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December 23, 2013

Christmas traditions

CAIRO — Before visions of sugar-plums can dance in their heads, families have traditions that have to be upheld.

The staff members at Roddenbery Memorial Library (RML) have many traditions that they have kept within their families through the years. Some like to switch their traditions each year.

Cairo’s Sara Ochs. a volunteer at RML enjoys spending time with her family on Christmas Eve. Generally, she goes to her dad and his wife’s house to open presents, have dinner and read the Christmas Story.

She said, “We try to get in bed early that night, but the kids’ excitement tends to get in the way of that. It’s nice to spend the extra time with the family.”

Ochs recalled traditions that she and her family had when she was a child and still and hold onto today.

“We would open up our wrapped Christmas pajamas on Christmas Eve when I was younger and have a fire. Since we didn’t always live in a cold enough climate, we had to turn on the air conditioning up to enjoy it. We still like to have a fire now,” said Ochs.

Albany’s Kim Spencer, a staff member at RML, keeps the same traditions she has held for most of her life.

She said, “We will watch ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas,’ open one present and usually fall asleep by the Christmas tree.”

Her parents would take her to the candlelight service at the church they attended.

“It was really pretty when all of the lights were turned off in the church. We even watched ‘The Grinch,’ opened one present and fell asleep by the tree even then,” Spencer added.

Janet Boudet of Tallahassee, Fla., the associate director for the library,  she remembered Christmas Eves growing up in South Florida. 

She said, “We would go to church first and then have a huge family buffet.”

Today, with her children being older, she no longer travels to South Florida, but her family maintains the tradition of eating together and then going to church.

While some families enjoy opening a gift or two on Christmas Eve, Boudet’s family likes to wait until Christmas morning to open presents.

“We will also watch ‘A Christmas Story’ as we wrap presents that night. When it’s dark enough, we go to see the Christmas lights,” said Boudet.

Even though many families have similar traditions, there are some who have very non-traditional Christmas Eves.

Juan Santos, a native of Venezuela and now of Cairo, is a staff member at RML who does not follow American traditions of Christmas and Christmas Eve.

Most of the time he and his family celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve. At midnight, the children are given their presents.

“It’s a very special time every Christmas. No matter what the economic situation, we have always found a way to give presents on Christmas,” said Santos.

Beginning on Dec. 1, his family sets off fireworks much like the tradition of Independence Day. They continue the fireworks until after New Year’s Day.

He said, “It’s a way to bring in the new year.”

Pamela Grigg, library director, also goes against the norm with Christmas Eve traditions.

In Tallahassee, she and her family would go to a pond nearby her family’s neighborhood to sing Christmas carols and light candles on Christmas Eve. She said that people in the neighborhood, along with her family, have been keeping this tradition for many years.

Her family also celebrates Winter Solstice during the holiday season in honor of having longer days.

Grigg remembered when she was younger and lived in Europe with her parents.

“We were living in Holland and I remember seeing St. Nicholas riding into town on an elegant white horse. He had a huge crown on his head and wore a flowing robe. This was during the parade there. There wasn’t a Santa Claus, only a St. Nicholas,” she said.

Her family would also leave wooden shoes beside the tree on Christmas Eve, a Holland tradition.

She also lived in Sweden at one time. It was there that she picked up one tradition and still carries it— the Yule Goat.

It is known to be a popular Christmas ornament in Scandinavia today. It is a decorative goat figure made out of straw and bound with red ribbons. Often, it can be found under the Yule Tree or Christmas Tree. In Sweden, the people regarded the Yule Goat as an invisible spirit that would appear before Christmas to make sure the preparations for Christmas or Yule were done properly.

Grigg said, “We don’t have one set thing to do on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. It’s a little of this and a little of that. We have very different traditions.”

Reporter Susanne Reynolds can be reached at (229) 226-2400, ext. 1826.

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