Holiday Memories
Special times are the reason for the season
By Erin Bell

Remembering special holiday moments will always make you smile – even if those moments belong to someone else. Take a look at some of our readers’ favorite memories from their family celebrations over the years. And what luck, the holidays are upon us once again, with a chance to make some more wonderful holiday memories.

Our family celebrated Kwanzaa when I was a child. I remember hearing stories from my elders about when they were young. One evening, my grandmother got up and started doing the Charleston, and all I could think was she was having spasms!  –  Vanessa Jenkins, Lindenwold

Lisa-at-Christmas_0002I remember my younger sister Lisa’s constant quest to find out what she was getting for Christmas. She couldn’t bear the suspense of waiting. One memorable year, she informed me she knew exactly what we were both getting from Mom. “Don’t tell me,” I said. “I want to be surprised.” My sister was a great actress, and Mom never knew that Lisa had actually unwrapped every single gift in my mother’s closet and then carefully rewrapped them. I am still amazed that someone would go to such drastic lengths to reveal a secret.  –  Laurie “L.A.” Strucke, Mount Holly

My favorite holiday memory would be Christmas of 2012. My boyfriend and I were opening presents a bit hurriedly because we had quite a bit of traveling to do that day with both our families. We were just finishing up when he asked me, “Don’t you want to do our stockings?” I said, “Oh no, I’ve been so busy I completely forgot to put anything in our stockings. I’m so sorry.” He smiled at me and said, “I really think you should look in your stocking.” I pulled out a small green box. He gently took it from my hand, opened it and got down on one knee. It was an engagement ring. That year, when people asked me what I got for Christmas I answered, “I got a rock.”  –  Brenda Bacon, Mount Laurel

Lynette-Brown-with-the-picture-she-made-for-her-aunt-as-a-Kwanzaa-gift-many-years-agoA special Kwanzaa memory I have is one that I share with my aunt. Her favorite artist is Frank Morrison, so I replicated one of his paintings and gave it to her during Kwanzaa. My aunt taught me about creativity and economics, and years later she still has that picture hanging in her office.  –  Lynette Brown, Camden

One of my favorite Hanukkah memories was watching my children, who are now ages 21 and 25, recreate and act out the story of Hanukkah with their Beanie Babies, complete with homemade costumes and props.  – Sharon Siegel, Cherry Hill

My wife and I named our house “Chez Noel,” which means “Christmas House.” For me, the magic of Christmas began when I was a child. Each year my Grandmom Errichetti in Camden set up her modest basement with folding tables and chairs for our family holiday celebration. There was always a fresh Christmas tree adorned with colored lights, and Grandmom served the Italian traditional seven-fishes dinner. The highlight of the night was when Santa (Uncle Danny) arrived and gave everyone a small gift that left warm memories for everyone until the following year. Christmas at Grandmom Errichetti’s house was the basis for the Christmas Eve tradition that I continue to this day.  –  Robert “Bobby Chez” Sliwowski, Moorestown

I love how disappointed I would get as a kid if I didn’t receive the gift I wanted, and how much that perspective has changed over time. Now, holidays are a time of recollection for me each year. I cherish them with friends and family.  –  Chris Campbell, Hainesport

The big difference to remember between Hanukkah and Christmas is that Hanukkah is not like Christmas every night. Most nights it’s a lot more laid back. On this particular night when I was 8 or 9 years old, I had watched a cartoon on TV, and it had the “Waltz of the Flowers” in it, the suite from Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker.” I had never heard Tchaikovsky before, so I was entranced by the music. I went and told my dad that I wanted to find piano music for it, because it was so beautiful. And sure enough, one of the following nights of Hanukkah, my father walked in and pulled out from behind his back two records – “The Nutcracker Suite” and Tchaikovsky’s “Romeo & Juliet.” I remember the front of the Nutcracker record had the Sugar Plum Fairy on it, and on Romeo and Juliet there was a beautiful picture of a ballerina. I was such a little girl and it was a very magical moment for a laid-back night of Hanukkah.  –  Erica Ritter, Mount Laurel

I got engaged on Christmas Eve – Jim tied the ring to his shoe! We were sitting together on the couch and he was sitting with his legs crossed next to me, shaking his foot. He always complained when I did that because he found it annoying. So I complained about his foot, grabbed it and said, “And look, you even have something stuck to your shoe.” I thought it was tape with some wrapping paper or tinsel attached because it was sparkly. But when I looked, it was a diamond ring! Then he got down on one knee and proposed. (You know what my answer was, because we have been married 34 years.) We left for midnight mass after that. I spent the whole mass watching my ring sparkle. It was the best Christmas Eve.  –  Patrice Frazer, Riverton

my-husband-xmas-tree-Scan-4My husband asked me to marry him on Christmas morning, 1953. We have a picture right before he asked me, you can actually see he’s almost on his knee. All of my family was there, and they all knew, but I had no idea. We were married for 58 years before he passed away. He was the love of my life.  – Mary Lou Klein, Mount Laurel

My brother was an intern at a Philadelphia news station, and a camera crew and reporter from the station came to our house to show our family lighting the menorah and chanting the blessings on live TV. We were all very excited when the red light on the camera went on, and we knew the entire Delaware Valley was watching our family celebrate Hanukkah. Everyone was scared they would drop something and make a scene on live TV.  –  Kenny Einhorn, Voorhees

My favorite holiday memory was actually from just last year – it was the first time I had ever cooked for a family holiday. That day my sisters and I got up early and turned on the radio (we were listening to Christmas songs, of course) and started prepping the dinner together. We all came together as a family, and it was also my baby nephew’s first Christmas with us, which made it extra special.  –  Brianna Casal, Riverside

My favorite Kwanzaa memory was seeing my former students and their children participate as organizers and performers for Unity Community’s annual Kwanzaa celebration. Unity Community is a Camden-based organization, and it showcases talented toddlers through teens with outstanding drumming and dancing skills. Those are the moments I cherish as an educator.  –  Yvette Pruitt, Pennsauken

My favorite Christmas memories are of my mom and I making literally dozens of cookies. Each one had to be perfect, and they were all made with pride. I come from an Italian family, and it is tradition for everyone to bring assorted cookies and desserts to holiday dinners. We would always have more desserts than dinner!  –  Carmella Shannon, Voorhees

bro&sisIMG_0007My favorite Christmas memory has got to be decorating the entire house for Christmas in preparation for our whole family coming over on Christmas Day. I love decking the halls from head to toe in Christmas decorations while listening to Christmas music and drinking warm beverages. My brother and I like to decorate the Christmas tree together, because we always have a good time, and hanging your favorite Christmas ornaments never gets old.  –  Caroline Kubach, Lumberton

I was lucky enough to grow up right next door to my maternal grandparents, who were both Czechoslovakian. I spent countless hours at their house before Christmas. We went shopping at the specialty Czech store for ingredients for dough. I got to be at my grandma’s side as she baked – I remember it would take all day. She made all her doughs by hand, including sweet dough rolls and filling for kolacky. Looking back now, I believe those days leading up to the actual holiday were the most fun and most memorable. My holidays were celebrations over many days, not just one. I am grateful for all it lent me as a child.  –  Camille Ryan, Delran

One of my favorite Christmas memories when I was a kid was when my older brothers and I were too excited to go to sleep on Christmas Eve. Then on Christmas morning we would sit at the top of the stairs until Mom said it was OK to come down. We even reenacted this tradition a few years ago, all grown up. We didn’t fit on the steps very well.  –  Mike Becker, Cinnaminson

My favorite holiday memory is having a Christmas Eve party. It was so exciting to get dressed up for church, then come home and celebrate. My mom always decorated so beautifully, like from a magazine. I remember my mom, aunts and my mommom would bake cookies every weekend from November 1 until Christmas Eve. We would make homemade eggnog and have a fire going outside. We left carrots for the reindeer. The most exciting thing was my sister’s birthday was on Christmas Day, and she would always get a special present from Mrs. Clause.  –  Boni Cunningham, Voorhees

December 2014
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