The holidays have snuck up on us once again. It seems that so often we rush through the year and then into the holidays while forgetting to enjoy the beauty of the season. These days, as we all prepare for parties, enormous dinners, and the giving of gifts, I hope that we also find comfort in tradition, the simplicity of family, and in our own unique ways of celebrating. My wish is the same for our Alabama Chanin family. As we prepare to leave for the holidays (we will be closed on Monday), we leave you with a few stories, favorite memories, pictures, traditions, and things we cherish about this time of year.
Diane Hall, studio director, has a full house each holiday season, with eleven grandchildren under the age of 15! She has a uniquely beautiful Christmas memory: her son was born on December 23rd. She remembers that after he was born, “he was brought to me in a Christmas stocking, which I used for his own Christmas stocking for many years.”
Our studio assistant, Olivia Sharif, describes her family as non-traditional. Particular favorites include a family road trip to Florida, chasing chickens on a friend’s farm and racing down country roads. Her treasured holiday gifts range from pink roller skates that she received as a young girl, to a trip to Norway that she took in 2010. Louise Bone, one of our most steadfast artisans, was born in 1933 and remembers that, though times were tough, each of the three children in the family still received one gift. Her fondest memory is going into town with her father to look at Christmas lights. She says, “Town was a wide place in the road. The lights were breathtaking to the three of us. I later learned that they were ordinary light bulbs painted red and green, sparsely strung on black electrical cord and hung across the street.” Our production manager, Steven Smith, thinks of Christmas as a busy time spent at so many family gatherings. He and his wife love watching their sons tear into their presents on Christmas morning. Though they are usually completely exhausted by this point, the happiness that they find watching their children’s excitement brings them their happiest holiday moments.
Sara Martin, writing and editing assistant, remembers spending one Christmas Eve delivering gifts to children in the hospital. “My sister and I dressed as elves – and my father was quite possibly the worst looking Santa of all time. But, I still remember that these children found so much joy amidst difficult times.” These days she gets the most joy watching her niece Taylor, a cancer survivor, do much the same thing. Having spent more than one holiday in the hospital, her niece brings gifts to young people who are away from home on Christmas. Long-time artisan, Mae Grissom, remembers holidays around the fireplace with her parents, cracking pecans and walnuts and eating apples and oranges. This time of year was so special to her, as this was the only time the family had these treats to eat. She remembers that, as a girl, she received a beautiful doll who wore clothes made by her mother. These days, she spends Christmas with her family, friends and church members and looks forward to Christmas breakfast with her whole family – children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren!
Kay Woehle of our sales and development team has a unique family tradition: Her father is known for putting together a distinctive Christmas tree each year. In past years, it has been put in upside down, cut in half horizontally with the top half on the roof, sliced down the middle with one half inside the house and the other side outside the window! This year, Kay describes their tree as “an odd Seuss-like tree that Dad dug up from our yard.” Artist Diane Hanson designs a shirt each year that depicts Kay’s family Christmas tree. Below, you can see her father standing next to this year’s tree, and wearing the shirt that it inspired.
June Flowers-Stedman, our special projects coordinator, loves that Christmas allows you the opportunity to drive around with a tree tied to the roof of your car and not get any strange looks. While in her younger days she may have acquired trees through questionable sourcing, now that she is an “official grown-up,” she visits the Christmas tree farm with her family – and lots of cider. For their first couple of years together, she and her husband, Ben, started a tradition of hand-decorating ornaments for the tree. This year, their daughter, Agnes, has started her own tradition of smashing those ornaments!
In my own family, we concentrate on a small celebration that takes place in the kitchen and around the communal table – we substitute laughter for gifts and love for merchandise. This is a time of year I get outside, sit back, take stock, celebrate my ancestors, and cherish life in this moment. We hope that you will also take time to enjoy your family and the special moments that can always be found this time of year. Happiest of holidays from all of us @ Alabama Chanin xoNatalie