Observer readers share the highlights — both merry and misfortunate — of their holidays past.
We all like to think of the end of the year as a joyous and festive period, a time of togetherness and contentment.
But, even during the holidays, the best-laid plans can go awry. By the time you bid farewell to your extended family at the end of your Christmas dinner, you might consider it a minor miracle that you made it through in one piece.
Over time, though, even the most catastrophic events become part of a shared holiday lore among the ones you love. Just like we fondly remember the smile on a child’s face when she unwrapped the toy she asked for all year, we laugh about the time an uncle forgot to set a timer and let the roast burn — and then made us eat it anyway.
So, in the spirit of embracing the spirt of the season, both the good and the bad, Observer readers shared some of their fondest holiday memories and mishaps.
One of the great initiatives that the Sarasota Farmers Market has each year during Christmas is to hold a toy drive for Second Chance Last Opportunity, a nonprofit located downtown. Vendors go out of their way to donate each year, along with customers. This initiative has been a 10-year tradition of the farmers market giving back to the community. The market has helped hundreds of nonprofits over the years. The Second Chance Christmas Drive is a major commitment to fulfill part of our nonprofit mission. Most people don't know how much the vendors give back to the community each year. It’s been rewarding being able to help as many nonprofits as possible, but putting a smile on local children’s faces for the holidays is extremely gratifying.
— Phil Pagano
We’ve always had dogs, and I had a dog that looked forward to Christmas as much as we did and was really good at unwrapping presents. But they knew which presents were for them and they would only unwrap their presents. But he would undo the bow and undo the paper very carefully.
— Tom Harmer
It’s bean fun
I grew up eating chili every year on Christmas Eve. The first year that Kyle and I were married, I wanted to hold the annual chili supper at my house. I was so excited to host! I had no idea you had to soak beans. It was definitely a chili supper to remember as the beans were rock hard and we all had to spit out the beans every time we tried to eat one. I definitely provided some laughter to my party of 30 friends and family that were joining us. I’ve since perfected my bean soaking skills.
— Caprill Hembree
A big dill
We have a hand-blown glass “pickle” ornament that goes back in our family to about Christmas 1988, if I had to guess. The pickle myth supposedly began in Germany and goes something like this — it’s supposed to be the last ornament hung on the tree. The first person, usually the children in the family, to find the pickle on Christmas morning gets the last gift and good luck for the following year. Well, in my family it just led to good old fashioned sibling rivalry! There were many mornings of climbing on chairs, knocking down stockings and good old-fashioned laughs between all of us. To this day Sarah, John and myself have a Christmas morning pickle battle!
— Keffie Lancaster
Cookin’ up Christmas
It’s the cooking the dinner with my granny. She was a cook in the homes of wealthy residents. She taught me how to make candied yams, sweet potato pies and turkey with stuffing. I forgot how to do the yams, my Aunt Alberta showed me how. My granny showed my Aunt Alberta how to cook … Alberta became Newtown’s cook. People drop in on Sundays because she cooks for an army.
— Vickie Oldham
(Not) home for the holidays
We decided to get organized, and it started with the large bins in our garage. We sent them all to the storage, but accidentally grabbed one bin too many. In that bin, sadly, was the elf along with some other holiday tree items to save time.
So after an extensive two day search, we grabbed a spare elf from a dear friend had her snap Jaxon (that is the elf's name) under a large gorgeous palm tree. We then showed the photo and told kids that Jaxon was on vacation, and would be delayed in his arrival. I told kids that being a magical elf can be completely exhausting and further that because of the nature of a rather nocturnal existence, he was also suffering from a severe case of Vitamin D deficiency, hence needing a few extra days of sun.
— Nikki Taylor
Pretty in pink
Every Christmas, unbeknownst to me and my brother and sister, my parents would arrange for my grandfather to call our house and pretend he was Santa Claus. He would ask us if we were ready for bed and had we been good children. Each year we anxiously awaited the call from Santa before we went to bed. That year, (when I was 7 or 8), I was feeling rather bold and was beginning to doubt that Santa was for real. I had heard kids talk on the playground. So, I shared my doubts with “Santa.” I asked him if he was for real. He, of course, said he was…and then I demanded that if he were for real and could see everything, then what color were my pjs?
Without hesitation, he said pink. And, yes! I was wearing pink pjs. To this day, I believe in Santa Claus, and I wear pink all the time.
— Charlie Ann Syprett