This is the third of my holiday-themed posts on the Christmas traditions of St. Anthony Messenger Press (SAMP) employees. More of their reflections will soon be shared. These stories are a gift from our family to yours.
Tammy Monjaras, our director of customer service, describes her Christmas celebrations as reflecting their “family of mixed cultures and traditions.”
Tammy husband is Hispanic, and his family celebrated Christmas with their own traditions. Each year, her husband’s mother would prepare all the makings for homemade tamales, and Christmas Eve morning everyone would head to Grandma’s house to make tamales for the holidays. While sitting around the table spreading masa onto the corn husk, everyone would reminisce about family and remember those that were not able to be with us and those we hope to meet in heaven one day. “Christmas Eve we would head to church for evening services and then head back to Grandma’s house for homemade tamales and family time. We would wait until midnight before we would open the presents to celebrate Christ’s birth.”
Every year Christmas celebrations change even in the most traditional of families. Each celebration will be different due to many factors: deaths, births, who is in town, etc. But the key thing here is family. After all, we’re celebrating the Holy Family.
Lisa Biedenbach, director of product development for St. Anthony Messenger Press, assumed the hosting for her family Christmas Eve meal after her mother died six years ago. So that the cooking doesn’t burden anyone, Lisa and her husband, Bob Wuerth, ask everyone to bring something. Rather than sticking with the German-American food on which they were raised, the family in recent years has chosen menus featuring the cuisine of some country selected in advance, involving research and much consultation among the many cooks in the family.
They follow the meal with the singing of Christmas carols (Lisa’s mother’s tradition), which Lisa says orients the celebration to Jesus. Then, to keep the focus on being family together, the family members play Christmas bingo, and “laugh and laugh and laugh.” The family, at the urging of the young adults, discontinued gift-giving three years ago.
The family of Terry Cokl, human resources administrator, also attends Mass together on Christmas Eve. One of nine children, Terry and her husband have two children and four grandchildren. Their extended family is so close that nearly every Sunday they gather for a meal.
After Terry’s mother died, the family decided to assemble a family calendar, which lists the date of their mother’s death, extended family members’ death dates, everybody’s birthdays and anniversaries. Photographs of anyone mentioned that month are included. The updated family calendar has become everyone’s favorite Christmas present each year.
Sandy Digman, an art director and assistant production manager, applies a similar procedure for gift-giving in her family, with the same result. One of six children, Sandy has one daughter, Deanne, who has three sons. “Now,” Sandy says, “the boys get only one thing, but it’s what they really wanted.” Her entire family goes to Christmas Eve service together and then eats together.
Father Dan Kroger, O.F.M., our publisher/chief executive officer, spent 20-some years in the Philippines teaching college and working in parishes, but he’s now relishing family celebrations back in Cincinnati. The youngest of 10 children, Father Dan admits their Christmas celebration involves renting a hall for 120 people, usually on the weekend between Christmas and New Year’s. Last year the hall came equipped with a climbing wall, which thrilled athletic children and made some of the parents act as spotters to prevent accidents.
Stay tuned for more Christmas-themed meditations from the employees at St. Anthony Messenger Press! Are there any special ways that you celebrate Christmas?