Monday, October 22, 2018     Volume: 19, Issue: 33

Santa Maria Sun / Humor

The following article was posted on December 7th, 2017, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 18, Issue 40 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 18, Issue 40

Humor: Ariel doesn't break holiday tradition


Is it already December? I feel like I just finished boxing up the holiday decorations. Now I have to put them out again. That’s because I am big on traditions, especially during the holidays.

Everyone has their own holiday family traditions. Some spring from religious rites and others from cultural customs. Some exist because generations ago someone started them and everyone continued to observe and preserve them. Certainly most are deemed sacred and must not be altered or tampered with.

I was recently made keenly aware of this when I made what seemed like a sensible suggestion for Thanksgiving dinner to my husband, The Brit, and our grandson, the Briteen.

“It’s just the three of us this year, guys, so I think I’ll just get a nice turkey breast for Thanksgiving dinner,” I said.

This elicited an outcry from our teenager.

“What? No drumsticks? Isn’t this country in enough turmoil without you doing away with tradition? It’s un-American!”

My chivalrous Brit stepped up and admonished him.

“Your grandmother has been tired and doing too much. Give her a break. Turkey breast will do just fine.”

Not to be cheated out of his annual turkey leg, King Henry VIII countered.

“Granddad, you do know that will mean no dark meat, right?”

My chivalrous Brit, Sir Thanksalot, stepped back, astonished.

“What?! No dark meat?”

“What do you care?” I countered. “You’re British!”

He drew up all of his Anglo-Saxon dignity and declared, “I became a naturalized American citizen so that I could have drumsticks and dark meat on Thanksgiving Day! So don’t be ridiculous! We want the whole bird.”

Oh, I was ready to give them both the bird, all right! I ended up preparing a lovely 15-pound bird, which yielded plenty of leftovers for sandwiches, soups, and casseroles. When they complained, “Turkey again?” I reminded them that, in the future, they should be careful what they wish for and to shut up and eat their turkey lasagna.

I should have known better than to try changing even one thing for a holiday dinner. Memories are built on such things, and changing them throws people off. Mom tried that only once several years ago when she decided not to make her 24-hour salad for Christmas dinner.

This gem of 1950s cuisine consists of a ring mold made of raspberry Jell-O and sherbet, the center filled with “ambrosia”—a concoction of fruit cocktail, chopped walnuts, sliced bananas, and whipped cream. You make it 24 hours ahead, as the ring mold needs time to set up. It is my youngest brother’s favorite dish, and his reaction was swift and indignant.

“Really? No ambrosia or Jell-O? Why stop there? Why make stuffing or cook a turkey or even set the table? Let’s just order pizza and eat while sitting in lawn chairs in the garage! I say give me 24-hour salad or give me death!”

I was promptly sent to the store for Jell-O, sherbet, extra whipped cream, etc., because Patrick Henry was too young to drive.

I am a product of the 1960s and have many deep-seated memories of the holidays. These include the tiny cardboard Putz houses with lights inside that my grandma would set out atop a snowy landscape of angel hair. This shimmery, soft stuff was made of spun glass and, mishandled, would cut your fingers to ribbons.

She also hung all the Christmas cards she got around a large mirror in the living room. Mom still carries on this tradition and still sends cards. Hers are in the mail the day after Thanksgiving. Mom’s card arriving is like an alarm clock going off. It’s time to get up and get down to business and decorate, shop and bake.

Speaking of baking, Mom makes incredible fruitcake. I know that some folks joke about fruitcakes as being doorstops, but not Mom’s. She bakes these babies in August, gently wraps them in layers of cheesecloth, and diligently douses them with rum or whiskey for the next four months.

She then sends these gems off via air mail. She needn’t bother. They are so soused they can fly on their own. You do not want to set even a small piece of this confection anywhere near a lit candle. TSA will not allow her to carry them onto planes as they are considered weapons of mass destruction. You don’t eat her fruitcake so much as you imbibe it slowly.

One of our Christmas Day traditions was to open presents according to our ages, so everyone could take their time and see what was received to “ooh” and “aah” over. We always started with the youngest person, which meant that we had to let Mom go first.

I have now been married for 12 years to my British/Jewish husband, and we have had our grandson with us since he was just 3. I call us the “Wholly Family,” because we share a whole array of American, British, Christian, and Jewish traditions, along with personal family customs.

We light the menorah for Hanukkah and spin dreidels for chocolate coins, open little gifts for eight days (I say they’re from Hanna Klaus!), and wolf down my homemade matzo ball soup and latkes with warm applesauce.

We decorate the tree with all manner of lights and ornaments, including a British guard in a bearskin hat whose place of honor is just below the Union Jack near the treetop. Presents surround the tree and stockings are hung on the fireplace with care for each family member, including the dog and cat!

We revel in Boxing Day, the day after Christmas, which is a national holiday in Great Britain. It goes back to the Victorian Age when servants of the wealthy were given the day off along with a box filled with gifts and food for their families. Today it is England’s version of Black Friday, and celebrated with shopping, holiday pantomimes, food, and soccer games.

Boxing Day for us means The Brit will be glued to the telly watching all 10 Premier League soccer matches, and The Briteen will go to movies and hang out with friends.

I intend to celebrate by “boxing” myself into a comfy recliner, my feet elevated, knowing I won’t have to cook because the boys will make leftover turkey and stuffing sandwiches.

I will sip the nectar of Mom’s fruitcake and vow to never again try to break with tradition. I will always be delighted to give my loved ones the bird!

Merry Hanukkah, a very happy Christmas, and blessings for the New Year to you all!


Ariel Waterman likes cranberry sauce on her turkey and stuffing sandwich. You can give her the bird via Managing Editor Joe Payne at

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