Many of us mark this time of year with specific traditions. We asked a few of our Cherokee County friends to share theirs with us. Whether you celebrate this time of year with family, friends or both, we hope you build and maintain fun and memorable traditions of your own!
Cherokee County Chamber of Commerce president and CEO
When I was a little girl, my parents started a lasting tradition that came around full circle for me for as a parent this holiday. Every Christmas, I received a bell for our family’s Christmas tree. In the leaner years, my bell might have been a wooden cut-out or crocheted ornament. As I grew older the bells grew in style yet never in significance because, no matter how shiny the bell, it meant no more to me than the one my parents surprised me with the year before. When my husband and I married almost 27 years ago (we will celebrate our 27th wedding anniversary on Dec. 15) those bells enabled us to fill our first Christmas tree. That was my parent’s plan from the start – collect ornaments that would one day grace my own tree and provide me with a reminder of childhood Christmases. I was able to look at the tree and see memories, not just the branches. I’ll be 50 years old next spring and there hasn’t been a year yet that a bell hasn’t been a part of my Christmas surprises.
Fast forward to 2017. Our daughters are now 23 (Sarah) and 17 (Rebekah) and likewise have received ornaments each year since they were born. Those of you about my age will remember Precious Moments figurines, which were the ornaments of choice for them. My husband and I opted as well for them to have Christmas trees in their rooms that were decorated in a theme that fit their personalities. The patriotic red, white and blue tree for Sarah and an old-fashioned candy tree for Rebekah. New ornaments were added each year and decorating their trees was a highlight of the start of the holiday season at our house – even last year in preparation for Sarah and her fiancé’s engagement party. While the engagement was exciting for Sarah, Brody and all of us, their June 17 wedding has been a highlight of our year. The icing on cake, however, was when Sarah’s patriotic ornaments made their way to their new home in Atlanta, where they now grace the first tree for Brody and Sarah Carnes-Klett. May the tradition live on!
founder of ForeverWE Inc.
Since my husband Gavin is a pastor and often has to work on Christmas Eve, we never make plans to visit family or friends. Instead, once everyone is home, we toss up the pizza dough and begin assembling individual homemade pizzas. The personal creations are getting a little more adventurous every year, as everyone transforms their ingredients into abstract works of art!
Canton City Council member
Until recently, a family tradition was to select and purchase a living Christmas tree the week after Thanksgiving. In 1992, our son Jimmy was in the Navy and spent Christmas in the Middle East. At our Christmas at home that year, the rest of the family shared traditional gift-giving near the tree, but Jimmy’s gifts were left unopened. The day after Christmas, we planted our living Christmas tree in the front yard. In April 1993, Jimmy came home on leave. That was the day we really celebrated Christmas. We placed his gifts outside under the tree and, as he opened each, we talked about his Christmas on the other side of the world. What a great memory! Incidentally, that tree is still living in our yard – referred to as “Jimmy’s Tree.”
Cherokee FOCUS Director
“Baby’s First Christmas” was such a very special ornament to put on the tree the year that Kyle was born. We found another perfect ornament that reflected his favorite thing to do that first year; a baby that looked just like him, happily scooting around in a walker. The next year a picture ornament went up along with another ornament that reminded us of that second year. This went on each year and then his sister Dakota’s “Baby’s First Christmas” ornament shared the tree. Each year after I continued to place picture ornaments on the tree, a picture for Kyle and one for Dakota, to show what they looked like that year. There is also an ornament for each of them to reflect something they did or that was special to them that year; a boy scout, a ballerina, a power ranger, a princess, Harry Potter and The Polar Express. We started early collecting ornaments from places we had been or trips we had taken during the year. Family members contributed ornaments of their memories. There are picture ornaments of family members and pets right alongside all of the wonderful handmade ornaments they made from preschool on up. And each holiday season, it is our tradition to put on some Christmas music, decorate fresh-baked cookies and begin decorating the tree.
Now that Kyle and Dakota are adults in their 20s, the tree decorating takes a minimum of two days to finish. It is our Memory Tree. With each ornament that goes up, I go back in time and marvel at how God has blessed me and our family over the years. As the years go on, this tradition does become time consuming and my children have begun to question why the kindergarten paper ornaments still have to hang on the tree. One day they will have children of their own and realize that there is not a solid gold ornament or diamond encrusted star that could ever be as memorable or full of love as the heart shaped ornament made with tiny thumb prints or that aging angel with tissue paper wings, a pipe cleaner halo and the body of a cardboard tube from a roll of toilet paper. Don’t get me wrong, we do have a fancy tree, too. And if you drive by our house and look in the window, you will see the perfect tree with perfect ornaments hung around tiny white lights. But in our family room where we spend most of our time together, you will see the big, beautiful, colorful, hot mess of memories that is our life. During this season of giving, give yourself the gift of memories and dig out those old ornaments if you haven’t already.
For kids well in their 40s, we still stuff their stockings with many of the same things from their entire lives … that Lifesaver book, Pez, chocolate coins, etc.
If the main course for Christmas dinner is a turkey, we always have the same recipes on the table … dressing, rutabagas, homemade gravy, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie.
A new tradition for the last several years, and a most important one, especially for our grandchildren, is the scavenger hunt. Based on a different children’s Christmas book, a trail of successive clues are hidden inside and outside our house and neighbors’ yards, clues which ultimately lead to the grandchildrens’ Christmas presents. This new tradition extends the fun of the holiday and the kids anticipate it from one year to the next.
Canton city manager
My boys (Turner, 7, and Jennings, 4) make cookies each year for Santa. We work in our pajamas around the old faithful KitchenAid stand mixer my wife Julie gave me as a wedding present. Our favorite cookie is the Laura Bush Cowboy Cookie … a recipe she submitted in the 2000 election season to Family Circle magazine. These are BIG cookies with a little bit of everything in them. Santa enjoys them with a glass bottle Coca-Cola. Holidays are the perfect time for baking and candy making. I learned to make fudge, cookies, cakes and pies from my parents, so it is important to me to teach those skills to my sons. We measure out ingredients, tasting each along the way. The boys learn math, science and patience making cookies, although Daddy learns patience, also, as it might get a little messy!