Monday, December 20, 2010

Holidays - Tradition, story and memory

Holidays are a time of tradition, story and memory.
I love hearing tales of special foods, activities that
families share and how they choose to decorate their home
during holidays. Our family bakes two special breads for
Christmas morn - a brioche usually shaped like a Santa
(photo above)and a Norwegian julekage. Both recipes came
fromSunset magazine in the late 60's...and we've been making
them every since. One tradition associated with the julekage
is to make the dough, divide it in half and bake two loaves.
Then one is given to a friend or on Christmas
you are sharing the very same bread. One year we tried to
send the bread to my brother in London. Only it took too
long to arrive, so became we stick to sharing
with folks nearby.

That same brother in London started us on the tradition
of Christmas crackers....the British poppers with paper
crowns, silly jokes or riddles, and tiny toys. They guarantee
that Christmas night is filled with laughs and giggles...
and recognition that life needs levity as well as seriousness.

We as many families have a Christmas cactus..which if we
are careful blooms in late December. But our Mama
cactus has been passed down through the generations..
My husband's great aunts found a small Christmas cactus
discarded by a flower shop in Roseburg, OR around
1910....They "rescued" it and its been growing and
producing cactus generations every since. The original
"elder" resides in our kitchen with an offspring nearby.

I enjoy Christmas trees, especially for all the memories
stored in the decorations and the stories that are shared
in a family as they are placed on a tree. However,
now that we tend to travel to be with our children, we skip
or only have a small tree. There is one decoration that
continues to get more elaborate in our home - our nativity
scene. I made the original figures when I was about 10.
We always set up a small scene as I was growing up. There is
something about the scene that has always appealed to me -

Then in 1994 we traveled to Ecuador for the wedding of one
of our daughters. We were introduced to the tradition of nativity
scenes in Cuenca, Ecuador. Some which filled whole backyards
including mini volcanoes, living plants ,etc. Each scene was
clearly a labor of love by everyone who set them up. Ever
since then, our scene has expanded in both concept and items.
It covers the top of our piano.

Every piece in the scene is a story shard..connecting to
travels of friends, our children, ourselves. Others were
gifted for special occasions. Some are new, some old. Each
represent connections to people and times shared. The
tiny animal band I made of clay when I was around 11 is there.

The three kings of the original scene long ago disappeared, so
in our present version, these three musicians (gifted to us from
Peruvian friends) are the "kings".

When one of our daughters traveled to Greece, she didn't
find a piece for the brought back a few rocks (from
Atlantis perhaps?)

For me,our scene represents family and the hope and joy
which should be celebrated at the birth of each and every child
in the world. Some infants will grow to be extraordinary
individuals whose stories will impact the world in major ways
But every child has the potential of offering his or her unique
gifts and our job is to nurture possibility.

May this season however you celebrate it, be filled
with warmth, family, friends, tradition and lots of story sharing!!

Peace, Wendy


  1. What a wonderful set of traditions you and your family share! Thanks for all of the photos. My Christmas cactus always blooms in late November so that the flowers are gone by now. How amazing to have a plant that has lasted since 1910. It is as amazing that it was discarded.
    Have a joyous Christmas. Best to you and your family.

  2. Thank you - and a blessed Christmas to you
    as well!