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Traditional Holidays Riverwest Style

krulos

Holidays are about traditions … ways of celebration that gain meaning over years of repetition. We wondered what traditions the natives of Riverwest hold dear. Whatever they were, we knew they would be unique and colorful, like Riverwesters themselves. We put out a request for brief descriptions of holiday routines, and here, in no particular order, are what we received: Holidays = cooking + friends + eating. Cookies, chocolate, cookies with chocolate, chocolate with cookies, turkey, homemade cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, gravy, mulled cider… ok I’ll stop there. You get the point. Holidays mean having friends over to warm my house, making special, seasonal dishes (did I mention cookies?) for us to enjoy together, and appreciating the love and care for each other in the atmosphere. ~ Belle Bergner My son and I are Jewish, but we have family and friends who are not. Therefore, we celebrate both Channukah and Christmas. For us, like many people, the holidays are more about spending time with the people closest to us, eating great food, and just hanging out. This year we plan to light the chanukia all eight nights of Channukah. We will also deep-fry some potato latkes. Yum! They are soooo… good. I hope to have my mother, her husband, my boyfriend, my son, and my 88 year old grandfather come and share those with us. My boyfriend celebrates Christmas. We will probably spend Christmas Eve with his family. My mother and step dad celebrate Christmas as well, and we will go to their home for a late lunch on Christmas day. So… that is what our holidays are like.~Avigail Rubin I always spend my Christmas holiday in sybaritic excess. I never wear a bra. The sling, I believe, is reserved for baby Jesus so that Mary may nurse him with proper support. Proper support for the teat is crucial to human survival. I light a fire and lounge before it in unmentionable items I have bought from stores that sell such things. I always lie upon a bearskin rug in front of the fire and cry out for three wise men. Normally, after I perform this histrionic act, I read books which include selections from Mother Theresa, William Blake and Walt Whitman. (On one occasion, however, I recall that I read selections from John Calvin, Rush Limbaugh and William F. Buckley. The spirit sometimes moves one in unusual ways.) I stoke the fire and add a log or two. I begin work on the radish rosettes and the garlic mashed potatoes. I put the sirloin tip in the oven and chop up the shitake mushrooms and broccoli for the stir fry. I then read random selections from Emily Dickinson. I believe that by reading Dickinson I will get as close to baby Jesus as I might get, given my limitations. I plug in the Christmas tree lights and illuminate the various antique wreaths in my house, which surely are fire hazards and are about to ignite at any moment (the precise moment is not known as of yet). I stoke the fire once again and roll up the bearskin rug. I hide my erotic toys. My guests will soon arrive. One last thing, I pray quite sincerely for world peace, global love and understanding and better rates for cable tv subscribers in the Milwaukee area before casting off my sexy underwear and donning my red fleece running suit and tasseled cap in preparation for my holiday guests. I hope this satisfies your curiosity and that you have a very merry Christmas in spite of yourself and your purient interests. ~ Anonymous Since the turn of the century, me and the Missus have been celebrating the New Year at dawn at the lakefront. It’s always a dramatic event and usually not as loud, drunk, ordangerous as those midnight affairs tend to be. At dawn there is less of what was and more of what will be to celebrate. It’s always hopeful. Even a steel wool cloud-covered, peek-a-boo sunrise (like in 2002) brings hope to the surrounding landscape. Birds chirp, rabbits run, and the steel wool gives way to a brushed aluminum daylight. At dawn in 2002 there were no shadows in the Riverwest. Midnight champagne kisses taste just as sweet when the sun comes up. ~ Jim Hawley This will be the second holiday season I will be experiencing as a married man. Me and my dear wife have to do the usual family commutes, mine in Waukesha, her in Nakoosa which is near Wisconsin Rapids and home to the mighty Papermakers. There are a lot of pleasantries, meetings with obscure relatives, and bluffing our way through success stories. The highlight of the season is Christmas Eve, which we have agreed we will keep to ourselves (and our cats, Mia and Miles, and our Guinea Pig, Stella.) We exchange gifts and drink Port wine and lounge around. It is laid back as can be, with no frantic and hectic activity harshing our mellow. Cool as the cat’s pajamas, just like we are. ~ Tea and “Mama” Krulos Here are two traditions in our family for you: In our house we start November by making a kind of Day of the Dead altar in our dining room. I arrange votive candles, marigolds and autumn leaves with photos and funeral holy cards of our loved ones who have died. As night falls, I light the candles and leave them lit in the otherwise dark room until we go to bed. I love to light those candles. It helps me remember how our lives have been enriched by those who have gone before us. After Thanksgiving I clear away the altar to make way for Christmas.My husband and I began a ritual on December 31, 1999. We walked to the top of a hill where we could literally watch the sun set on the 20th century. Early the next morning we took the same walk to watch the sun rise on the 21st century. Every year since then, we have done the same thing. Some years it’s very cold, some years not. We’ve never been snowed out. We don’t go to New Year’s Eve parties anymore. There’s something about walking and talking in the stillness of the dusk and then the following dawn that puts us in a wonderful space for making the transition from one year to the next. ~ Jackie Reid Dettloff My wife Edie will be working at Luther Manor Nursing Home on Christmas. Someone has to be there, and since we don’t have kids, we can celebrate the holidays any time we like. Her efforts allow someone else to be at home. She earns holiday pay. She finds it’s usually a laid back day, with families bringing plenty of “treats” for the workers. She also earns leverage to get a summer holiday off. I usually fall asleep watching football or a movie. ~ John Zutz Christmas takes on new meaning this year, with Ava joining our family this past September. Everything we do is brand-new for our 17-month-old daughter: decorating our home, putting up the Christmas tree and visiting family and friends in Milwaukee, Wausau and around Wisconsin. Christmas means special food — my Dad’s potato dumplings — and beverages (eggnog and Lakefront Holiday Spice). It’s midnight Mass at Saints Peter and Paul and the annual party at New Thought Community. It’s celebrating Brenda’s birthday on New Year’s Eve, Three Kings Day at Jen and Miguel’s and the Chinese New Year with other families with children from China. It’s Christmas Carol at the Pabst and A Charlie Brown Christmas. Most of all, it’s embracing Paloma and Ava, remembering that another baby was born in a manger, so many years ago. Season’s Greetings. ~ Francis X. Vogel, Brenda Del Valle, Paloma Vogel-Del Valle and Ava Vogel-Del Valle Since the early 1980’s, I have read Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol to friends and family. Sometimes the group is on the small side — meaning perhaps a dozen, and in some past years, when our children were…children…there were more people settled into chairs, cushions, and piled up sleeping bags than the living room would seem to hold. Someone always falls asleep, and it’s not always children, but it’s never me. We break following the Ghost of Christmas Present. We stretch, and eat, and settle down for the miraculous transformation we know is coming, and we really feel it’s Christmas. ~ Pat Sturgis A tradition leading up to the holiday season for me has been to volunteer at the annual Quaker Gift Shop. I don’t usually go to malls or go overboard buying more “things” but at the Gift Shop I find practical items like hand made soap, cards that support UNICEF, calendars that support Peace Action and a few odds and ends that local artists have made for kids and adults. Plus, the youth program features some of the best home-made soups and bakery your taste buds can handle! I have volunteered at the Peace Action table at this event for more than 20 years. It’s become a holiday tradition I look forward to, not only to see people from the Riverwest community, but also to see activists from all over and to support non-profit groups and local artists. A percentage of sales goes to helpful programs funded by the Quakers.I also make things year round to sell at the Quaker Gift Shop for groups I feel passionate about, including Voices in the Wilderness (bring medicine to Iraq) and Wisconsin Anti Violence Effort (work on hand-gun violence and conceal carry issues). I’ve folded hundreds of sheets of origami for ornaments and this past year have crocheted lots of colorful coasters to benefit these vital groups. I feel it is vital for each of us to do what we can in our own way to share the gifts we have with those who struggle.I also collect used and extra Christmas cards and distribute them to prisons, correctional institutions and day cares. A number of years ago I spoke to young offenders at Ethan Allen about surviving sexual assault. At Christmas time, I received a beautiful hand-made card using parts of used cards and containing a very thoughtful message from the youth offender program. It really touched me and since so many used cards are just tossed into the recycle bins, I thought it would be great to extend their life by collecting them and bringing them to places that can use them. I was told that the makers of the cards feel really good about making them too and helps them also heal. For the family part of our celebration, we all gather at my youngest sister’s house and share a meal. A shrimp salad is always a part of the meal since that is a salad my mom always had for us when we were growing up. She came here from Germany and we receive German chocolates and candies on a decorative paper plate called a bunten Teller (colorful plate). We still use the plates that were sent to us some 40+ years ago from my grandparents in what was then East Germany. My favorite German candy is marzipan!Being a musician, there must of course be some nice music in the background. My nieces and nephew also will often perform a piece of music on the piano, cello, viola and violin. Sometimes I’ll join on flute. My holiday activities and traditions are a balance of enjoying my family along with a good amount of sharing with those in my community, hoping to bring a little more light to those who need it. In Peace. ~ Kristina Paris I like to hit a Holiday Fair or two. I will go to the one at Tamarack School on Brady St. I enjoy writing Christmas or seasonal cards to my family and friends around the globe but don’t get as many replies as I used to. I am leaving on Christmas day to visit my son and daughter-in-law in San Francisco, so I am looking forward to that. ~ Karen Green
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