In the Moment - Submissions for Christmas at the Ironmaster's Contest

Thank you to all the readers who submitted entries. Poole Forge will select five entries and post them at the Ironmaster’s Mansion. The next two weekends, visitors to the Christmas at the Ironmaster’s event will judge them for a People’s Choice Award as they tour the grounds and read the postings. The winner will be posted in the December 18 issue of my column in the Tri County Record and online at www.TriCountyRecord.com paper. The prize is “Hearth and Heritage Along the Conestoga”, a book with a collection of traditions, country recipes and local stories written with the collaboration of the volunteers of Historic Poole Forge of Churchtown and the Ladies Auxiliary of Caernarvon Fire Company.

Again, thank you to everyone who participated in this event. Please read, enjoy, and share these wonderful stories.

Traditions created through the years

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Holiday traditions … holiday traditions! So many memories and so many choices! My grandma first came to mind. Her house was usually the gathering place for our family, us and friends. When I was little it was my job, and holiday tradition with my grandma, to make place cards for each person who was coming to share our wonderful meal. I suspect this job was more to keep me out from under foot in kitchen, but nevertheless, I sat for hours creatively crafting each person’s card with construction paper, scissors, glue and glitter!

The next person is my mother. She had a bay window in her dining room and always took delight in placing a small, white tree in the window with white lights and blue glass balls on the tree. On Christmas Eve, our family always celebrated by having cheese fondue and French bread. This tradition was brought to our family by my cousins who spent several years in Switzerland.

When creating my own favorite holiday traditions for my own family, I’ve retained a little of my grandma’s favorites, my mother’s favorites and my own styles. Every year, I have a new theme for decorating the Christmas tree. This year, it is traditional glass ornaments and handmade and specialty ornaments. I especially like the construction paper and glitter ornaments that my children made when they were young.

I hope that as my children create their own new family traditions, they will also remember and incorporate some of the past for their own children to celebrate. Holiday traditions bring so many happy and joyous memories of loved ones and new and creative ways to bring joy to new generations!

Ellen Geisel

Honey Brook, PA

Christmas in Scarlet’s Mill in the 1930s

My pre-school years recall that there were no Christmas decorations in our home. That is until Christmas morning. When I came downstairs there were Christmas decorations everywhere. Wrapped presents appeared under the spruce or pine Christmas tree loaded with ornaments. These were cut from my grandfather’s forest. By age four, we had electricity and my parents bought a train set (which I still have). My father bought a large sheet of ply board and drilled holes into it to insert lights. Houses and a church were placed over the lights and the miniature village was aglow. The buildings were crafted by a friend of my dad, who cut and welded them out of cans (which I also have). The outsides were painted, but the insides still revealed the labels.

By the time I was in junior high, my father decided to go into business for himself. We already had a cow and raised chickens. The Wilmington and Northern Railroad laid train tracks through Seyferts (formerly Naomi) in 1872 very close to a sixteen room mansion built by one of the Seyfert’s . The sparks from the trains repeatedly caught this place on fire. Finally, the mansion was condemned in the 1930s and put up for sale for $300. My dad bought it to dismantle it to build a four story chicken house.

I loved roaming from room to room in the mansion. The cooks had their own private staircase from the kitchen to the second floor bedroom not accessible from the second floor hallway. There was a secret panel in the dining room which opened into a stairwell that went from there to the other floors. The third floor was one huge ball room. The floor of the ball room had three layers of boards. The middle layer was of thin boards placed diagonally. The top layer was hardwood. It was very hard to tear up those boards without them splitting. I pulled out thousands of nails and my dad wouldn’t throw any of them out, but put them in a bucket to straighten them for later use.

What does this all have to do with a Christmas memory? Wait, there’s more. The four story chicken house was completed and the poultry business took off. We had street routes throughout Philadelphia suburbs and poultry stands in many Farmer’s Markets from Chester to Germantown. Before Christmas, we processed chickens, ducks, turkeys, geese and Cornish hens. There was non-stop work with little sleep to prepare for all the markets and the street routes. By the time Christmas came, we were exhausted. We heartily welcomed our grandmother’s invitation for Christmas dinner. Grammy and Pop-Pop Brady lived down our lane. Our grandparents had spent many weeks preparing for a bountiful feast. My parents surely welcomed this day. It was wonderful to spend relaxing time with the aunts, uncles and cousins. That same day and the next several days were spent visiting each other’s homes to see what each member of each family had received for their Christmas presents. Cookies were always served at each house.

Much time was invested by my mother baking many different kinds of cookies. The tastier ones would last a day or two and the less tasty one would languish in tin boxes until Easter. They were still tasty if dipped in a cup of hot chocolate.

Jere E. Brady

Morgantown, PA

The gift of animals

Every year we have a familiar challenge: how to thank all the special teachers, aides, bus drivers, therapists, administrators, lunch ladies, reading specialists, coaches and others who make such a magnificent difference in our children’s lives? We have three great children, and our oldest son has cerebral palsy and is mainstreamed at our school district, where so many amazing people have gone so far above and beyond. So many people have been so generous with their time, dedication, and commitment to our children and we wanted to say thank you in a memorable way, but how?

Our family tradition started six years ago when we purchased and gifted a livestock animal for a family in a struggling country through Heifer International. We donate an animal each year, but our donated animal has offspring so the gift is a growing gift. We give a unique gift card to our friends saying we have made a donation in their name of a llama, or a goat, or a flock of chickens, or a bee hive, or a calf through the years. It makes a very distinctive gift and we still have friends coming up to us many years later saying “Nobody ever gave me a llama before for Christmas!”, so we know the gift was special and memorable!

We also purchase a small plastic figure of the farm animal we donated and mark it with the year donated and the children display it in our Christmas Garden. It also serves as a visual reminder to our children that our small animal gift each year has a big impact in the lives of other families. We think of them often, every year, when we lovingly display our Animal Christmas Garden!

The Buckwalter Family

Reinholds, PA

My Father’s Christmas spirit of giving of one’s self continues

Each Christmas when I was a young girl my father would sell fresh Christmas trees, garland greens and wreaths. This was my father’s tradition. The money he earned was used for our family’s Christmas. There were ten children.

When I married and had my own family, I decided to now have my own tradition. During the Christmas season I would invite grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, nieces, children and their friends to a nice restaurant for dinner. No gifts were to be given. The gift was the presence of each other to thank them for all the lovely fine things they did for us that year.

Now that some are no longer with us we have changed the tradition. We visit various cemeteries to see that each one is remembered by placing a fresh green wreath on each grave and then we say a prayer, this way they know we didn’t forget them. Our tradition is in honor of my father who instilled in us the Christmas spirit of giving of one’s self.

Katherine Manbeck

Reading, PA

Remembering the Three Wise Man’s Gifts

Our family has many traditions we look forward to as the holidays approach. I love dressing my home in fresh greens. The smell of pine amidst the hint of ham basting in the oven on Christmas morning wakes my children to 3 gifts per person under the tree. This is a tradition that brings such a warm feeling only this season can accommodate.

We began the tradition to embrace just 3 gifts during the economic downslide. The idea of receiving the same amount of gifts the Lord was blessed with helps to keep the true reason for the season.

Lori Hevalow

Muhlenberg, PA

What God wants for Christmas

Our family has decided to try and get the true meaning of Christmas back into our holiday. Christmas Eve we go as a family to our church’s Christmas Eve service. We come home and do some our favorite traditions. We go through the story of Christmas using “What God Wants For Christmas”. We take turns opening the seven different boxes that tell of the first Christmas when Christ was born. The two youngest boys take turns deciding who gets to open the final box. This is the box that answers what God wants for Christmas.

We also have a “golden” box. It has various gifts addressed to “all who will receive.” As we open these gifts and read the scripture promises inside the Christmas story unfolds.

It’s our desire for our children to understand that the greatest gift of Christmas comes from the Heavenly Father, to a world of guilty sinners offering them the gift of eternal life by placing one’s faith in Christ who willingly laid down his life as a substitutionary ransom. This idea is captured when the angels spoke to the shepherds in Luke 2:10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

God wants YOU!

Gloria Quaintance

Morgantown, PA

Forgotten Cookies

Over the years my Christmas traditions have evolved. I was born December 24th; my birthday was always special and never missed. After my oldest daughter was old enough she always made sure I got breakfast in bed, she served me toast, scrambled eggs, bacon, coffee, juice, and a birthday cake cookie decorated. As the other kids grew older they chimed in too adding their special treats.

Christmas Eve we all went to Church and came home and celebrated my birthday with a cake and presents. That was the one day of the year that my husband went shopping to buy my birthday and Christmas presents at Boscovs (they did the wrapping). Christmas Eve before bed we made “forgotten” cookies, when we went to bed I left the cookies in the oven. When the children awoke Christmas morning they couldn’t come down stairs until their father woke up. They came down from eldest to youngest, to open the French doors to the vision of the Christmas tree, gifts, and lights. Only after opening their presents could they eat the forgotten cookies. The forgotten cookies weren’t forgotten anymore.

Betty Gossert

Wyomissing, PA

Elves, Rudolf, pickles, Oh My!

My family has a few adopted traditions that we enjoy every year. At Thanksgiving our Christmas elf comes for a visit. He hides in a special spot to watch the children and at night he flies to the North Pole to report back to Santa. The next morning before the day begins the kids come down and search all over for him to see where he hides when he returns. It helps keep the kids behavior in check for at least one month.

Next is the Santa sighting. Every Christmas Eve after church and dinner are over, we see Rudolf’s Red nose glowing in the woods behind our house. Not sure how we got so lucky but for the last nine years this has happened. The kids come out and sprinkle reindeer food for Rudolf and we can always hear Santa’s bells and few “Ho Ho Ho’s”. The kids know it is time to hit the sack so Santa can make his delivery.

The last is the German tradition. We have a glass pickle ornament that gets hidden somewhere on the tree Christmas day after all the presents have been opened. The kids hide their eyes while the pickle is being hidden and then the first one to find it wins a prize. They all know that it doesn’t matter who wins in the long run as I always have enough prizes for all the children.

One year our older kids (college age and above) did a search and knocked our Christmas tree over fighting for it. Needless to say you can imagine what the egg hunts are like at Easter! That is about it as far as goofy traditions in our house. We always try to make it special and always remember the true meaning of Christmas.

Oh My! Funny addition, we lost our elf. We have had the same one for 7 years and this year it was nowhere to be found. My daughter was having a panic attack. Every morning she came down and looked. She would come back upstairs sad,’ no elf.’ All the neighbors’ elves have come already and ours did not. I told her maybe we didn’t have enough Christmas spirit so she would sing “I have Christmas Spirit, I have Christmas Spirit.” Yesterday she came in from sledding and said “MOM! Abbie’s elf (our neighbor) brought her a new sled this morning and our still isn’t here!” We drove to Barnes and Noble last night after dinner and purchased a new female elf with a polka dotted skirt. I typed up a letter from the old elf and told her that he was tired and need to retire to the islands with his wife for sun and fun. He mentioned how he enjoyed his time with our family and to remember the treat others well, and reminded her of the true meaning of Christmas. He said he may “resurface” someday to say hello and he sent his replacement. Olivia named her Dottie and can’t wait to get home from school today to see where she appears.

Whewww! Pulled that one off!

Jennifer Morocko

Morgantown, PA

Christmas Eve Open House for friends and family

My favorite Holiday tradition is the Christmas Eve Open House my husband Ben and I have in our home every Christmas Eve.

We open our home up to family, friends and neighbors; all are welcomed to celebrate the spirit of Christmas. It is a tradition that our children, nieces and nephews and friend’s children look forward to every year.

I can’t express what this night means to me, the feelings I get to see all of my family and friends together just melts my heart. To me the spirit of Christmas is about sharing, caring and giving to others selflessly and the only thing you expect is the smile on their face and the laughter in their hearts. If I had one wish the spirit of Christmas would last throughout the year.

Beth Ebling

Mount Penn-Pennside, PA

Christmas in Venezuela

I grew up in Venezuela. Christmas is a very special time for us; you can ‘feel’ the celebration atmosphere everywhere early December. We have typical music for this time of the year, these songs are called ‘gaitas’ the themes are varied and range from religious content to political and patriotic nature. The typical instruments are drums, a small ‘guitars’ or ‘cuatros’ and the ‘furruco’ that is another kind of drum. So the beat is very upbeat!

For food we have a very elaborate dish that is only prepared for this time of the year, we make something called “Hallacas” they are made of corn and stuffed with different meats, also inside some olives, capers and raisins. Then we wrap them up in green plantain leaves, tie them up and boil them.

It’s said that this traditional dish first started when the Spaniards finished their feasts the slaves gathered all the left overs to make what we now enjoy as “Hallacas”.

At home we make enough for like an army! That is something in the hundreds or so of these tamales and in the process everybody helps. The table turns into a coordinated production, while one spreads the corn dough another one tops it with filling or stuffing then another one drops the garnishes such olives etc., next warps them and finally ties them up to then be boiled. It’s said that the plantain leaves preserve them, so we make lots of them and eat them every day for the next few days.

Sophia Vall

Miami Beach, FL

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