The special thing about Christmas

Published 11:22 am Friday, December 23, 2011

Dean Nathews makes her special Christmas cookies. (Contributed)

By CATHERINE LEGG / Community Columnist

I thought it would be fun to find out what local folks consider most special about Christmas, so I visited a few people and asked.

Food was the No. 1 response, but turkey and dressing are not for everyone. Debbie Webster, who cooks up lots of the great food at the Main Street Tavern, really loves turkey, but her family expects ziti on Christmas.

Jennifer Key takes her family out for Chinese and then they just enjoy the day.

Evelyn Blake gives her family a seafood feast and pecan pie on Christmas Eve, and then they all go to the church service.

Kathlyn Lathion said she loves the soul food she serves her nieces and cousins. They sit together and talk about old times and why we celebrate.

Clyde Winslett always makes his very special pecan pralines using a treasured recipe given to him more than 50 years ago by his then next-door neighbor, Mrs. Florence Lyman.

“Our Christmas dinner is all about ‘who gets the almond,’” said Mark Robinson. “My wife, Nicki, hides an almond in the sweet potato casserole, and the lucky fellow who finds it wins the prize.”

Dean Nathews confessed that her favorite things about Christmas are the wonderful memories of childhood.

“I was born during the Depression,” she said, “but my mother always made Christmas a happy time. Our cotton stockings would be filled with dried raisins, nuts, fruit, a big peppermint stick, sparklers and Roman candles. Our one other gift might be a doll, a game or a puzzle.”

Dean told us, too, about one of her husband, Zane’s, special memories. His Jewish mother allowed the children to have a Christmas tree, and because the dates of Christmas and Hanukkah are close, they called it a “Hanukkah bush.” Once when a very orthodox uncle came to visit, they hid the tree in a closet.

Richard Anderson remembers the shoebox of shelled pecans that his grandmother mailed to him each year. He was a little boy, but he knew that the pecans were for the goodies his mother baked.

Christmas is not always about the memories or the food, though. There are other special traditions, such as Major Miller-Kirby’s annual Doggie Christmas Party; this year was the fifth.

Kristen, Matt and Gabe Bridges ride around to see the decorated homes, and if they like them, they give a one-three toot salute. If the homes are especially beautiful, they leave a note in the mail box.

And for me, a very special part of Christmas was visiting with these friends and hearing their stories.

Catherine Legg can be reached at