Holiday tradition varies from family to family

Published 4:03 pm Wednesday, December 24, 2008

NATCHEZ — Christmas is, at its heart, a season of tradition, but most families have their own special traditions when it comes to their personal celebrations.

For Jane Hargrove of Natchez, Christmas was a time to spend with family when she was a child.

She would spend Christmas Eve with one grandmother, Christmas morning with the other and then would have Christmas dinner at home with her parents.

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That’s changed lately, however.

“My daughter is going one way, and I am going the other,” she said. “Now I spend Christmas with my friends.”

Joanie Ames of Vidalia will be spending Christmas with her family, and they will all load up and go to Monterey, where they will have a Cajun Christmas celebration — a tradition that began before she was born, Ames said.

“Whether you get a cake plate or a screwdriver set, it’s something fun to do,” she said.

Natchezian Lantz Foster has a fairly standard Christmas celebration at his parents’ house on Christmas Eve and with his children at his home on Christmas, but they, too, have a special Christmas meal.

“We get hot tamales every year,” he said. “I don’t know why it started. It has been going on since I was a kid.”

Vidalian Ethyl Jackson’s family also has a special Christmas meal that might not usually be linked to Christmastime — Chinese food.

The tradition started when her daughter lived in Houston and told them about someone she knew who had Chinese food for Christmas.

The family thought that sounded like fun, and so they adopted and adapted the holiday practice for themselves — soup, dumplings and stir fry.

“We would go, get all the things and prepare it ourselves,” Jackson said.

For Beverly Jenkins, the Christmas festivities include taking her 89-year-old mother out to look at Christmas lights, having a dinner with the formal china and a nativity set on the table, and opening presents on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning.

But before they do anything else, the family’s celebration start with a church service at First Presbyterian Church on Christmas Eve.

Because Christmas is about the birth of Christ, it only makes sense to start the celebrations that way, Jenkins said.

“That’s why we are celebrating, and so we have to get to church,” she said.