Locals reminisce about Christmas decorations and traditions

By Page H. Gifford

It is the sights and sounds that set Christmas apart from other holidays and it is a whole different stock of memories for many. Naturally, everyone remembers the smells of home-cooking, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger wafting through the house. But also the decorations and music are a large part of the cultures and traditions of many families.

A few Fluvanna residents shared their special decorating traditions. Michael Jordan loves the childhood aspect of Christmas and his face lights up when speaking about it. He appears transported back in time as he reminisces about what is special about Christmas for him.

“I love the colored lights, none of the white lights, but colored lights. And reflective ornaments that sparkle and shine when the light hits them. I also like toys, nutcrackers, toy soldiers, trains, rocking horses, anything that excites and interests children is what I like to see at Christmas.”

Unlike Jordan, who has adult children, Kristel Townsend, has quite a few children, who travel to nursing homes with her and sing carols while she plays the piano. It is the Christmas displays they all clamor to see.

“We love the Christmas lights and we go to Lewis Court at the lake and Charlottesville and Crozet to see displays,” she said.

Sandy and Fernando Uribe share cultural experiences at Christmas. Fernando is Mexican and talked about a Mexican nativity they set-up every year.

“We have to find it first,” said Sandy while Fernando laughed. “I love baking cookies, and the smell of ginger and cloves and we decorate the mantel with evergreen boughs, I love the smell of pine.” Aside from his Mexican nativity, Sandy is second-generation Italian and being sentimental has saved many family heirlooms from her past. “I just have to find them.” They also agreed that while decorating and baking you have to play Christmas carols.

Fluvanna High School student, 16-year old Amelia Craft, talked about her family traditions.

“Every year since my parents have been married, my dad always gives my mom a Santa Clause.” She described the many different types her mother has collected over their 27-year marriage, including a nesting Santa.

She also described a Christmas tradition, started by her grandfather, featuring a two-tiered snow village, with lights in the windows of the houses, and the little people and other details.

Leslie Truex shared some different Christmas customs in her household. We always had live trees and when the kids were young, my husband used to saw off the bottom of the tree, sand it, and date it,” she said, keeping them as reminders of past Christmases.

“We also hung the stockings outside the kid’s bedroom doors, so they would be occupied early in the morning and we could sleep,” she said. “We not only left cookies for Santa but a letter too. One year, my daughter, Hannah, when she was about six, left $2 for Santa to donate to a good cause.”

Warren Groeger also shared some interesting Christmas practices when he was a child.

“My father would bring in the tree and leave it bare and there were no gifts out under the tree because Santa was the one who did all the work. When we went to bed my parents did all the decorating and my father began a train set under the tree by adding on a train every year.” He added that he and his sister had to keep the secret after they learned the truth about Santa Clause so that Christmas wasn’t spoiled for their younger brother.

“I remember going to my grandmother’s house for Christmas dinner and her wonderful fruitcake with whip cream.” He was so vivid in his recollection, one could almost taste her homemade fruitcake. “And next to it was a snow village all set-up with a mirror for a pond and little ice skaters.”

Once a year, everyone hauls out the boxes from closets, garages, and attics, and sets up their displays. It is a lot of work but the joy and the memories are priceless.

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