From the AT Staff: Tradition

Never mind that Halloween candy is barely polished off and leftover Thanksgiving turkey still lurks in the refrigerator, all of a sudden it’s time to start thinking about Christmas. Every year about this time the spirit of Ebenezer Scrooge saying “Bah, humbug!” comes calling when I hear that first Christmas carol way too early and see stores putting out Christmas decorations as they remove the Halloween décor.

But before long, I get caught up in the holiday spirit. I start baking cookies and looking for that perfect gift. I send old Scrooge packing and welcome the memories and traditions of Christmases past.

Most families can say they have them – traditions that make the holiday uniquely their own. Traditions have always been a part of the Sparks family Christmas. The entire clan looks forward to chowing down on my famous garlic mashed potatoes and yes, another turkey, complete with stuffing made the same way as last year, and the year before that. The meal wouldn’t be complete without sweet potatoes with marshmallows and cranberry-orange sauce.

When it’s time to exchange gifts, someone is chosen to be Santa, a much-coveted role; Santa gets to hand out the presents in any order he or she chooses. Before Santa gives out that first gift, though, everyone – young and old – must relate a memory from a past Christmas.

Then gifts are handed out and opened one at a time. Sometimes that can take an entire afternoon! Many gifts exchanged are not fancy or store-bought. They certainly cannot be found in any catalog. One year my mom gave me a tablecloth, exquisitely crocheted by her mother. It’s nearly 100 years old now. Another year she made me a quilt using scraps of clothing I’d worn as a child. She’d kept them all those years. Seventeen years ago my husband made a potty chair for our first grandchild, and our daughter already considers it an heirloom that she’ll pass on to Kayla some Christmas in the future.

Some of our traditions have lasted for many years. Some have been tweaked to include new family members. As the family grows, some traditions have been added and some have gone away, but the longest-lasting is to try to get the entire family together at least for one day. I know that as the kids grow up and start their own families and their own traditions, it won’t always happen, but no matter where we are, or how much things change, I’m confident we’ll always be together in heart.

As you celebrate Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or Christmas and embrace old traditions or start new ones, enjoy family and friends who give the holidays their true meaning.

What holiday traditions do you look forward to each year? Have you been the lucky recipient of a family heirloom? Have you given someone a gift they will someday pass on to the next generation? Let us know about your favorite traditions or most memorable holiday by Dec. 10. We’ll share them with all our readers in a future issue.

P.S.: Visit the blog at to find out what happened on my most memorable Christmas. Nothing will ever top that one!