A Village of Holiday Traditions: A Dancing Rabbit Update

I have started to wonder how holidays differ for fellow Rabbits from the holidays we grew up with or left behind in our lives before Dancing Rabbit. “T” here, as I approach my first holiday season at DR.

All ready for holiday celebrations at the Milkweed Mercantile

My family celebrates Christmas. As a little kid, that meant a trip to Grandma and Grandpa’s or Bonnie and Bill’s for a couple days with all the relatives.  We almost always attended a Christmas Eve church service and sang traditional songs and hymns like “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing” and “Little Drummer Boy” and heard the Christmas story read from the Bible.  I was eager to get up Christmas morning and get to the presents. Grandma and Grandpa made sure to give each grandkid the same number of presents, usually two, to keep everything even. We had a huge meal: turkey, homemade mashed potatoes and bread, corn, green beans, sweet cinnamon rice, jello salad, and pumpkin pie.  It always seemed like I had barely swallowed the last piece of pie when Grandma was already offering turkey sandwiches for a snack.

After we moved to Florida when I was 15 years old, Christmas changed.  I’ve actually been to the beach on Christmas.  We still went to church and still opened presents, but instead of being with family, we were with my dad’s business partner and his family.  Just before moving to Dancing Rabbit, I had been back in Kansas City for many years celebrating Christmas with family again in much the same way we did when I was growing up. But what about this year? How will things be different? We’ll see. I’m not going to see my family until the weekend after Christmas. This will be my first Christmas at Dancing Rabbit.

I asked some fellow Rabbits how their holidays have changed over time; childhood, adulthood before Dancing  Rabbit, and adulthood after moving to Dancing Rabbit. Their responses were wide-ranging and made for a nice conversation, allowing us to get to know each other better.

One of our newer residents, Cat, had this to say. “As a kid in Fort Lauderdale, I remember going caroling. Some families even went to the beach, but we didn’t. As an adult living in California, I started my baking the day after Thanksgiving. I made cookies and fudge for all my neighbors.” I wish I lived in California where Cat was baking, but I do have hope that maybe she’ll bring that tradition with her to Dancing Rabbit for her first holiday season.  She plans to attend our potluck and is interested in some caroling. White-flocked Christmas trees were also a tradition in Cat’s family with generational variations in decorations. Cat’s grandmother had blue lights and ornaments while her mother had pink ones. Cat’s ornaments were strings of popcorn and paper chains on the traditional, white-flocked tree.

My friend Dorothy reminisced about Christmas traditions growing up in her German-Mennonite community in central Kansas. She remembered, “On Christmas Eve, we would always go to church where the children put on the Christmas program, a re-enactment of the Christmas story and singing of traditional hymns. The children got sacks filled with peanuts, candy, and an apple or orange. On Christmas day, before going back to church, my family celebrated Christmas at home. Then, after church, we all went to my grandparents’ house.” As an adult with children of her own, Dorothy shared some of the things she cooked. She made spinach quiche for breakfast and walnut-streusel coffee cake. She taught her granddaughter how to make the coffee cake to carry on the tradition. Peppernuts were also a tradition. For years, Dorothy made Famous Candy Bars to send to family. The recipe included cornflakes, peanut butter, sugar, of course, and melted chocolate on top. This year will be notable as the first year Dorothy will not be sending out Famous Candy Bars. (I’m hoping maybe she’ll make some for us locals at least!)

Christmas cookies are the theme of the holidays for Andrea. As a kid in Virginia, Andrea, along with her many cousins, made hundreds of sugar cookies with all the cutouts at her grandparents’ house. With a smile she said, “It was like arts and crafts meets baking.” The cookie baking tradition has continued into her adult life with her own children and she already has a day planned for cookie baking here at Dancing Rabbit. Personally, I can’t wait! Andrea also remembers Christmas Mass when her grandmother would place Bibles on two rows of pews at church to save room for all her family joining her at the service. Another tradition Andrea has continued with her kids from her own childhood is stuffing stockings with olives and an orange. That was a new one to me. Another thing Andrea commented on was how Christmas has often felt intimidating or overwhelming “keeping up and giving the kids enough.” Maybe that pressure will let up a little bit here at Dancing Rabbit.

Alline said she feels less pressure around Christmas at Dancing Rabbit. The Mercantile will host the annual Christmas Morning Potluck Brunch. (Noteworthy, a Secret Santa gift exchange plan was hatched by Alline during all this Christmas tradition talk.)

Rabbit Dan has spent many holidays in Cleveland with his family. His family traditionally goes to the West Side Market and buys exotic things like squid and falafel. Dan has never stayed at Dancing Rabbit for Christmas.

Long-term Rabbit, Cob, shared an intriguing family tradition. His family members would disguise their gifts with wrapping and packaging suggestive of something other than what the gift-box actually contained. Once, Cob went so far as to empty a box of chocolate-covered cherries, replace them with a necktie, and have the box shrink-wrapped again. His father didn’t realize the gift switcharoo until two years later when he opened the box hoping for a snack.  

As a kid, Cob remembers that he and his siblings would chomp at the bit upstairs while his parents set up lights and a camera to film the forthcoming happy event downstairs. The problem was, sometimes his parents did not get the video they wanted on the first take, so the family would do multiple takes to get it just right. “Christmas morning, take three.” “Ah, c’mon, Mom.  We just want to open presents!”  As an adult with children in upstate New York, Cob stressed out trying to get to three different places to “do Christmas.” He felt there was a lot of pressure to have a day-long “Kodak moment,” which was exhausting and impossible to achieve. He appreciates a more relaxed approach now at Dancing Rabbit where everybody doesn’t have to get the same number of presents or have the same amount of money spent on presents.  Pillowcases, socks, and sheets have sufficed in place of bows, boxes, and wrapping paper for the gifts. Often gifts are handmade. I don’t know about you but my shoulders just dropped a little and I’m taking some deeper breaths just realizing it is possible not to get so frazzled by the holidays.

And that is my hope for you this holiday season. May you relax into your holiday traditions, old and new, wherever you are. I know a place with a great Christmas Morning Potluck Breakfast if you’re looking for a cozy fire and friendly people!  Happy holidays from Dancing Rabbit.

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