Christmas Memories and Traditions

Original Airdate: December 25 (2012)

This is Living Stories, featuring voices from the collections of the Baylor University Institute for Oral History. I'm Kim Patterson.

For many of us, Christmas memories from our youth bring about an instant smile, as we remember loved ones and a time when life seemed simpler.

Carol Duron recalls Christmastime during her childhood in the Calle Dos neighborhood of Waco:

"We always had a nativity scene in the hallway. They were about—I would say about a foot to two feet high, you know. And we'd have the whole la levantada(??), when the three kings. Christmas Eve, we would always go to midnight Mass at Saint Francis, which was a block away from us, you know. Come home, open our presents. That was the way we used to do it, which we thought was great. We didn't have to wait till the next day. (laughter)"

Bernardine Kubiak of Bremond describes a tradition brought over from Poland:

"The turońja, or they called it the Christmas goat. And they would get neighboring men that would come—three or four would come. And they would have this sheet. And they'd be covered with this sheet, and they'd walk up to the houses at night. And when the goat would open his mouth it was like blood red, and you would have to hand them a jigger of whiskey."

Madelyn O'Brien grew up on a farm in Washington County and recounts a favorite memory:

"Unbeknownst to me, my dad had talked to our neighbor who's Polish, and he dressed up as Santa Claus and he came to our house Christmas Eve night. We were so excited to finally see Santa. And he danced around our living room and sung. I mean, it was just such a festive time, and then he gave each one of us our gift that night. And I got a doll that I just loved."

Waco native Lee Lockwood describes his family's Christmas Eve tradition:

"And Mother made quite a to-do over that. For a Christmas tree we would go out and cut our own tree, a cedar, and we didn't have to go far. They were all around Waco. And then we'd bring it in and put it up. And she'd get a lot of berries and trees and mistletoe and decorate the whole house. And on the tree, why, we'd always string the popcorn. It was for decorations. And then there were berries, red berries that we would string. And we had nothing in the beginning but the candle lights, Christmas tree lights. It was very—very, I thought, effective, and the smell of the cedar and the actual burning lights."

Reared in Gillespie County, Ora Ann Knopp remembers the excitement of Christmas Eve, when the decorations went up:

"Before it was time to go look at the Christmas tree somebody went outside and used the fishing cane or pole or something and hit on the roof: 'That's Santa Claus coming!' Boy, we sat there and we was ready for Santa Claus."

This Christmas, start a new tradition with loved ones of sharing favorite holiday memories.

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