Remembering Christmas pasts and presents
December 22, 2011
Christmas comes once a year, but the memories and traditions made during this special season last for lifetimes.
For Parkites Alison Butz and Claudia McMullin and Kamas residents Kevin and Sharee Harris, Christmas traditions mean family and friends, although they involve different activities.
Alison Butz, executive director of the Historic Park City Alliance
Butz grew up in suburb of Chicago and has fond memories of gift wrapping.
"I always loved wrapping Christmas presents," Butz told The Park Record. "My brothers and I, especially with my parents’ gifts, would all go into our own bedrooms and shut the door to wrap and think we were being all stealth about it. We would huddle around the presents to make sure no one saw them and we thought we were so sneaky."
In fact, she had one brother who went through extreme measures so no one would peek at the present.
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"His goal was to put so much tape on during the wrapping that none of us could get a hold of the paper itself to rip it open," she said with a laugh. "That’s probably the one memory that sticks with me the most."
Butz also has memories of listening to the classic Christmas radio hits of the past.
"We always heard Bing Crosby and Burl Ives playing throughout the house during Christmas," she said. "It helped make the season more magical."
These days, Butz tries to pass that feeling along to her own children Andrew, 4, and Kenny, 6.
"I like to share things with them and so I play a lot of those old songs I loved," she said. "It’s a tradition that I want to pass down and hopefully have them pass down to their kids."
Claudia McMullin, executive director of Friends of Animals Utah
McMullin, who was raised as an Irish-Catholic in Loudonville, New York, just outside Albany, remembers the Christmas Eve dinner.
"Every year, we had what my parents referred to as a lobster fest," she said. "My mother and father would buy huge lobsters for everybody one per person, which included my siblings, parents and brother-in-law."
Even before digging into the lobster, McMullin’s father would serve jumbo-shrimp appetizers, and sometimes he would buy one large lobster that weighed more than 24 pounds that would be divided amongst the family.
"It was mayhem," McMullin said with a laugh.
After dinner, the family would sing German Christmas carols.
"We sang in German because my older sister was married to a German dude named Max who taught us these carols out of these hymn books that were printed in English and German," McMullin remembered. "Isn’t that random?"
These days, McMullin’s favorite part of the holidays is going back to New York with her husband Tim.
"We started a new tradition last year by caroling on Christmas Eve," she said. "We found a Pentecostal Church across the street from where we stay. The congregation randomly sings Christmas carols at the top of their lungs right there on the street, so we did that last year and it is really fun."
After singing, McMullin and her husband go out to dinner at a bar on the Upper East Side and sing more carols.
"So whereever I am that night, I’ll be singing I’ll tell you that," she said.
On Christmas Day, the couple will order room service, walk Central Park and visit friends.
"Since my parents are deceased and my siblings are scattered all over the place, my friends have become my family," she said.
Kevin and Sharee Harris, owners of the Kamas Theatre and the Uinta Conservatory for the Arts
Kevin Harris’s childhood memories center on growing up in the warm climate of Burbank, Calif.
"We didn’t have white Christmases at all, and oftentimes, our Christmases would involve a treasure hunt." Harris told The Park Record. "We would go outside and there would be things set out on the lawn for us. We would always end up outside in our pajamas, and since it was Southern California, it would be warm and fun."
Like Butz and McMullin, Harris’s traditions included family activities.
"For Christmas, my grandmother would come and stay for about a month, and while we didn’t really have any snow traditions, but we would go look at lights."
On Christmas Eve, Harris and his family would share a big meal and open one present before bed.
"It was just something we did," he said. "On Christmas morning, we’d all gather as a family so we could see everyone open presents. We would have the oldest go first, so my grandmother would go and then my father and so on. I was the youngest, so would go last."
Harris’ wife Sharee, had a special Christmas Eve tradition while growing up in Payson.
"Our parents would give us ornaments that made them think of each one of us and had something to do with an event that happened during the past year," she said. "We’d also get new pajamas and we were all expected to wear them, regardless if they were a little scary sometimes.
"Although none of the PJs were as hideous as the pink-bunny one-piece in ‘A Christmas Story,’ the footed pajamas got a little too much when we got older, but was still fun and we wore them the next morning to open presents. My sister and I had matching pajamas and curlers in our hair."
Wearing curlers was a tradition Sharee Harris didn’t like.
"We had curlers in our hair because our hair had to look beautiful when we went to visit family, so I had to sleep in curlers," she said. "I was probably seven or eight and it was so uncomfortable. Everyone at school said they knew I would be grumpy if they saw me with curly hair."
The Harris’ have combined some of their childhood traditions to create a unique experience for their children, who range in age from three to seven.
"We do the ornaments and pajamas with our kids, but the pajamas usually are representative of something they like and they will wear them," Sharee Harris said. "They’re young enough so we can do that right now."