By Jenny Mathews, contributing writer
An anthology of popular Christmas carols would suggest that among other activities during the holidays, we roast chestnuts, ride horse-drawn sleighs, kiss underneath mistletoe, eat fig-pudding and fruit cake while walking in a winter wonderland. This, most wonderful time of the year, is a season of traditions, and Cache Valley families have no shortage of them.
While some Holiday traditions, like stockings and Christmas trees, are common, each family draws from their own experiences to generate their unique and cherished traditions. As I reached out to gather a sampling from families in the valley, each story was wrapped in a familiar nostalgia. As they shared their stories with me, I felt as if they were letting me briefly peak inside their secret shiny silver box of priceless treasures. Family traditions become sacred and continue because of the people whose lives they bless and the joy and love shared among families during the holidays.
[colored_box bgColor=”#a72730″ textColor=”#ffffff”]￼Cutting the Christmas Tree: Eric and Isabel Jones Family, Nibley
In 1946, my husband’s great-grandfather, Evan Parley Jones, put a ‘down payment’ on a mountain ranch in Idaho near Bear Lake. He did this by putting in the plumbing for the former owner’s home, and then paid off the rest of the money bit by bit. Every December, the family would drive there together to cut Christmas trees to bring back and sell to the locals. We try and keep the tradition alive with our young family. Grandpa Rodney Jones is in his 80’s, but still drives us up to the ranch every year.
“When we go to get the tree, we make a day of it. We meet in Garden City in the morning for hot cocoa, then drive north to the ranch. Hunting for the perfect tree is so much fun. Once we get them home and decorated, the trees usually look a bit like scraggly Charlie Brown trees, but that makes us love them even more. They’re part of our family history and part of how we celebrate the past, the future and the special time of year.[/colored_box]
[colored_box bgColor=”#a72730″ textColor=”#ffffff”]Christmas Eve Pancake Dinner: Barry and Rhonda Park Family, Logan
“The tradition started with my grandparents, Clarence and Evelyn Powell. They owned a plumbing and heating business and there was always a last-minute call on Christmas Eve for a furnace or water heater that went out. My grandma hated having the guys out so late that night so she decided to have pancakes and sausage waiting for them at the of- fice so their wives didn’t have to hold dinner off. After a few years, they decided to close the office early and invite everyone to a pancakes and sausage Christmas Eve dinner.
“Decades later this tradition continues with members of my family and my sister’s family in Michigan. I remember watching my grandpa put brown sugar and fresh cream on his pancakes and knowing how much he enjoyed it. This tradition keeps the memory of my grandparents alive.”[/colored_box]
[colored_box bgColor=”#a72730″ textColor=”#ffffff”]Advent Calendar: Travis and Shanda Baldwin family, Paradise
“My favorite Christmas tradition is our family advent calendar. I loved having an advent calendar when I was a little girl. We always picked out our own chocolate advent calendar from the grocery store. Each morning I would quickly open the little numbered door for my yummy treat. I wanted to make sure I kept the tradi- tion of an advent calendar for my own family, but with a little twist! Eight years ago I bought a cheap felt pocket advent calendar and each December I fill the pocket for each day with a little piece of paper describing the activity for that day. Some activities are elaborate and some are simple (carefully coordinated with our family calendar so I don’t overwhelm myself on busy days!).
“My kids LOVE our advent calendar and get excited as they take turns reaching into the little pockets.”[/colored_box]
[colored_box bgColor=”#a72730″ textColor=”#ffffff”]￼￼The Family History Tree: Layne and Julie Finlinson Family, Smithfield
“In 1996, the year our first child was born, I decided to make a special ornament for his first Christmas. I chose a wooden gingerbread man and recorded the details of his birth on it. We liked the idea of a ‘crafty’ tree and having enjoyed making the first ornament, continued making wooden ornaments that repre- sented special events from each year that followed. Layne had experience with woodworking and began cutting our own patterns. It has become a great way to summarize our children’s history. Now that the kids are older they decide what their ornament should be and help design it. We write a little on the back of each ornament to describe that child’s design.
“The tradition has made decorating the tree each year fun. We separate the or- naments out for each child and they place ‘their’ ornaments on the tree, recalling stories as we decorate.”[/colored_box]
[colored_box bgColor=”#a72730″ textColor=”#ffffff”]Breakfast with Santa: Tom and Traci Jensen Family, Lewiston
“I was born six months after our family had their first breakfast with Santa. My grandfather worked near the ZCMI Center in Salt Lake City, and saw an advertise- ment for breakfast with Santa in the Tiffin Room, a restaurant on the 5th floor. They bought tickets for the family that year and we went again every year throughout my childhood.
“I remember we would eat breakfast, listen to a lady named Jingle play the piano and then Santa would come. He sang and danced, then came around to visit ev- ery table. We were each given a stocking-shaped paper to make our wish lists on, and then we’d follow him down to the department store to sit on his knee.
“In 1998, we decided to have breakfast with Santa at my grandma’s house in- stead, and the next year, ZCMI closed its doors forever. The tradition of Breakfast with Santa lives on in our family. Each year, on the Friday before Christmas, we have a big sleepover at my parent’s house. Saturday morning we make a special breakfast while the children wait with their noses pressed against the window watching for Santa. After breakfast, Santa arrives. He sings and dances and gives everyone a small gift before he leaves. We look forward to this all year long.”[/colored_box]
[colored_box bgColor=”#a72730″ textColor=”#ffffff”]￼￼Birthday Party for Jesus: Matt and Erica Smith family, North Logan
“As long as I can remember, my family has celebrated Christmas evening with a birthday party. Mom would bake a cake and my two sisters and I would decorate it with a mini nativity. After dinner, we would gather around the table and sing :
‘If the whole world knew your birthday,
If it was marked in green and red,
If they counted down the days to it then not a word was said,
How sad they’d feel if they forgot your very special day,
And even though they knew it, no one took the time to say Happy Birthday’
“Then we’d break into the traditional Happy Birthday song to baby Jesus. As children, we absolutely got it. The cake and the song reminded us that Christmas wasn’t about presents under trees or Santa in a sleigh, it was to celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ.”[/colored_box]