As Christmas approaches I find myself reminiscing about Christmases past, remembering all the traditions that I shared with family and friends over the years. So many traditions and memories, but my favorites always included family time spent gathered around the fire, trees twinkling with colorful decorations, laughter, great food, and cold crisp air and snow.
Traditionally the kick off of the holiday season was shortly after Thanksgiving. My father and mother would bundle my brother and I up in warm clothes, and then load us in their big ole' green Ford pickup truck. My brother was too little to see out the windshield of the truck, so my parents would put him up on a little red foot stool next to my mom, and I would be straddling the stick shift on the floor. This would allow him to see out the window. Even though our family homestead had many acres of woods, it was heavy in pine and maple, so Dad would take the truck down Rt. 9 to Schroon Lake and we would head up to the top of Hoffman Mountain to travel down the Trout Brook Road past the Rocky Acres B&B. He would pull off on the side of the road, and we would all climb out of the truck and head up the side of the hill. For the next hour we would hike through the woods till we found the perfect balsam or spruce tree, then Dad would chop it down and my brother and I (merely 4 & 8 years of age) would attempt to help him haul it down the hill to the truck -- our hands becoming covered in spruce pitch.
Now the best part of this adventure, was getting the tree home and decorating it. Mother would pull out an assortment of boxes that held all the ornaments and lights, and seeing the ornaments was like welcoming old friends. Many of the ornaments that adorned our tree were passed down to my mom from her mother. These ornaments were made by my grandmother - some wooden or ceramic and painted, some crocheted, some sewn. Each one had a special meaning/memory and as I got older we would work together on making some new ornaments. I know this tradition is carried on even today, and that many of the Christmas trees through out the Schroon Lake Region are adorned with similar ornaments made by family members. They are special and remind of us of those we loved that have passed on. A tradition that is dear and close to our heart. Today my tree is adorned by the same ornaments my mom used that gram made, ornaments given to me from my best friend's mom's collection, and ornaments made by a life-long friend of my parents. My children have ornaments that were made by me, or my grandmother, that now adorn the trees in their own homes.
Of course, even with the beauty of our own tree, I still love to drive through the Schroon Lake Region and see all the outdoor decorations. No matter what size the house or business... small, medium or large... there is nothing more amazing than a building covered in beautiful lights on a crisp winter night. Everything twinkling against a crisp white backdrop, tree branches swaying in the breeze, the lights making both adults' and children's eyes as big as saucers.
Another wonderful tradition during the holidays is enjoying the company of family and friends. Over the years this has included visiting some of our favorite restaurants in Schroon Lake to dine together, or visiting each other's homes for a family gathering. There is nothing better then a table full of assorted foods. I recently was telling someone that one of the things I had missed while living away from Schroon Lake was the potluck meals. Some of the best food I have ever eaten over the years was made by family and friends right here in the Schroon Lake Region. Besides enjoying wonderful potluck dinners, some of the food traditions I grew up loving and still prepare for my own family is an assortment of homemade baked goods.
As a child growing up, my grandmother would turn in to a baking maniac during the holidays. She would make pies of all types, every flavor under the sun, including Apple, Cherry, Mincemeat, Chocolate Cream, Lemon Meringue, and so many others. Besides homemade pies, there were homemade quick breads such as banana walnut, zucchini, and apple bread. And she was the queen of making cookies....sugar cookies, hermit cookies, chocolate chip, and so much more. I, like many other women in Schroon Lake, have our mother's and grandmother's traditions to thank for our abilities to bake up a mean batch of holiday goodies for our family and friends. Recipes have been passed down through the generations!
The holidays are a special time in the Schroon Lake Region and I look forward to starting new traditions with my own family in our new home. I hope that they will come this holiday season to sit around the tree, and by the fire. I hope to buy an ole' fashion popcorn popper and make homemade popcorn over the fire while we all play board games and sip on hot chocolate while enjoying those amazing holiday treats. Maybe if they are lucky I will pull out my grandmother's Popcorn Ball recipe and make some traditional Adirondack Carmel Popcorn Balls for everyone.
Whatever you do with your family this holiday season, remember that the traditions are what make some of the greatest memories your family will hold. From my family to you and yours, we hope that you all have a wonderful and loving holiday!
This week in related ADK traditions: