Christmas traditions from Srs Kathleen, Joan, and Joy, NDS

We were honored this year to receive letters from almost all of our Notre Dame Sisters about their Christmas traditions growing up. Below is the first post about Christmas traditions. Hopefully, this can inform how your traditions may change this year, as COVID-19 keeps us from celebrating the way we usually do. Below, read traditions and see the full, hand-written stories at the bottom.

Sr. Kathleen Cramer, ND – Christmas brings Food and Family

Our preparation for Christmas began the day after Thanksgiving when Mom would bake a fruitcake. To make certain it will be just right by Christmas, she would pour some sauce over the top before masking it in aluminum foil. A little more sauce was added each week until the cake was perfect.

When my brother and I were children in Birmingham, we would go to bed early on Christmas Eve so Santa would come, but not before leaving cookies and milk for Santa and raisins for his reindeer.

Christmas morning we’d hurry into the living room to open presents while Dad took some pictures to share with relatives in Nebraska. After mass we’d go to the home of another family the Doress, and have Christmas dinner with them. They were originally from Virginia so we kind of become each other’s family on holidays throughout the year.

Once we moved to Wahoo we were close to our aunts and uncles so we’d spend Christmas day with them. Since Mom had two sisters, we took turns hosting Christmas dinner. Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, rolls, salads and desserts were lovingly made and displayed. A feast for the appetite as well as the senses. I can still remember the smells; we were fortunate because my mom and my aunts were all great cooks.

Sr. Joan Polak, ND – Decorating the tumble weed

My father passed away leaving my mother with six children ages 2 to 10. As we grew older, we longed for a Christmas tree, but buying one was out of question. My older brother decided to go out to the roadsides to see what we could find. He brought home the biggest and finest tumble weed he found. We decorated it with strings of popped popcorn and it stood majestic in our front room.

Another: My mother had a kettle with a lid that locked tight. In it she placed the Christmas nuts and put it in her closet. For many evenings after Christmas, she would bring out the kettle and each of us eagerly awaited around the table. Each received an English walnut, a Brazilian nut, a pecan, a filbert and some peanuts. Then the trading began – – – I’ll give you my pecan for your English walnut – – – pass me the nutcracker.

Srs. Veronica Jo and Patricia Posekany – Christmas Eve Feast

Looking back at my childhood, the most vivid memories were those of Christmas eve supper. Mom was busy in the kitchen almost all day preparing for that special meal. The menu always included fried fish [day of abstinence] and other dishes.

Present was Mom’s special apple strudel. The table was set early and we children were reminded to put some money under our plate before supper. We gathered our pennies, nickels and dimes and put them under our plate. In secret Mom and Dad would add some dollar bills to our coins, (by then the plate was a bit wobbly). The money was great, but the meaning was a hope that we would have enough money to make it through the year.

When the time came for supper, we took our places. All of the main course was on the table and the rest of the food was on a card table by Mom. No one was allowed to get up until the entire meal was finished. I never learned the reason, but I chalked it up to tradition. After prayer, Dad cut a large apple in slices and handed it to each of us to eat. It symbolized the love we share and for good health. At the end of the meal, we all enjoyed a big bowl of unshelled nuts. A hammer and a heavy iron object was passed around to crack the nuts. After dishes we opened presents.