Miss Annie shares Christmas

Riding around Shelby and Jefferson Counties in a red Volkswagen Beetle is Annie McDaniel, a science teacher on wheels that travels to more than 22,000 elementary students.

Miss Annie dresses up as a penguin, crab or elf for Christmas time, for an in-school field trip on 16 different science programs.

McDaniel grew up in a large family of frugal means who were members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

Christmas was a time of family gatherings and wonderful meals of meatballs over rice, apple pie and homemade orange yeast rolls.

She was one of 46 grandchildren and one of her favorite memories was at her grandparents’ home.

Her grandmother made an advent banner with 25 pockets filled with candy, one for each day leading up to Christmas. At the top was a bell.

Each day the bell would ring, one more day closer to Christmas.

“It was just magical,” McDaniel said. “I just loved to hear that bell.”

McDaniel’s husband, Darryl, was the first in his family to go on a mission trip, a tradition for young men of the Mormon faith.

“There came a time in my life when I realized my faith was the most important thing to me and I decided to become a missionary,” he said. “My faith gave direction to my life.”

After his mission time, Darryl and Annie married and moved to Columbiana.

Christmas traditions are very important to their family. Annie made a book at their church that includes a story based on scripture and a Christmas carol for each day of advent.

Darryl reads the story to the family each night and they all sing, and on Christmas Eve, he reads the story of the birth of Jesus.

“We open our presents Christmas morning one by one,” said the youngest of their three daughters, Madison. “We always had to wait for the video to be set up.”

The McDaniels wanted to find a way to share with others the real meaning of Christmas, the birth of their Savior Jesus Christ.

One of their most treasured traditions has been a well-kept secret.

For many years they have bought a nativity set and chose a family in Columbiana to which they could be secret Santas.

Each day before Christmas they would wrap up one piece of the nativity and leave it on the chosen family’s doorstep.

On Christmas day when they took the last piece, the baby Jesus, they would tell the family who had been their secret Santas.

The McDaniel’s have kept the real meaning of Christmas in their lives.

Columnist Phoebe Donald Robinson can be reached by e–mail at phoeberobinson@bellsouth.net.