The Christmas holidays offer us an opportunity to gather and share and celebrate. And it also gives us a chance to reflect on the memories and the traditions that make it uniquely our own.
The Mainstreet Daily News staff wishes all our readers a holiday season filled with the things that make it joyful and special. What follows are the memorable moments and holiday traditions that help each of us create that sense of connection and celebration.
Mike Ridaught, sports director
I'm almost two years older than my brother. One Christmas, when we were probably 4 and 2, we were in our Sunday best clothes.
My mom was in the kitchen washing dishes. She heard us giggling and then eventually it became more like cackling, so much so that my mom just started to laugh without even knowing what was going on.
When she walked out to explore what we were laughing about, she saw my brother Rod and I in the fireplace. I was having Rod look up and when he would look I would pull the chute to dump the chimney soot on us.
My mom took that photo and everybody loved it, so much so that they made it into a Christmas card and it won first place at my grandfather's hardware Christmas party.
Suzette Cook, reporter
I've been to holiday mass at the Notre-Dame de Paris, the Vatican in Rome and St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City.
But my pilgrimage in Florida happens each Christmas—for more than a decade now—to a church I consider to be just as ornate. It is a visit to the Cathedral Basilica St. Augustine known as “America’s First Parish.”
We head over to St. Augustine for mass but make a stop to explore our favorite fort and then eat a fine meal and walk the cobblestone streets.
Cathedral Basilica is more than 450 years old and also serves St. Benedict the Moor Church, built in 1889 in the city’s historic Lincolnville neighborhood, "to care for the spiritual needs of those who had recently been freed as slaves."
The church has become a place that draws thousands of visitors a year. To sit in a pew during Christmas mass is a joy as music fills the space and exquisite art adorns the floor, ceiling, and each wall in the form of murals and stained glass windows.
Christmas for us is experiencing the art of the church, hearing the message of peace and being surrounded by others seeking the same.
C.J. Gish, associate editor
A family tradition that we have always had with my wife's brother and his family was a pajama exchange. During Thanksgiving, we would put everyone's name in a hat for adults and kids/cousins and then that person would give a pair of pajamas to the person they drew.
We would open the pajamas up on Christmas Eve (usually doing a Skype call to each other).
And for my family, we would always spend an evening (we have 20-plus Christmas movies on DVD), watching "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" and "Scrooged" back-to-back while eating Christmas treats and cutting up meats and cheeses.
Click here for some staff holiday recipes, including the Gish family recipe for overnight egg casserole.
Seth Johnson, reporter
Every Christmas my family eats sausage crescent rolls while unwrapping gifts. I know they'll be ready in the morning for munching throughout the day. I don't think my parents coordinated it, but they never made the rolls throughout the year. So now, the rolls are a special Christmas treat.
Camille Broadway, correspondent
Some of my earliest Christmas memories are cooking with my grandmother. As soon as Thanksgiving was over, she would begin to bake and make candy.
I was 6 when I was first recruited to help roll cookie dough and crush graham crackers into crumbs. Our family and friends would visit and be served a hot cup of Russian tea (think wassail but with orange and pineapple juice) and offered a tiered tray of holiday nibbles.
My favorite memories are tied with making food for the tray: cheese wafers, divinity, sausage balls, fudge and snickerdoodles with a rotating cast of other goodies culled from my grandmother’s stash of recipes.
My mom and I carry on the tradition – though it’s much reduced from its heyday. Mom is in charge of the Russian tea while I bake whatever food we’re missing the most. The smells and tastes bring us immediately into the Christmas spirit.
Click here for some staff holiday recipes, including Broadway family recipes for cheese wafers and snickerdoodles.
J.C. Derrick, publisher
Most of my Christmas memories revolve around family. I know that sounds mundane, but as I got older I became very aware that not every kid had married parents, grandparents who lived on a farm complete with tractor rides and a homemade merry-go-round, and aunts and uncles and cousins who traveled significant distances to be together almost every year.
Our family was not without drama, but I was shielded from most of it—enough to grow up with plenty of idyllic memories.
My adult Christmases have varied widely. I've spent them with my side of the family, my wife's side of the family, at home with visiting relatives, and at home with just our family. But each one is special in its own way, and I've learned to savor every moment with whoever I'm with that year. Because any year could be the best—or last—with the ones I love.
Click here for some staff holiday recipes, including the Derrick family’s recipe for Lydia’s lebkuchen cookies.