By the Rev. Charles A. Deacon
“What are you doing on Christmas?” a friend asked me. My response was, “We’ll go to Martha’s, my youngest daughter’s home, for dinner. Her husband, Ron, will do the cooking, and their daughter, Elizabeth, will help. The menu will be an old family tradition; roast beef and Yorkshire pudding. Dessert will be whoopie pies and apple pie with ice cream.”
Let me tell you how this family tradition got started. It was about a year after I married my wife, Ann. I grew up having turkey on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day, and I expected the same after I married. There was no problem the first year of our marriage because we were invited to a parishioner’s home for Thanksgiving dinner.
The disagreement came in the second year of our marriage when we were talking about our menus for Thanksgiving and Christmas. My wife said, “I’m not going to cook a turkey a month after having one on Thanksgiving. Even the smallest turkeys are too big for just the three of us.”
During our second year of marriage, my wife gave birth to our first child, Amy. Although we were preoccupied with our new child, we talked about different menus for Christmas. We tried different meals, but our final decision was roast beef and Yorkshire pudding. It was a recipe my family had inherited from relatives in Nova Scotia, Canada. We added the apple pie to enjoy something from the United States.
The whoopie pies came later. They are two round, mound-shaped pieces of chocolate cake with a sweet, creamy filling between them. They have several different names, one being devil dogs.
Andrew, our second child, was born a year after Amy. Five years later Martha was born. By that time the whoopie pies had become part of the Christmas dinner.
After my wife died, Martha and her family, who lived only 12 houses away from my home, decided to keep the tradition going. Amy, who lived in Massachusetts, would make the whoopie pies and bring them to the dinner. Amy died last year, so Martha will be making the dessert. Andrew, who lives in Georgia, is unable to come for Christmas dinner, because his wife is being treated for cancer.
Five years after my wife’s death, I married Deborah Dickinson, whom I met at a Toastmasters meeting. When our first Christmas came, we had to make some decisions. Due to the fact Christmas was on a Saturday that year, dinner was postponed to Sunday afternoon and evening. But we did go to Deborah’s parents’ home on Christmas afternoon to exchange gifts.
On Sunday, Martha had invited us for the traditional dinner of roast beef and Yorkshire pudding at 2 p.m. The house was decorated with a Christmas tree with presents all around. Of course, some had been opened. After our meal, we began opening our gifts. We had a great time because Elizabeth, their daughter, was not quite 6 years old. She was showing us all her presents.
After leaving Martha’s, we went to Deborah’s parents’ home. Then we took them to dinner at Schimschack’s restaurant in Sanborn.
Even though Martha has kept our tradition, she has begun to add other vegetables to our meal, such as salad, green beans and squash, plus chocolate chip cookies.
Life, particularly with recent current events, is so unpredictable. Traditions provide the comfort of knowing you have something to anticipate and enjoy. May this winter be full of traditions that you can share with family and friends.
The Rev. Charles A. Deacon is priest associate at St. Johns-Grace Episcopal Church in Buffalo.