Locals Reflect on Christmas Customs and Traditions

By Bill Powers

    The customs and traditions of the Christmas time holidays are an integral part of our culture and collective psyche. Many of the customs and traditions celebrated by families today are pretty common, such as the belief that Christmas time is a special time when families come together to celebrate in a festive atmosphere and to enjoy delicious food. It is a time for love and joy and a time of religious significance for Christians throughout the world. Many of the customs and traditions around Christmas are conventional, such as the belief that it is a time for family, while at the same time the practices by individuals and many families are characterized by degrees of diversity. 

      The cherished annual Christmas traditions in our family include those stemming from the families of origin for my wife and me. They embrace the family gatherings for a Christmas feast, and that it is customary to exchange gifts and expressions of good will. The traditions go back for generations and involve long accepted beliefs and customs. At the same time, our family now includes new practices or customs that are now common to our family’s annual celebration of Christmas.

      During November of this year, I casually interviewed a total of 30 local residents at the Windham Senior Center, Blondie’s Country Diner in Chaplin, the Bidwell Tavern in Coventry, and Bob’s Windham IGA store. Each volunteer was asked to respond to two questions: 1) What is my favorite Family Holiday tradition or custom at Christmas time? 2) What is another Christmas tradition or custom that I enjoy practicing separate from my family? Here are the results of their reflections:

Angela, age 47. “Getting together with family for presents, stockings and a meal. With my own children opening one gift on Christmas Eve.”

David, who is an “ageless” senior. “Going to Hartford for the Wadsworth Athenium’s annual festival of trees and traditions.”  

Casey, age 51. “Time with the family especially since the interruptions caused by COVID.” 

Bill, age 77. In addition to getting together for a wonderful meal, we love listening to Christmas music and singing Christmas Carols.” Individually, I especially look forward to listening to Gene Autry singing ‘Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer’ and to versions of ‘O Holy Night’ and selecting and individualizing Christmas cards. “

Jack, age 80. With family – “A lobster dinner on Chrisman Eve.” Not with family – “Listening to carols.”

Robin, age 46. With family- “Decorating the tree.” Not with family – “Wrapping Christmas presents.”

Lori, age 62. With family – “Getting together with family”. Not with family – “Decorating” 

Gail, age 72. With family – “Spending time with my family.” Not with family – “Volunteering”

Gary, age 82. With family – “Family Dinner.” Not with family – “Making Christmas cookies and stollen.”

Jim, age 74. With family –  “When I was young, going to my grandparent’s house. Now we go to my sister’s and do a Yankee Swap, which is a hoot.”

Joan, age 79. With family – “In our family of two adults and eight children, we’d sit around the Christmas tree, each taking turns opening presents.” Not with family – “Secret Santa gift exchange.” 

Joyce, age 79.  With family- “Family getting together.”  Not with family – “Church”

Vibian, age 43. With family – “Cooking and baking.” Not with family – “Decorating”

Ismael, age 75. (With the help from an interpreter) With family – “Family Christmas party, eating, drinking and having a good time.” Not with family – “Celebrating with my friends and co-workers.“

Amanda, age 38. With family – “Making molasses cookies with my 3 kids and decorating gingerbread houses with our family and friends.” Not with family – “Setting the Christmas dinner table with the special Christmas China.”

Marisol, age 61. With Family – “Decorating the tree together and spending time with family.” Not with family – “Cooking.” 

Teresita, age 67. With family – “Cooking, eating, and time with my family.” Not with family – “Church.”

Jean, age 85. With family – “Christmas caroling.” Not with family – “During the Christmas season coming to the Senior Center to work on Christmas jigsaw puzzles.”

Kate, age 55. With family – “Our giant Christmas Eve gathering.” Not with family – “Going ice skating in NYC.”

Hermelinda, age 43. With family – “Singing carols.” Not with family – “Make pumpkin flan.”

Gaetane, age 68. With family – “Get the family together.”  Not with family – Flying to Florida.”

Jack, age 48. With family – “My family is extremely large and we love to eat and watch football.”   Not with family – “I put up the Christmas tree.”

Carmen, age 60. With family – “Opening presents on Three Kings Day.” Not with family – “I make potato salad for the celebration.”

Luquitas, age 71. (With the help of an interpreter)” Having fun with the children and opening presents.” Not with family – “Visiting with my friends during Christmas time.”

Rosa, age 60. With family – “A meal with my family, 8 members.” Not with family – “Cooking all kinds of things.”

Michelle, age 49. With family – “Celebrating on Christmas Eve.” 

Muriel, age 98. “As a child waking up on Christmas morning to the wonder of a trimmed Christmas tree that wasn’t there on Christmas Eve. My children and grandchildren experienced the same excitement.” Not with family – “During World War II years, when my husband was serving in the Navy, attending church on Christmas Eve with my friends.”

Rob, age 57. With family – “Family Christmas feast.” Not with family – Shopping for the perfect Christmas gifts.”

Michele, age 55. With Family – “Getting together with family.” Not with family – Listening to Christmas music and baking my apple cake for everyone to enjoy.”

Candace, age 78.  With family – “Spending time with family on a very special day.” Not with the family – “Listening to my favorite Christmas music.” 

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