Preserving a Legacy of Family, Faith, and Food – November 1 – December 31
Written by Susan Anglin (Melissa’s Mom)
I am the proud mom of Melissa Ringstaff and Sam Anglin, a firefighter with the Coweta County, Georgia, fire department. Both of my children are accomplished in their chosen fields and have turned out, with God’s grace, to be such a source of pride to me and their dad. They have given us 8 wonderful grandchildren. Life has not always been easy, but I thank God every day for his grace, which has sustained me and my family through the years.
I have always loved Christmas traditions and tried to incorporate that sense of family and stability that traditions bring to the home. When Melissa was a brownie scout, she brought home a Christmas chain, made from red and green construction paper, with a yellow loop and green tree at the top. The yellow loop represented Christmas Day. We made one for Sam that year, too, and every day they would tear off a loop to count down the days until Christmas. That became a yearly event for us at the end of November or the beginning of December. We would hang these on a door frame, usually by the kitchen. I make these with my grandchildren now.
We always made Christmas goodies, the same ones year after year, and sometimes added new ones. Of course, Melissa and Sam always loved to help cut out cookies and decorate them. When they were small, I would have oval Chinet paper plates, and the children would color Christmas pictures on them. Then we would place a variety of Christmas treats on them, cover with plastic wrap, decorate with a bow, and take them to friends.
One year when Sam was in cub scouts, he brought home a jar of mixed beans, along with a recipe, that they had put together for Nine Bean Soup. We made the soup on Christmas Eve, and that became a Christmas tradition that we still do to this day. Soaking the beans overnight and letting them simmer on the stove for several hours allows me to take care of any last minute preparations without having to do too much work to put a good meal on the table. Having this meal every Christmas Eve also makes the meal special. This is the recipe for making enough mix for gifts jars:
Christmas Eve Nine Bean Soup
1 pound of each: barley pearls, red beans, pinto beans, navy beans, Great Northern white beans, lentils, green split peas, black-eyed peas, and black beans. Pour mix into quart jars.
To make soup with contents of one quart jar:
Sort and wash beans. Cover with water 2 inches above beans. Soak overnight, rinse and drain.
- 2 quarts broth or water
- 1 large chopped onion
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 – 16 oz. can tomatoes
- 1 – 10 oz. can chopped green chiles
Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 1 and ½ hours. Delicious with cornbread and salad. Sometimes I add spinach or chopped kale leaves to make the soup a whole meal.
Salt Dough Ornaments
My favorite ornaments on our tree are the ones my children made when they were little. Your children’s ornaments may not be the prettiest, but one day they will be the most precious to you!
When the children were young, we used to make baker’s clay ornaments. Melissa especially loved doing this, and she has always been so artistic. I made my first ones the year I was expecting her. The recipe for baker’s clay is:
- 1 cup flour
- ½ cup salt
- 6-8 T. water
Mix flour and salt. Add water 1 T. at a time until pliable. Roll or pat out. Cut with cookie cutters or a a knife or mold with hands. Bake at 300 degrees until hard. You can paint the ornaments, or you can divide the dough into portions and use food coloring to make each portion a different hue. We used to make Santa Claus ornaments with tiny little clay balls. This is what they look like:
We used toothpicks to make details in these little balls. Melissa’s always looked much better than mine – my Santa’s eyes are kind of scary!
One of my favorite things to pull out at Christmas is a salt dough figure of Baby Jesus that Melissa made at church when she was three years old. (She had help!) The baby is made from a small salt dough log, and he is wrapped in a very soft cloth. Melissa had drawn a little face with markers. He is set in a manger made of Popsicle sticks and construction paper. We always put a little pine straw or hay inside the manger before placing the baby inside. A folk art angel that I painted many years ago stands next to Him. That little Christmas tradition is precious to me.
I always kept a pot of Aroma Punch simmering on the stove to make sure the house smelled Christmas-y. The recipe for Aroma Punch:
- Peel from one lemon
- Peel from one orange
- 2 – 3 cinnamon sticks
- 1 tablespoon whole cloves
Place in small saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, replenishing water as needed.
We always had a real tree for Christmas. The wonderful fragrance added to the spirit of our home. Three Christmases when we were living in San Bernardino, California, we bought living trees in pots and planted them in the yard after Christmas. I sometimes wonder how large those trees are now! When we lived in rural Georgia, a friend from church would let us go into his woods to get our trees. They also had a holly tree, and allowed us to gather some to decorate with.
We still use the cardboard and doily angel, now yellowed and tattered, that Sam made in kindergarten for the top of our tree. My husband, Jim, always lifted him up when he was too small to reach, so that he could put the angel on the top of the tree himself. These days, one of his children is lifted up to do that duty.
My own mother always said it was bad luck to carry a Christmas tree over into the New Year, so we always take our tree down and pack away ornaments on December 31.
Christmas is so special, and traditions are very important to families. Children love looking forward to the same things year after year, and when they are grown, they usually incorporate some of these traditions into their own family celebrations. This gives them a sense of family and belonging.
Note from Melissa: Thanks Mom! You taught me the real meaning of the holidays and gave me a legacy of Family, Faith and Food!