The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

December 10, 2013

Everyone has their own Christmas traditions

By Peggy Goodrich, columnist
Enid News & Eagle

ENID, Okla. — Do you have special Christmas traditions? Think about it.

About this time of year, I begin to look for the biggest stocking I have to hang up for Santa to fill. I have done this since I was little. It always had the same thing in it ... fruit, usually oranges, a huge apple, a peppermint stick and nuts. Now when people think of stocking-stuffers, they think of hand held electronic games and jewelery that can be tucked into a sock. We had none of that, but we were always happy with whatever Santa left for us. We were just glad it was not a piece of coal.

Our tree was brought in fresh from the pasture and secured with boards to keep it upright and sturdy. We made decorations of construction paper chains and popcorn, and had a star covered with tin foil on the top. We had very few Christmas balls or ornaments to hang on the limbs, but it was a beautiful tree every year and we looked forward to any presents left under it.  

We put up a small nativity in a prominent place to remind us of the true meaning of the Christmas season. I have always wondered what happened to that little nativity scene and the crude manger that held it. It must have been replaced somewhere along the line, having been accidentally chipped and broken over those many years by being handled by many pairs of little hands.  

Weeks before Christmas, we busied ourselves with making gifts for our family.  These gifts were not elaborate, but they were well thought out and created in secret. We loved all those secrets of Christmas. I still find it almost impossible to keep a Christmas secret. If you want something to be a real surprise, don’t mention it to me. I might let it slip.   

We made lots and lots of Christmas candy and cookies and breads and cakes. We gave them for presents and ate lots of them ourselves. The house always smelled of cinnamon and bread baking. It was a wonderful aroma and said “welcome” to anyone who dropped by. We roasted peanuts and made popcorn. We made spiced apple cider and hot cocoa. We celebrated for weeks like that.

Christmas morning was a joyous occasion. We arose early and looked in our stockings. Then someone was Santa’s helper and passed out the presents. After all the presents were oohed and aahed over, we ate a huge breakfast of bacon, ham, eggs, biscuits, and every kind of cake and pie and breads. It was a breakfast feast. The men then left to feed cattle and livestock for most of the day and the “women folk” cleaned the kitchen and cooked all day for another feast later in the afternoon.  

For that meal, we had turkey, dressing, mincemeat pie (real mincemeat made with beef and not just this dark citron stuff we now buy). We had wonderful hot rolls and real whipped cream to pour over Jell-o or pumpkin pie. I can close my eyes and still remember those fabulous meals.  

We always served turnips at our celebrations to remind us of the hard times our grandparents had when they came to early Oklahoma. It was about all they had to eat beside wild game and they were more than glad to have those turnips to sustain life. Most of the kids and some of the adults turn up their noses at such fare, but many of us take it to heart and count our blessings for the bounty we have now.

I would hope that you are developing traditions within your families that will make wonderful memories now and in years to come. The way we send our messages to Santa and the way we decorate and when are all changing from the way we did it years ago, but as the new traditions develop, the old traditions stay rooted  in our memories.

Our family has grown throughout the years. Our youngest granddaughter has two young children and our eldest granddaughter is engaged to a lovely man with three children still living at home. Those amazing children have instantly become ours. We treat them no different than flesh and blood. They are just ours. Sweet children only add more joy to our Christmas season. We can hardly wait to see them all again and enjoy precious time together.   

Whatever your family traditions are, I hope you and yours will include time for quiet reflection about the real meaning of Christmas. Make happy memories.  

This year, when we have our present-opening evening, I am going to make a huge crock pot of thick soup and serve with crusty bread, cheese, fruits, fresh vegetables and assorted cookies, and homemade candy. By then, we will probably be full to the brim with candies and cookies. We find it difficult to even stop for soup because we all get so excited about what is under the tree. I especially am looking forward to see what my 11-year-old great granddaughter got me. She told me last summer she knew exactly what she was going to get me for Christmas. I have waited all this time and can’t want much longer. Even adults act like children at Christmas time.

Let this easy soup add to your Christmas joy. Merry Christmas.

Mexicali Chowder

1 pound lean ground beef

1⁄3 cup chopped onion

1 can Ranch beans

1 small can whole kernel corn (drained)

1 small can tomato sauce

1 can chopped green chilies

1⁄2 package dry taco seasoning

1⁄2 teaspoon garlic powder

3 tablespoons ranch dressing

Cook meat and onions. Add other ingredients and cook one hour. This is great made ahead of time and reheated as it seems to get better as time goes on. Easy to double or triple this recipe and add other kinds of beans if you like. Sometimes I use stewed, diced tomatoes instead of the tomato sauce. Any way you make it is delicious and a welcome winter supper.

Send your comments to: Peggy Goodrich, Food For Thought, P.O. Box 1192, Enid, OK 73702.