Memories of holidays past
When winter comes, the holidays are not that far behind.
When people think of holidays, most of the time their minds turn to childhood memories and traditions.
Three Park City residents Terry Moffitt, who is one of the creative team members of "The Park City Follies," Friends of Animals Utah Executive Director Lisa Allison and Riffs Acoustic Music owner Larry Hart shared their childhood and family holiday traditions with The Park Record during separate interviews last week.
Moffitt grew up in Minneapolis, Minn., and one of her earliest Christmas memories was about an event when she was five.
"I was in my bed and heard my father hammering something together," Moffitt said. "I yelled to my mom and asked what was going on and she said he was building something for work."
Since her father worked for Honeywell, and engineering service, Moffitt thought everything was normal.
"Then on Christmas Eve I got this huge Barbie house for my present," she said. "It wasn’t until years later, when I said, ‘Hey, wait a minute. That’s what all the hammering was about.’"
When it came to a real Christmas tradition, Moffitt, who has a younger sister, remembered what her mother did.
"She was from Germany and came to the United States when she was 18, and a lot of the things we did were the ones she brought with her," Moffitt explained. "For example, instead of stockings, we got plates. So, there were always plates sitting out for us."
There was always fruit, like an orange, on the plate and some marzipan, which is a sweet almond paste.
"We also found little toys and nuts on the plates as well," she said.
Also, the big celebration was held on Christmas Eve.
"That’s when Santa would come, and this is the way things happened," Moffitt said. "We would get in the car to go to Christmas Eve service, and every year my mother would say, ‘I forgot my purse’ or ‘Let me get my mittens,’ and she’d go back into the house and be gone for quite a while."
Moffitt’s dad would entertain the kids during that time.
"After Mom came back to the car, we would go look at lights, because there were certain parts of Minneapolis that had some great lights," Moffitt said. "When we’d return home, my dad would point out that someone had left some pretty big footprints, and my sister and I would be scared and excited as he opened the door."
Once inside, the family would see presents everywhere.
"Santa always knew when we would gone and visit during that time," Moffitt said.
After Moffitt married and had kids of her own, she didn’t really continue any of the traditions.
"We do open one present on Christmas Eve, and that would usually be pajamas, and we would open the rest on Christmas Day," she said. "I (still) do put an orange in the stockings and I still love marzipan."
Being Jewish, Allison celebrated Hanukkah, but also did Christmas things with her friends.
"I grew up in a town that was predominantly non Jewish in the Catskill Mountains in New York," she said. "We were the odd family out, but it was a very inclusive community, like Park City. So, we would go over to my other friends’ houses and decorate their Christmas trees and then celebrate Hanukkah at home."
The celebrations were pretty traditional and included lighting the menorah and making latkas.
"When my younger brother and I were really little, we would get one present each night for the eight nights of Hanukkah," Allison said. "As we got older, that got a little costly, so we wound up getting fewer gifts, but they were larger and more expensive."
Allison’s grandparents on her father’s side lived five minutes away.
"I was very lucky to be able see them every week when they came over for Sunday dinner, but to have them for the holidays was special because it was the holidays," she said.
Allison said she doesn’t remember ever getting that one big gift that she always wanted, but she never felt unhappy.
"We always felt like it was a pretty good year when it came to presents," she said. "We never had a bad year."
These days, Allison’s family celebrates the holidays in a unique way.
"Since I’m now in a blended family, we say we celebrate ‘Christanukkah,’" she said with a laugh. "We have the Christmas tree and the menorah and do them both.
"Depending on how things land on the calendar, because Hanukkah jumps around each year, everything can happen all at once or separately like this year," she said. "Sometimes we just celebrate the whole month of December as one big party."
Allison became a full-time Park City resident a couple of years ago, and enjoys the feeling she gets when the snow starts to fall.
"Moving to Park City from Florida, where there is no snow, there is something about the first snowfall that you begin to get an idea of how wonderful the holiday season is," she said. "It is great because you can drive around at night and the lights are always on, especially in Park City. It’s a very special town and has that warm celebratory feel."
Hart grew up in Los Angeles, Calif., and his parents’ home was ground zero for family Christmas parties.
"We had a really special time on Christmas Eve," he said. "My family was really close and my mother had two sisters and their families came over, so it was me, my older sister and a bunch of cousins."
Every year, the family would put together an entertainment program.
"The adults dressed up as Christmas carolers in funny hats, scarves, vests, coats and mittens that the singers of the old days would have," Hart said. "Keep in mind, this was in Los Angeles, so it wasn’t cold."
Someone would turn on the record player and put on some Christmas music.
"Then everyone would lip sync to it like they were caroling," Hart said. "After they were done, they would put on children’s Christmas carols and expect us to lip sync.
"I remember one time, because I was missing some teeth, I had to get up to sing ‘All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth,’" he said. "That was great fun and we had a lot of laughs and I thoroughly embarrassed myself in front of my family."
After the singing, the family broke for Christmas dinner, which included the turkey and all the trimmings.
"Then my parents would gather all the kids in a room and close the door," Hart said.
The family had a tradition where Santa Claus would visit briefly during the party to check up on the kids, and the catch was they weren’t able to see him.
"Santa would then come in through the front door and we could hear all the ‘ho ho ho’s’ and other sounds that he would make while we were in the other room," Hart said. "We, as kids, were in an absolute frenzy, knowing that Santa was just in the other room, and we couldn’t see him because it would spoil the whole deal."
After Santa left, the kids would find small, individual presents that Santa left behind.
Christmas morning was pretty traditional, but Hart’s parents laid down a rule that the children couldn’t wake them up before 6:30 a.m.
"So, we would all gather in my older sister’s room around four o’clock and wait and wonder if Santa returned," he said. "Right when the clock allowed us to, we would barge into our parents’ room."
Hart kept the tradition going with his three boys until the family moved out of L.A.
"We still cooked a turkey dinner and let the kids open one present before going to bed," he said. "We also set a time for them that it was forbidden to wake us up before that."
Nowadays, Hart’s sons live all over the country.
"One lives in Massachusetts, and the others live in San Diego and San Francisco," he said. "They’re all coming in this year, which will be great."
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