I thought it would be fun to visit with a few local families and learn about the traditions that are part of their holiday celebrations. I posed the question on The Ark City Ask and Answered Facebook page, and received some enthusiastic responses.

For Sammi Webb and her family, participation in a skeet shoot is a major part of each Thanksgiving. After enjoying a big dinner, the family spends the afternoon munching on leftovers and shooting skeet. More than 40 people participate in the event. She said the children are also allowed to shoot, and the event also serves as an opportunity to teach gun safety.

During the month of December, the family spends one weekend making candies and other goodies. The family also unwraps a new book each night and gathers together to read it.

“Honestly, it’s a month of wonderfulness,” Webb said.

For Elizabeth Chaney and her family, the Christmas tree always goes up Thanksgiving night. Christmas Eve is celebrated in PJs with hot chocolate and gifts. Christmas day brings cucumber sandwiches and a marathon viewing of the Christmas Vacation movie.

Christie Lisk Rogers said her family makes 25 or more pans of cinnamon rolls and dozens of cookies to distribute to family, friends and others who might need some Christmas cheer.

“We have done this since the kids were little, and now with the grandkids,” she said.

Dawn Marie Deering said in her family, Christmas lasts for seven days. Each person is allowed to open one small gift each day, usually small expensive items. She said the gifts are kept in the stockings, and each person opens one after the chores and homework tasks are completed.

The family also enjoys wrapping gifts while listening to Christmas music and eating Hershey’s kisses.

For one family, Christmas Eve brings a traditional Polish dinner. Kristen King said her family always enjoys a meal consisting of homemade pirogues and Polish sausage. She said it is the family’s favorite meal of the year.

Amy Vibbert said her family always receives a special delivery of new pajamas from Santa to wear on Christmas Eve.

The family will sit down to a Christmas dinner of clam chowder, shrimp, ham, pickle wraps and bacon wrapped water chestnuts. After dinner, the family attends church and will then open one present.

Homemade spaghetti at grandma’s house with all the aunts, uncles and cousins has been a Christmas Eve tradition for Brandy Payne. After moving far away from her family, she is no longer able to attend that gathering. But she continues the spaghetti tradition with her own children.

LaDonna Endicott says she likes to make or buy an ornament for each family member. She said the family decorates the tree with the new ornaments, and the ones from previous years. Christmas goodies are also a part of the celebration, and each grandchild is given an ornament to take home.

“That way they have a few ornaments when they are on their own,” she said.

In my own family, my wife and I have managed to combine traditions from our childhoods with new ones that we cherish and look forward to each year. Those events have become an important part of our celebration and the holidays wouldn’t seem right without them.

Our house is decorated inside and out, and everything must be in place by Thanksgiving night. December evenings are spent watching Christmas specials and eating treats.

Our Christmas tree is adorned with multi-color lights until Christmas Eve, when it is changed over to all white lights. By tradition, the lights are never unplugged until we take the tree down.

Playing Santa has also become a treasured tradition for our family. As Santa, Mrs. Claus and Elf Ebenezer Sugarcane, you will occasionally find us in front of our house waving at cars or we may pop up at random locations around the community.

Family traditions help keep the magic of Christmas alive. It’s a time for beautiful decorations, music, Christmas TV specials, and family gatherings with an abundance of delicious food.

As the years roll by, our traditions allow us to embrace past memories and make new ones.  So light up the Christmas tree, bring out the goodies, get together with your family and make this the best Christmas ever. As the old song says, it is the most wonderful time of the year.


CourierTraveler reporter John Shelman can be contacted at (620) 442-4200 or reporter@ctnewsonline.com.

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