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Local families share Christmas tales and traditions

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The Bob and Jill Rengering family have found a way to combine secular and religious Christmas traditions and keep Jesus first. After the family has Christmas Eve dinner, “Santa” calls to tell them he’s on his way. They meet at a nearby manger scene where Santa places an image of the infant Jesus in the manger while the family watches. By the time they get back home, Santa has visited the house and left gifts for everyone. Here Santa consults with one of the children before heading out to deliver gifts. (Courtesy Photo)

By Steve Trosley
The Catholic Telegraph

Families and communities have various ways of celebrating with some having roots in their ethnic heritage and others having roots in habit. Some of our friends in the archdiocese sent the following notes on their personal celebrations for your entertainment at this special time of year.

Keeping Jesus first

The Bob and Jill Rengering family have found a way to combine secular and religious Christmas traditions.

They write: “Every Christmas Eve, the children and grandchildren come over.

“We have dinner, then Santa calls to tell me he is on his way to deliver Jesus to the crib. The crib is located at the Rumpke Landfill on Struble Road.

“We get into our cars and head for the crib. Santa comes and brings the Baby Jesus, he gets on one knee and says a prayer, covers the baby with some straw and then heads off to begin delivering gifts to all the children around the world.

‘He always stops by our house, and by the time we get home, it is filled with gifts for the family. ‘

The family has Santa helping them keep Jesus first at Christmas with this ritual.

The family also has another tradition, not as spiritual, and Jill describes it as follows: “One year Santa brought the grandchildren each a can of whipped cream. Grandma taught them to always squirt a little, maybe half a can of whip cream into their mouths, (we always keep one can of whip cream to squirt up and another for company), the kids loved the fact that Santa knew they liked whip cream.”

The Polish Way
 While John, Lu Ann and Zoe Zeszut in Saint Catharine of Siena Parish in Westwood are 250 miles from John’s hometown of Cleveland, it wouldn’t be Christmas Eve without — Oplatki!

The Polish wafers have the taste and texture (but, being large and rectangular, not the shape) of Holy Communion.

Oplatki are not consecrated but embossed with Christmas images that help set the tone for the season.

They are eaten in the evening followed by a Polish dinner.

Mom brings German traditions
Most of the Christmas traditions in our home come from my mother,” says Heidi Azaloff of Emmanuel Parish in Dayton. “Mom brought them with her from Germany when she married my father. We also celebrate St. Nicholas, with fruit, nuts and chocolates in our stockings…”

“My favorite tradition, though, involves the four Sundays of Advent. Each Sunday afternoon, we gather around the kitchen table and light the appropriate number of candles of the Advent wreath, which my mother lovingly crafts from fresh pine each year. We dim the lights and softly play German Christmas music. Naturally, we all look forward to her first batch of cookies and some Stollen with our Kaffee! This quiet time spent with family helps us to keep the wonder of Christmas and to prepare our hearts for Christ’s birth.”

Irish creativity
Sometimes a tradition develops from a culture clash.

Maureen Coz writes: “My Dad grew up on the “west side” of Cincinnati in St Lawrence Parish.He had a German mother and an Irish father. St. Nick was always a strong tradition for his extended family.

“My mother was raised in Springfield, Ohio, in St Teresa Parish. She was an only child.

“We were fortunate to grow up in a very tight knit community. My mother and Mrs. Janis Kelley, who lived right across the street from us, were the best of friends.

“When I was in school at St. William, I think in second grade, I came home on December 6th (St. Nicholas Day) crying because every child in my class had had a visit from St. Nick — but not us.

“We walked home with the Kelley children.They said the same thing — no St. Nick visit at their house.

“My Mom and Mrs. Kelley talked on the phone. They came up with a great explanation: St. Nick was GERMAN. We were IRISH. He comes to the Irish a day late!

“To this day we celebrate St. Nicholas Day one day late. Just so we do not forget.”

And she adds another wonderful Christmas memory:

“When we moved back to Cincinnati in 1992 from Fort Wayne, Ind., we had a party at St. William School in Price Hill. The kids all came in their pajamas, and we read the story of St. Nick. Father Dave Sunberg, then an associate priest at our parish, arrived in full gear complete with a crook and the worst homemade bishop’s miter you ever saw. He was so great – I remember he told the kids his horse was outside. We had to settle them down with candy canes and decaffeinated hot chocolate.”

This article originally appeared in the December 2013 print edition of The Catholic Telegraph.

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