Friday, December 11, 2009

Advent Calendar - December 11 - Other Traditions

Did your family or friends also celebrate other traditions during the holidays such as Hanukkah or Kwanzaa? Did you immigrant ancestors have holiday traditions from their native country which they retained or perhaps abandoned?

As far as I know, there have been no family members or friends who celebrated Christmas in any other way than the traditional Christian holiday. My immigrant ancestors came from France, Germany and Ireland, all were Catholic or Protestant, and had no other traditional form of celebration.

There have been little “traditional” items remarked on in other blogs and in magazine articles over the past few years regarding the German practices, but if my ancestors performed these traditions [the “spider in the tannenbaum” or the “pickle in the tree” are but a few], I have never heard of them being told in my family.

I am sure that they all did partake in one tradition, however, the hanging of the stockings by the fire for Santa to fill. I can recall my Grandpa telling me that the only gifts he got for Christmas as a boy were those that could fit in their stockings. And we aren’t talking about the rather large, decorative stockings of today. These were literally their stockings [socks] that they wore on a daily basis. Boys might get a stick of peppermint candy and a yo-yo, while girls might get the candy and a small dolly. Never anything large. They all might get an orange if the local grocers had them in stock. But nothing more.

My Grandma Bean once told me that they received their gifts on their kitchen chairs. When they arose on Christmas morning and went to the table to have their breakfast, their gifts would be on their seats. They weren’t allowed to look at them, however, until everyone had gathered about the table for the meal. Grandma told me the girls would get warm socks and mittens, while the boys got socks and gloves. Boys might also receive “galluses” [suspenders] and girls an apron. If they were lucky, they might get a book to share among them.

Today we hang stockings, however, they are large [making 2 or 3of our ancestors stockings!] and brightly decorated. Santa usually fills ours with fruit and nuts, and at least one very nice [interpreted “expensive”] gift. Boys [my dh] might get a silver lighter or a money clip or key ring. While girls [meaning me] might get a key ring, a silver ink pen, or earrings.

I am sure that my ancestors brought the hanging of the stockings with them from their native Germany, France and Ireland, as that particular tradition is quite old, and steeped in European tradition. And I’m glad we have the little tradition to continue today. How fun it is to bring down the stockings and dig through them for each little treasure!

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