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Tru Grace: Holiday Memoirs!
Allison Frymoyer, Development Coordinator: My family is Pennsylvania Dutch (no, not Amish – there is a difference!) and about 10 years ago, my mom found a book called Pennsylvania Dutch Night Before Christmas. Instead of Santa Claus, the Belsnickel (the German version of St. Nick – a grumpy, gaunt man dressed in all black) lands on the family’s house with 4 cows and 4 steer that all with PA Dutch names, like Esther and Jebediah. So, every Christmas Eve, the big party night in my family, everyone gathers around my mom, who reads the book with her super authentic Pennsylvania Dutch accent. Everyone laughs so hard that they cry – it’s definitely the best part of the holiday season.
Andrew Darcey, Marketing Manager: My favorite holiday is Thanksgiving: the whole Perry family gathers together for a fantastic afternoon of food, fun and football (I'll never understand why Detroit plays on Thanksgiving every year!). It's always great to see everyone and each year, we have our annual Christmas grab: each person picks one other person to buy a present for.
Elizabeth Stewart, Marketing Associate: Christmas is the time when everyone in my family, no matter where they are, goes back to the homestead in rural western Pennsylvania. There were always four sets of Christmas in my family growing up: Christmast Eve with my grandparents on my father's side (and much, much church going!), Christmas morning at my house with my parents and my brother (and yes, more church going!), and Christmas Day with my other grandparents. After all the main Christmas events were done, my aunt, my cousin, and I would pile in the car and head off to the even more extended family - out in the back woods - where we'd talk, hang out, and make merry one more time before everyone scattered across the country again. The tradition? Every year since we've been alive, my mother has taken photos of my brother and I in front of the Christmas tree. You can probably put them all in a flip book and see us age, year by year. Here's one from 2006:
Robin Abrahams, Board Member: As an adult, I find that I enjoy Christmas a lot more now that I've become Jewish. There's no pressure. A movie and Chinese food with friends: what's not to like?
Ezra Flam, Education Program Manager/Teaching Artist: This is a picture of me basting a turkey. I’m a lifelong Vegetarian—I have never eaten meat. But once a year, on the day before Thanksgiving my friends and I get together and have a traditional Thanksgiving meal. The year I hosted, it was also my responsibility to cook the bird. Although I didn’t taste it myself, I’m told it was moist and delicious.
Kyla Frieden, Tru Grace Cast Member: I think my favorite thing is racing the Channukah candles. My sister and brother and I light the menorah and then we see whose candle goes out the very last. That person is the winner! I also like playing dreidel because if it's candy we're playing with, then I love winning the candy. And I like that my family is all around over the holiday time, that I can build snowmen with my brother and sister, and that I can stay up really, really late because everyone forgets about my bedtime.
Maggie Moore Abdow, Education Director: As I’m in the midst of building traditions with my young family, I find myself revisiting my childhood—what will I carry over to my children and what we will create anew? My childhood holidays were steeped in small traditions: the Thanksgiving blessing chain my mother insisted my brother and I create w/ each link identifying a sentiment of gratitude; the December weekend my mother and I would sequester ourselves and do nothing but bake for 48 hours; the Christmas Eve trio reading presented by my father: The Night Before Christmas, The Nativity (King James’ version), and The Polar Express; the use of ribbon to “seal” my brother and I into our rooms Christmas Eve so we wouldn’t sneak out; and my own tradition of being the last person to go to bed Christmas Eve so I could be alone and listen to O’ Holy Night and lose myself in the Christmas tree. I’m still trying to figure it out---keep it all or just do what our busy schedules allow? While I ponder, my son and daughter are busy coloring on our first blessing chain.
Tracey Clarke, Operations Director: On Christmas morning my mother, brother and sister and I would open our gifts at our home and proceed to play with them until it was time to get ready to go to my grandparents house. Once we got there, we said our holiday greetings, made small talk and then followed my grandparents, aunt and cousin into the LIVING ROOM to begin the merry festivities. The reason I say LIVING ROOM is because you were not allowed in that room unless it was a special occasion – if I recall, there was plastic on all the furniture back then. My Grandmother always put up her shiny silver tinsel tree which had a colorful rotating light in the back to show off the tree. Appetizers included black and green olives along with celery sticks filled with cream cheese. We children could not figure out how to eat the olives without ‘touching’ the other olives and spilling everything so we left those alone. We would open our gifts and then proceed to the dining area for the feast. We had two rooms: the ADULT room and the KIDDY room. All of us kids would eat in the KIDDY room and wonder what the big hoopla was to sitting in the ADULT room (I found out when I turned 16 when I finally graduated to that room – other than watching my great-grandfather fall asleep at the table, it was no big deal). My grandmother was not a chef – but we always looked forward to her lumpy mashed potatoes and her carrots with half the peelings still on. The BIG surprise came when she presented us with her chocolate chip cookies with hunks of butter still in them. After dinner, I would always find a reason to go to the bathroom for a long period of time so I would not have to do the dishes (I still get busted for this to this day) which we kids got stuck with doing. After the dishes were done, we watched TV, played with our toys (or thought about what to do with our newly ‘earned’ money) and then went home.
Naomi Zahler, Tru Grace Cast Member: My favorite part of the holidays is getting to see my extended family and...the food! My favorite memory is of when my uncle rented a mansion and the family spent our Thanksgiving there. On Christmas Day my family and I often go to see a movie and eat at a Chinese restaurant (we celebrate Hanukkah).
Catherine Carr Kelly, Executive Director: Like my colleague, Maggie, I am also beginning holiday traditions with my young family. There is, of course, the note to Santa with cookies and carrots (for Rudolph), the placing of the “Santa Key” on the door (we don’t have a fireplace, so a key is needed); and Christmas stockings opened first with a candy cane for breakfast!