Little Christmas

Today is January 6th, 2022.  January 6th marks the Feast of the Epiphany, or the day that the Three Wise Men paid their visit to the Christ Child.  January 6th is also known as Little Christmas, and like many across the world, it is the day in our house that the celebration of Christmas ends.  After the 6th, the outside lights get turned off, and the tree and decorations get put away for another year.  As today is Little Christmas, it will also be the last post on this blog having to do with our Christmas holiday.  

For today’s blog, I’d like to tell a story about one of the most familiar symbols of Christmas, The Christmas Tree.  According to Wikipedia, “Sources have offered a connection between the first documented Christmas trees in Alsace around 1600 and pre-Christian traditions. Tree worship was common among the pagan Europeans and survived their conversion to Christianity in the Scandinavian customs of decorating the house and barn with evergreens at the New Year to scare away the devil and of setting up a tree for the birds during Christmas time.”

Susie and I are never happier in the beginning of the Christmas season, then when we see our first Christmas Tree tied to the roof of a car, and never sadder than when we see our first undecorated, discarded Christmas Tree on the side of the road. 

My story today goes back many years, to the first Christmas in 1968 after my folks and I moved from Jackson Heights to Bayside…..

I grew up in a four room, 4th floor walk-up (that means no elevator) apartment in Jackson Heights, a highly urbanized area of Queens.  Jackson Heights is serviced by the very nearby #7 elevated subway line, which was literally just outside our windows.  When we moved in early 1968 to a single family house in Bayside Hills, it was like we’d gone from the city to the country.  Still a part of Queens county, Bayside is one of the most eastern areas of the county, and was one of the places we used to do Sunday drives to when I was a kid.  On those days we said we were going on a drive to “the country,” and now we lived here!!

In Jackson Heights, when you bought a Christmas Tree, you got it from in front of the local A&P, or from a random guy set up on empty lot.  In Bayside, when you bought a tree, you went to Kiel Brother’s Nursery and chose one from their section of hand-picked trees.  That first Christmas Tree in December of 1968 was a beauty, and a central part of our first Christmas in our new home.  It served us well before and during the Christmas season, but as we approached Little Christmas, it was time for it to go!

My Mom had read something about what to do with your tree when you were done with it in your house.  Perhaps based on that Scandinavian tradition, she’d read that you should stick it in your backyard, and “decorate” it for the birds that had not gone south for the winter.  Things like seed pods, peanut butter, suet,  and other things that could give the birds stuck in the north substance when the ground was snow covered.  As this was the first year in my folks 20+ years of married life that they had a backyard, I guess she was feeling “countrified” in our new home.

Only problem was that almost the day after we got the tree out of the house, it snowed…a lot!  This left the D’Elia Family Christmas Tree buried deep in snow.  It stayed buried for the next couple of months, as snow storms kept coming with incredible regularity.  We really didn’t see it again till almost Spring thaw.  By that time, my Mom had lost her desire to set the tree up, and honestly the need was probably almost non-existent.  Rather than “decorate” the tree for the birds, it went out to the curb to wait for the garbage men to pick it up.  Picking up trees in late December and early January is I’m sure a pretty common thing for New York City garbage men, but I always wondered what they thought that day in March when they picked up our very dead Christmas Tree!

So, on Little Christmas, as we end our Christmas celebration, Susie and I, and our whole family hope that you can keep the light and joy of the Christmas season in your life, until it’s time for Christmas, 2022!   See you again, next year Christmas!

Family Holiday Traditions

We are now in probably the most “Family Tradition” intensive time of the entire year. The period from a couple of days before Thanksgiving, through the New Year’s celebration are the time when tradition after tradition unfolds almost daily. I know that this year, many of those traditions are going by the wayside thanks to the Corona Virus, but even in our amended holiday season, many of those traditions will take place, albeit a much more limited version. Here’s a look at our family and what traditions are taking place this Thanksgiving, and which ones we’ll hope to resume next year!

On Thursday November 20, 1986, just 7 days before President Ronald Regan declared the 27th as “a national day of Thanksgiving”, our twins, Krissi and Kenny joined the D’Elia Family! That means that as the date of the 4th Thursday in November moves back and forth, our Thanksgiving celebration often starts a little early with a Twin Birthday celebration! For the last 14 years, youngest child Kenny, has been away working, and has not been a part of our Thanksgivings or have we been able to celebrate his birthday with him! That changed this year, as Kenny and his husband Chris, joined us for both his birthday and Thanksgiving! Once again this year, he wasn’t able to co-celebrate with his sister…..

A new tradition that we started 2 years ago, was traveling to Maryland to celebrate the holiday with our son-in-law Mike’s extended family! Mike’s sister Sara and her husband Gabe, play host to their extended family, which we are lucky enough to be included in. From little kids to teenagers, Moms and Dads, cousins, and in-laws, it’s a huge family celebration, with Gabe spending most of the day outside smoking a turkey or two! It’s been so much fun to spend the day with our Maryland Family, but sadly, like so many others across America, a celebration like that was off the table this year! Fingers crossed for next year!

So Thanksgiving 2020 called for the smallest celebration in Susie’s and my married life…just the 4 of us, but small or large, some Thanksgiving traditions are written in stone!! We had all the traditional D’Elia Family Thanksgiving dishes…just a little less! There was turkey (just a breast as nobody wanted dark meat), and Susie’s traditional stuffing – some in the turkey, some in muffin cups, and some in a bake-in bag. The boys made a great creamed corn and their own version of the long standing traditional green bean casserole, but with all fresh ingredients! Then there was the one staple of D’Elia Thanksgiving that always is a part of the meal, almost as important as the turkey: Turnips, Mashed Potatoes and Cheddar Cheese.

This is a dish that Susie brought over to our family from her Johnson Family Thanksgivings, and really uses rutabagas rather than turnips, but the names are used interchangeably many times. This involves pealing and chunking the rutabaga, cooking it till tender, and mashing. We usually do that the night before Thanksgiving. The next day, the potatoes are pealed (usually during the Macy’s Parade), cooked and mashed, with lots of butter and heavy cream. Neither of these things could be done without Susie’s Pressure Cookers (due to the smaller size of this years celebration, she only used one, not her normal two!), which she’s used for years, and swears by! Then both mashed “vegetables” are mixed and lots of shredded cheddar cheese is added. By the time it’s done, it has a golden yellow color, and a taste loved by the whole family! It was even a part of the Smith Thanksgiving in Maryland, as it was made and brought the last two years!

Of course, almost as big a part of the holiday as the dinner on Thanksgiving, is the day after “leftover” sandwich! Ours are on white bread, with mayo, turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce! Yum!

Thanksgiving weekend is also traditionally the time that our Christmas trees goes up in Ocean City. This is a holdover tradition from the years we didn’t live here, but were always here Thanksgiving weekend. In preparation for the holiday, Susie and I made 3 trips from the storage unit to our house with our Christmas boxes. As the boys were here, we put the tree up Friday….

And yesterday, while listening to Christmas music, we all decorated the tree!

Susie also set up the Manger, which has been a part of our Christmases ever since our first married Christmas in 1979!!

During the rest of this week, we will continue decorating the house, including assembling Susie’s Snowman (and Woman) Village! Traditions are a part of the holidays, and although our holidays are all going to be smaller this year, many of the traditions will still be a part of them.

Susie and I hope everyone enjoys their holiday traditions, and the celebration of the special times that are a part of the coming weeks. They may be smaller this year, but they are still an important part of all our lives. Be it Christmas, Chanukka, or Kwanzaa, we hope you enjoy them, that you stay safe, and that you do what we need to do so that next year at this time we can all enjoy our traditional holidays, shared with family and friends that are like family, and share HUGS!!!