Bring the Past Into the Present

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When you think of Christmases past what first comes to your mind? I asked our 4-H volunteer leaders the same question and they shared some wonderful traditions. Today I want to share them with you. As you may know, 4-H’s slogan is “Learn by Doing.” My goal in sharing these 4-H leader’s stories with you is to motivate you to try something new or spark a memory of something you haven’t done in a while. This can be the beginning of a new tradition for your family.

Bruce Ledford, our Team Topshots 4-H Club volunteer leader celebrates Saint Nick’s Day. The Feast of Saint Nicholas, a fourth-century Bishop, is December 6th. St. Nicholas is remembered for his generosity and may be the origin of our modern-day Santa Claus. Bruce’s family is visited by Santa on this day. They began this tradition the year a fun Christmas trip would have them away from home on Christmas day because the children were concerned Santa wouldn’t be able to find them. On Christmas morning (at least the ones they are home) they always have Shrimp and Grits and a sweet treat they call Blueberry Fancy. Going back further he shares “Growing up we rotated between our house, a cousin’s house, and our grandparent’s house. The cousin’s dad always got a box of peppermint candy at Christmas. As time progressed we ended up just gathering at my parents’ house and added a white elephant game. There was a light blue bath set (mat, toilet cover, etc.) that went around for years. A box of hair color was always a hot item. I usually put in a jar of honey and a cousin was always after that. One year my daughter got a suitcase and she tried to hide it behind her so no one would steal it.” The family does a lot of traveling so that makes sense.

Mix 1/3 cup of cocoa with 3/4 cup of sugar. Melt in a saucepan with 1/3 cup hot water. Summer and stir for two minutes. Now pour in 4 cups milk and warm but do not boil. After you take it from the heat add 3/4 tsp of natural vanilla. Optionally add a few drops of peppermint oil. Makes 4 mugs.One volunteer leader remembers how the family would always take a drive to look at Christmas lights. It wasn’t a small affair either. They would take a thermos with hot cocoa and go out for over an hour, driving around to different neighborhoods just to see what the city had put on display. “Even though we lived on a road less traveled, my parents put up our own decently sized display because we knew how much joy others’ displays brought to us.” This year there are plenty of lights to go driving around to see. 

Cindy Howenstein, our Young Commissioners 4-H Club volunteer leader, shares a special story with us. “A great memory for me is when my grandma, mom, me, my nieces, and nephew would get together to make Christmas cookies and candy. We would turn on Christmas carols and start by rolling out and baking sugar cookies. Then I would supervise each child to mix and bake their favorite cookie and candy recipes. Once the sugar cookies cooled we would finish by decorating them. The kitchen would be filled with yummy smells and delicious treats. But, of course, tasting them and the smiles on our faces were the best part.”

Myrna Rodriguez is our Magetsi 4-H Club volunteer leader and she celebrates Las Posadas Navidenas which is an old tradition and translates to The Christmas Inn. From December sixteenth to the twenty-fourth (nine days) her family prays a rosary called novenario. They have porcelain figurines called peregrinos of Mary on a donkey and Joseph walking beside her. “We choose three houses. A group of people is singing inside, another group is outside singing Christmas carols in Spanish while walking, carrying the peregrinos. When we get to the door we sing a song called las posadas. The song is about how Joseph was looking for a place to stay. We knock on two doors and are denied entrance. At the third door, we are invited in and the party begins. The fun part is walking in the dark with candles and singing together. Every day of the nine days is a different house and we bring the peregrinos house to house. I have been doing this with 4-H kids since I joined.” At the party, they sing a rosary prayer, have food, a pinata, and bags of candy. 

photo of 3rd sunday of advent wreathEach year beginning the first Sunday of Advent, our family has met at the dining room table around an advent wreath to celebrate evening prayer and read one of the daily bible readings leading up to the birth of Jesus. I did this with my family growing up and Jon and I have continued the tradition with our children. Advent is the time of waiting marked by the four Sundays prior to Christmas. Feelings of expectation build each Sunday when we light a new candle.

Pam Kerley is the 4-H Program Assistant for N.C. Cooperative Extension, Lee County Center. 4-H is a positive youth development program offering programs that suit a variety of backgrounds, interests, budgets, and schedules. From in-school to after-school, clubs to camps, 4-H’s programs are available in Lee County and we welcome children who want to have fun, learn, and grow. In NC, 4-H is brought to you by the NC State Extension. N.C. Cooperative Extension’s experts and educators share university knowledge, information, and tools you can use every day to improve your life.

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