Our Favorite Holiday Memories
While we were making this years new holiday memories, we reflected on some our favorite holiday memories and traditions of years gone by. We shared our thoughts with Mainline Media News.
I come from a family of 9 children. We grew up during World War II in Herend, Hungary. My mom and dad worked in the famed Herend porcelain factory. Life was hard; our family didn’t have much. We lived in a small house and Christmas was very simple. Each child got an apple and an orange as gifts – that was all.
Christmas dinner would be goulash (Mom made it for Dad every day), my mom’s fresh baked bread, and a ham, because a ham can go far with so many kids. On Christmas Eve, the girls would get dressed up in beautiful dresses and veils and bring the Christmas tree – it wasn’t a very big tree – into the room for us all to decorate with chocolate candies in paper wrappings.
We were happy when we were able to move to America when I was still a child. Even after we moved here, we still got just an apple and an orange for Christmas. Here, Christmas tends to me more about material things. For me, Christmas was about religion, and we always went to church on Christmas Eve.
My mother was a great cook, and for Christmas Eve she would make roast prime rib of beef. She also made fruit cakes – the best I’ve ever tasted. She’d start making them the day after Thanksgiving, and she’d make more than 20 of them over the next few weeks.
I was in the 10th grade when our family got the most thrilling Christmas gift I can remember – a black and white television set. That was in 1950, and TV was brand new at that time. We were so impressed by the fact that pictures could just fly through the air and you’d get them in this instrument inside your house. The most popular show at that time was the Texaco Star Theater, a comedy-variety show hosted by Milton Berle.
My mother’s parents would come visit on Christmas, and when I was old enough, I’d pick them up and drive them back to their house in Telford, about 10 miles from our house. When I drove them back at night in the dark, my grandmother would always say, “I hope we don’t get lost.”
When I was growing up, my fondest memory of Christmas was getting together with my 14 cousins at my grandparents’ house. We’d bake bread and other pastries in my grandmother’s kitchen and give them as gifts. We were a close family. My grandfather was one of 14 children, and he and my grandmother had five children and 15 grandchildren, most of whom lived on my grandparents’ farm. To work a farm, you need a lot of children, you know.
When I was an adult, the manager of the local Walmart store – which had just opened in our area – said he would open an hour late one morning in early December so my daughter and I and other adults in the community could bring some poor, local children to the store early to help them buy presents for their families. These children couldn’t have bought the presents by themselves. It was the most wonderful feeling, especially because these children were picking out gifts for their families – not for themselves. That’s the true meaning of Christmas. They had a great time, and we had a great time.
Though I’m Jewish, I do love the beauty of the Christmas holiday – the lights, the decorations and the spirit of Christmas. When I was growing up, Hanukah wasn’t a big deal. But the rivalry with Christmas changed Hanukkah. Today, Jewish kids get gifts – for eight days. I call Hanukkah the Jewish Christmas.
I like to write, and I wrote a tongue-in-cheek essay about Christmas called “Christmas spoils everything.” Here’s what I wrote: “Christmas was always a time for the Jewish people to go to a Chinese restaurant because all of the other restaurants were closed. It was a special day as all the Jews gathered in the Chinese restaurants for a sort of Christmas meal without the Christmas in it. Even the Chinese restaurant owners celebrated the day as ‘The day for the Jews to gather in our restaurant.”
Rosh Hashanah would be my favorite Jewish holiday. It’s the New Year; it’s a celebration, and we always had a nice family dinner. It was sort of like Thanksgiving.
Every holiday is merrier at Kyffin Grove!