vacations, and swimming pools are seeing an increased use in warmer parts of the country.

pool

As a child, the end of school marked the end of early bedtimes, vacations, spending all day in our backyard pool, and annual family reunions. My parents would try to have our pool open for the season by early May if possible even if the temps were still in the low 70s. Memorial Day signaled the beginning of summer with an outdoor picnic. Mom would make her famous potato salad and my Granddad would bring a fresh watermelon. It was time to kick off the shoes and run barefoot through the grass. We kids would savor popsicles and ice cream bars on the patio steps.

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During the month of June, I found the rhythm of summer days. Up by 7 or 8 a.m. because Mom didn’t believe in “sleeping your life away.” Normally there were chores that I had to do before I could start playing. Riding bikes through the countryside, visiting friends several streets away, inviting my friends over for lunch or snacks, and swimming. In those days I was like a fish – always in the water. I was so tanned that even by winter time my tans lines were still there.  We drank kool-aid by the gallon and slurped fresh well water from the garden hose. We stayed out past dark and ran through the unfenced backyards catching lightning bugs and looking at the stars. Weekends were also spent hanging out at local theaters watching movies after the parents dropped us off.

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By July anticipation was in the air as we readied for our annual trip to Coshocton, Ohio and the big family reunion on my dad’s side of the family. We would normally stay with my dad’s oldest sister, my Aunt Gertie, in Zanesville over the reunion weekend. During the reunion, I stuck close to a couple of my cousins and my aunts and uncles. I had fun watching the men play horseshoes. By the time I was in 5th grade, I spent a week in July at church camp each year. That necessitated another long drive usually accompanied by the sister and her kids so my mom didn’t have to drive home all by herself.

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Amore Sibling Reunion, Detroit, about 1966

August brought another trip for another reunion – this one for my dad and his siblings and their families. Many times it was in the Detroit area as two of my dad’s brothers lived there. If we were in Michigan, we’d usually head over to Battle Creek to visit my mom’s brother, too. Once we went to Chicago – my brother and his family following us. We all used my walkie-talkies to communicate. A time long before CB radios or cell phones. In the summer of 1968 while the West Coast was heating up with riots after the Summer of Love, the reunion was held at our house. The last reunion of my dad and his siblings I attended was in the early 1970s (71 or 72). My parents were already separated and I spent a week with my dad that summer during reunion time. He had it at his place by the lake in St. Mary’s, Ohio. That was the last time I saw my aunts and uncles and some of my cousins.

By the time August drew to a close, school was right around the corner, and it would be time to go to Sears or Elder-Beerman or Rike’s to shop for school clothes. I knew that swimming season was getting shorter and would usually end by mid-September as the temps in southwestern Ohio began to drop. Then when Labor Day arrived, our last outdoor picnic of the summer, bed time was moved back to an earlier time in preparation for school beginning that Wednesday. There were several times that sweaters were needed in the morning or evening by Labor Day.

Does your family have a summer time tradition? What were your childhood days of summer like?

(Sun image courtesy of Squidoo)

(Images: Our Swimming Pool; me and two of my friends about 1967; Coshocton Fairgrounds for Amore Reunion – July 1968; Amore Sibling Reunion at my Uncle Paul’s home in Detroit, Michigan about 1966-67 – all photos digital and original slides/photos owned by Wendy Littrell)

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GHOSTS OF CHRISTMAS PAST

This picture (to the left) was taken in 1954; location – Japan when my parents were stationed at Tachikawa with the Air Force.  My impression has always been – what a sad tree!  I believe this was the only type of tree that would work as a “Christmas” tree – short of buying an artificial tree from the Base/Post Exchange. I hadn’t been born yet but my sister and brother were the children who had “visions of sugarplums” for that year’s Christmas.

This picture (to the right) was taken about 1968 when I was a little over 7 years old; location – the house I grew up in east of Dayton, Ohio.  I obviously have some teeth missing!  Those pants were not purple – from what I remember – but blue. This is the artificial tree we used – it was only a year or two old because I remember having live trees when I was very small.  Mom used this artificial tree at least until the time I was 18 years old and then I think she gave it to my cousin. This tree is set at the corner of the living room and formal dining room. From what I remember, this was the same location it was set year after year. During my childhood, Christmas dinners were always at our house. Those who attended included my maternal grandparents, my sister, her husband, and two kids, my brother and his wife (and later their son), and sometimes my brother-in-law’s parents.

This photo (to the left) was taken in 1991 either before we left or after we returned from Christmas Eve services at our church. This is one of the very few pictures I have of our family by the Christmas tree. Boy, my husband and I look so young!  Our youngest was a few months shy of two years old and our oldest was a month away from 10 years old.  Our second daughter had just turned eight and our son was six and a half.  Over the years, our tree has moved “around” the living room.  We had it in this location for a few years and for the last 10+ years it has been in the opposite corner.  Our Christmas tradition since this photo was taken has rarely changed. There were some years that we went looking at Christmas lights after church. We’ve always had a meal of “finger food” late in the evening – I’ve made sausage balls, cheese and crackers, stuffed shells, deli meat sandwiches, fresh vegetables and dip, and more. The last couple of years we have had Wing Stop chicken wings and tamales from our local tamale factory. The first year we decided on wings, the restaurant was open until 8 p.m. on Christmas Eve so we picked up the order as soon as church was over. Last year it closed early, so I had to go pick up the wings and fries and try to keep them warm the rest of the day. The french fries did not fair very well – so I don’t think we’ll do that this year. On Christmas Day we’ve had the traditional dinner – turkey (and sometimes ham), dressing, mashed potatoes, homemade giblet gravy (and turkey gravy from a jar for those who won’t eat the other kind), green bean casserole, Christmas cauliflower, scalloped corn, and pies.  There were years that I started making cookies in the middle of December and other times, I just don’t bother!  I’ve made homemade chex mix for gifts to friends and family. The last two years one of our daughter’s has had us to her home for the Christmas dinner. Our oldest daughter hasn’t been able to be with us for Christmas in over seven years. For the last 5 years, we’ve enjoyed being with all four grandsons.

The only picture of our family with my mom was taken at my sister’s home in 1999. Our kids ranged from almost 10 to almost 17. That year we had Christmas dinner at my sister’s home and my contribution was my Christmas cauliflower and something else! See the red plaid skirt that I’m wearing? I wore this at almost every Christmas from 1978 until just a few years ago!

GHOSTS OF CHRISTMAS PRESENT

Although this photo was taken in 2008, this could be a photo from today. The Christmas tree is in the same spot – although our present tree is a new artificial tree – and I haven’t added any garland to it. This year I will use strands of beads as garland. Our Christmas this year will begin on Christmas Eve when we attend our Worship Celebration at our church of over 20 years. Then we’ll come back home and eat our “finger food” dinner, culminating in the reading of “The Night Before Christmas” (a tradition since the children were all small) and the Biblical Christmas story. We’ll set our presents out under the tree after the grandkids go to bed and then later, Santa will arrive. He’ll find a cold glass of egg nog in the fridge in case he’s thirsty and a couple of cookies with a note to him on the kitchen table. This year Christmas falls on a Sunday – the first one in six years – so our morning will be very early! I have always had a family breakfast before presents are opened and this year, I think I will have a crock pot breakfast casserole that has cooked through the night. After we eat, it will be time to dig into gifts and take pictures. At 10:30 we’ll be at our church, celebrating the real reason for Christmas. Then it will be home to finish cooking the dinner. Hopefully, I’ll get the turkey in the oven before we leave. One of our grandson’s might not be with us that day – perhaps late in the evening. The kids will be playing with new toys, probably have new movies playing on the TV, and the aroma of delicious food cooking.

GHOSTS OF CHRISTMAS YET TO COME

In the future, I hope that we can still enjoy our grandchildren – and further into the future – our great-grandchildren – and our children and families at Christmas. Wherever we are, we’ll still decorate a Christmas tree – big or small. Some of our traditions may continue and some will be replaced with new traditions. We’ll still have some of our tree ornaments – especially the really nice handmade ones that the kids and grandkids have made. Pictures will still be snapped and food will still be eaten. I may prepare a traditional Christmas dinner, yet I see myself changing it in my golden years – especially if there are only my husband and I sharing the holiday together. No matter the year, we’ll always remember the joy of Christmas’s past and the true reason we celebrate the season!

Merry Christmas!

(written for the 113th Carnival of Genealogy: A Charles Dickens Christmas)

all photos – digital and print – held by Wendy Littrell

 

 

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This post was written on July 13, 2008 and has been updated for the 61st Edition of the Carnival of Genealogy!

Webster’s Online Dictionary defines Tradition as: 1 a: an inherited, established, or customary pattern of thought, action, or behavior (as a religious practice or a social custom) b: a belief or story or a body of beliefs or stories relating to the past that are commonly accepted as historical though not verifiable2: the handing down of information, beliefs, and customs by word of mouth or by example from one generation to another without written instruction3: cultural continuity in social attitudes, customs, and institutions4: characteristic manner, method, or style <in the best liberal tradition>”  It is Synonomous with: convention, custom.  Related words include: ethic, form, mode, mores, norm, values; birthright, inheritance, legacy; folklore, lore, superstition; culture, heritage, lifestyle.

Many families have passed down traditions such as:

  • A family story that has been told to each generation.
  • A custom associated with an event (wedding, holiday, birth, etc.)
  • An heirloom that has a certain function at a certain time.

There are many others.  As you’ve accumulated information about your ancestors and distant relatives, what traditions – or customs – have you found AND recorded?  In small towns or villages in Germany there is a wedding custom of “kidnapping the bride”.  German Wedding Traditions list this tradition as: “kidnap the bride and the groom has to find her. Normally, he has to search in a lot of pubs and invite all people in there (or pay the whole bill). Sometimes this ritual ends badly.”  Irish Wedding Traditions mentions that “An old Irish tradition calls for the wedding couple to walk to the church together before exchanging their wedding vows. As they walk down the main street to the chapel, onlookers would not only throw rice to bless the marriage, but larger items as well, such as pots and pans.”  Holiday Traditions – England mentions that “The day after Christmas is known in Britain as Boxing Day, which takes its name from a former custom of giving a Christmas Box – a gift of money or food inside a box – to the deliverymen and tradespeople who called regularly during the year. This tradition survives in the custom of tipping the milkman, postman, dustmen and other callers of good service at Christmas time.”  And in America, we know that the tradition on July 4th is to view fireworks as a celebration of our Independence.

Yet, sometimes it’s the unusual traditions that tell us more about our ancestors.  We may learn important things about their character, their financial situation, their environment or even why a tradition changed.

My family has the usual traditions:

  • Christmas Eve meant going to services at church and coming home to await Santa Claus’ visit.  How it evolved – when my own children were small, we’d go look at Christmas lights after church and then come home to a “finger food/appetizer” type of meal.  Afterwards I read “The Night Before Christmas” and the Biblical Nativity story.  Then to bed for the kids!
  • Memorial Day was the first day my grandfather bought a watermelon and we’d have a picnic.  How it evolved – with both of us working, most of the time Memorial Day is just a Monday we are off work and take a moment of reflection to honor and remember those who gave their lives or a part of their time to serve our country.
  • July 4th – we’d go to parades and then watch fireworks.  How it evolved – if we are at my in-laws’ in Missouri (where it is legal to shoot fireworks) – they are being popped all day long!  If we are at home, it means our big church ice cream social and watching the fireworks from the parking lot (which has a great view!).pb270363
  • Thanksgiving – a large family dinner, watching a football game, and the men sleeping.  How it evolved – not much!  Except sometimes even Mom gets to nap!
  • New Years Day – we would have roast beef or roast pork and watch the parades as soon as they began in the morning and then the Rose Bowl Game (especially when Ohio State was playing!)  How it evolved – since I live in Texas and am now required (since I’m in the south) to cook black eyed peas, I fix a big pot of them with cornbread and ham.  Sometimes I’ll have pork and sauerkraut too (just to cover my northern roots!).  Only the grandson really watches the parades and when was the last time Ohio State was in the Rose Bowl?  There’s no more Cotton Bowl parade (which is pretty local!).  Generally the Christmas Tree is being taken down as well.christmas-looking-at-tree
  • Putting up the Christmas Tree – I really don’t remember much traditions associated with this except I loved to hang these ornaments of my mom’s that looked like huge, red teardrop earrings and I was allowed to hang the ornaments I’d made.  I enjoyed watching my mom decorate our house more than anything.  How it evolved – I don’t have a lot of stuff to decorate the house (because that would mean having a place to store it afterwards!) – but when the kids were little, I’d take a picture as each child put their first ornament on the tree and then take a picture of all four of them gazing with wonder at the lit, decorated tree.  It’s evolved even more – now my husband puts the tree up, he and the youngest daughter put the lights on & everyone haves at it putting the ornaments on while I just watch.  I get to put on the garland – sometimes strands of beads, other times I “throw” the tinsel, and the last couple years it has been ribbons.  But I undecorate it so I can put all the ornaments back into their rightful places.
  • Birthdays – it was “your” day.  Mom would make me a devil’s food cake with homemade chocolate icing and I got to lick the bowl afterwards.  Sometimes there were friends and other times it was just family (having a birthday right by Thanksgiving can sometimes cause problems).  I usually picked my favorite meal and we had the birthday song, blowing out the candles, and opening gifts.  How it evolved – sometimes I make the cake and sometimes I buy it.  It’s still the child’s “day” and is special.  They request what they want for dinner and the type of cake. 
  • Weddings – something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.  Not evolved – still the same!
  • Easter – getting dressed up in a little more than Sunday best with new clothes, new patent leather shoes with a new hat and gloves and an Easter Basket on the end of the bed when I woke up.  How it evolved – the Easter Bunny leaves the baskets on the kitchen table.  New clothes and still attending Easter services (no hat or gloves though!).  A big dinner at mid-day (which is one of the few Sundays I even cook – see below!)
  • Sunday Dinner – my mother never fixed a regular evening meal on Sundays.  As a kid, she always fixed a big lunch but dinner – you were on your own.  That was sort of nice – ice cream, a big bowl of popcorn, peanut butter on a spoon right of the jar (see “food” traditions below), a bowl of cereal, etc.  How it evolved – Mom still doesn’t fix an evening meal on Sundays and neither do I!
  • Food Traditions – my dad is the one we “blame” for most of these.  Pepper on cottage cheese; chocolate cake (no other flavor) in a bowl of milk; peanut butter on a spoon; fried baloney; tobasco sauce on everything (my sister does that but I don’t!); sardines; slim jims, beef sticks or hot sausages (the kind you find at bars!); steak once a week (yeah, I don’t get that as often anymore!); pepper on everything; bleu cheese or roquefort salad dressing.andy
  • Taking pictures of other people taking pictures!  (See Unusual Photos – that I posted back on June 23, 2008)
  • Singing a very long and convoluted version of “I Found a Peanut” when we go on vacation as well as “100 Bottles of Beer”.
  • Going through all the photo albums at my mom’s when we are visiting – each time we are there, all the albums come out.  I was even able to show my sister some photo albums she hadn’t seen before!
  • When all four of the kids are home we watch two or three of their musical videos taken when they were all in church musicals years ago.

So what have you learned from your ancestors?  Please share your family’s traditions – either in the comments section or on your own blog.  Please provide me the link so I can send others to read your post!

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Churches and Halloween – now that brings up an interesting vision doesn’t it?  First let’s explore the history of this festive holiday. Wikipedia and Britannica Online mentions that Halloween has roots in the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain which is celebrated at the end of the harvest season. The Gaels believed that on that date, the window between the living and the dead was very thin and could be crossed easily. In order to pacify evil spirits, costumes and masks were worn. “All Hallow’s Eve” became Halloween – the eve of All Saints Day, a Christian observance.

The date for All Saints’ Day was set at November 1st in the 800s by Pope Boniface IV. The church day began at sunset, so All Hallow’s Eve and All Saints’ Day coincided for a few short hours. In 1000 A.D. the Church made November 2nd – All Souls’ Day. The early Colonial settlers in America disapproved and forbade the Halloween celebration.

In North America churches of different denominations look upon Halloween differently. The Anglicans choose to emphasize the Christian traditions of All Saints’ Day while some Protestant churches refer to it as Reformation Day. Though beginning as a pagan celebration, both pagan and Christian beliefs are intwined in various celebrations from Oct. 31st – November 5th. Some Catholic parochial school children enjoy the holiday by dressing up in costumes. The Boston Diocese has began a “Saint Fest” on Halloween. Others of very conservative or fundamentalist Protestant churches, may see Halloween as trivializing the occult. Others consider that there is no place in Christian belief for Halloween because of the secular origins of the celebration.

One tradition from England that has been varied in America, is the giving of food on Halloween. “All Souls’ Cakes” were given to beggars for the promise that prayers for their deceased relatives would be said. This distribution of these cakes was encouraged by the Church to replace the long held practice of leaving out food and wine for spirits.

As a child, I would always dress in a costume – usually one that was harmless – and with my parents, participate in “Beggar’s Night”.  As a teen, our church youth group would have a Halloween Party, and we would visit the various “Haunted Houses” in the area.  These places were set up by non-profit organizations to raise money for various charities – the March of Dimes and Muscular Dystrophy.  A local television personality, “Dr. Creep” would often be at the Muscular Dystrophy house to welcome guests. Admission was no more than a dollar or two (this was back in the mid to late 70s) so it was pretty easy to hit every Haunted House in a ten mile radius on one evening and not break the bank. I remember how cold it used to be standing outside in the long line waiting to get in. Most of the actors were members of the non-profit or volunteers who worked every evening for a few weeks, sacrificing their own agendas, in order to help raise money. They also knew when enough was enough and who they could really scare and who they needed to be a little extra careful with.

As an adult, I’ve enjoyed having my children dress up for Halloween and either taking them around the neighborhood or (while my husband does that) staying home and passing out candy. When I was a child, people were still allowed to give out candied or caramel apples, homemade popcorn balls or cookies. Unfortunately, due to some pretty foolish people who chose to hurt children by lacing homemade goodies or apples with harmful substances, we rely on pacifying kids with sugar-laced candy.

I’ve also dressed up on more than one ocassion for either an adult Halloween party or our church’s Halloween Festival. Yes for a number of years our church was still celebrating Halloween. We didn’t call it a “Fall” festival like so many other churches or schools or organizations in order not to “offend” anyone. It was a fun time to dress up and have fun.  The Youth would run games and a cake walk and everyone would have a good time snacking and enjoying fellowship.  The kids even got to wear their (not scary) costumes to church on a Sunday before Halloween and have a costume parade through the Sunday School classes. 

Halloween – or any celebration and holiday – with roots in the secular and pagan world – can be as innocent or evil as we make it.

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