Creating the perfect holiday |

Creating the perfect holiday

Anne-Marie Kelley
Special to the Post Independent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Kelley Cox Post Independent

It was a cold, dark Christmas Eve. Kimberly Henrie had already finished her shopping, and despite last minute pleas from her daughters to buy the ballerina jewelry boxes at the mall, she refused. Having just moved to Glenwood Springs, she was on a budget and the boxes would have to wait.

Before she headed home, Henrie made a quick stop to fuel up the car. While she was at the pump, a rough looking man pulled up in his beat-up old truck and motioned for Henrie to come over. She hesitated. He wasn’t exactly clean and she was at a gas station in the dark alone with her two young daughters. Something urged her on, and when she approached the truck, the old man handed her two jewelry boxes just like the ones her daughters had been begging her to buy. The man told Henrie he had won them at the movie theater and thought her girls might like them.

“I was speechless,” Henrie recalled. Even though it happened 13 years ago, the memory of the night still brings her chills. She submitted the story to the Chicken Soup for the Soul series and the publishers enjoyed it so much they included it in both Chicken Soup for the Soul: Christmas Cheer and Chicken Soup for the Christian Woman’s Soul.

For Laura Carter, the second grade teacher at St. Stephen’s Catholic School, Christmas brings back the memory of a cherished tradition. While she is now grown, with a college-aged son of her own, she remembers a man who sang “O Holy Night” at the church she attended in Butler, Pennsylvania when she was just a little girl. Each year, this professional Tenor named Bill Parker sang that song as a gift for his mother at the midnight mass on Christmas Eve.

“It was the most beautiful song I had ever heard,” Carter said. “When he sang, you didn’t want him to stop. His voice filled the church and your heart. Women would weep and the men were misty eyed. When he finished the song, you have could have heard a pin drop. No one wanted to break the spell.”

Memories. Traditions. No other season seems so heavy with stories and rituals. As different as they all are, they all do the same thing for these families. They define Christmas.

YouthZone Executive Director Deb Wilde thinks of ravioli when she thinks of Christmas. For a family with Italian roots, food is at the center of their celebration. The main dish for Christmas Eve is always homemade ravioli. No pasta machines or electric mixers are used, just a good, strong set of hands, a fork, a rolling pin and a hand-held ravioli rolling pin. Even the ravioli filling is ground with a hand-crank grinder that mixes the venison or elk roast with the eggs, salt, pepper, bread crumbs, parsley and parmesan cheese.

“The hands are the tools used to combine all these ingredients together,” Wilde said.

She admits that there are many variations in shapes and sizes of ravioli, but in her family it is done one way, and that one way has been passed down through generations.

“My sons have not only come to wait for this special Christmas meal, but they have had their hands in the ravioli making since they were tots,” she said. “I expect they will carry on the tradition because Christmas will not be quite the same without it.”

Dr. Scott Wooding, a Canadian psychologist who has published books on parenting teens, defines traditions as beliefs or customs handed down from generation to generation basically without change. He said family traditions are a lot more important to children than most parents realize. Traditions make children feel secure by making them feel part of a clearly defined unit, which makes them feel as if they belong. And, traditions typically require families to spend time together doing something positive, which is good in our busy world.

For the Hawkins family, that means celebrating Festijule, which according to their 23-year-old daughter Olivia, is a mix of Festivus from the Seinfeld show and Yule-tide greetings. Dale, her father, works for UPS so his Christmas season is a mad rush of long hours delivering presents in Glenwood via the brown truck. He’s been known to hand deliver a gift as late as 9 p.m. on Christmas Eve to one of the customers on his route to make sure that family had all of their presents for the big morning. There’s not a lot of family time for Dale until the Christmas rush is over. So, for the past five years, the Hawkins family has had a tradition.

“The rule is that after you walk in the house, you can’t be a Christmas hater,” Olivia said. “And then we celebrate with a funny video, a special dessert or a game.”

It’s not a typical Christmas celebration, but it works for this Christian family that celebrates their faith all year long.

Barb Corcoran understands the importance tradition plays in her young family’s life. She has four kids ages eight and below. During the course of motherhood, she has learned not to put too much emphasis on perfect traditions. For instance, when they go to the forest to cut down their Christmas tree each year, she knows somebody will probably start screaming or crying. Instead of worrying about that, she thinks about the hot chocolate and the memories they are creating.

“It’s the whole funny experience of this person picking one tree and going back and forth between trees,” Corcoran said. “When else do you spend a moment just walking in the forest, not on a trail?”

Corcoran grew up in Pennsylvania where her dad grew trees on their property specifically for Christmas. He took great care each year to prune the chosen tree so it would be a perfect hole-less Christmas tree. That’s one family tradition that has fallen by the wayside. Corcoran admits when they come home from cutting down the tree and put it up, they usually realize their perfect tree has a giant hole in it.

“It forces the kids to make paper chains to make the tree look better,” she said with a smile.

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