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Holiday Traditions Off the Beaten Path

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Compiled by Mike Dunphy

Perhaps no time of the year brings out the quirks of friends and family more than the holidays. The Bridge took to Front Porch Forum to learn what wacky holiday traditions Central Vermonters have. Here’s what we learned:

Working in the corporate world, I had quite a few frustrations over the years I could not voice. I started a New Year’s Eve tradition to make a modeling clay icon of my main focus of annoyance and then proceed to pound it flat as a pancake! It’s something I now do with others. We share stories, flatten the totem, and put the frustration behind us.

Gail Carrigan

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I don’t think I did it again, but one year I bought many pairs of socks at the Cabot sock sale (cheap ones), wrapped them individually and tossed them on the floor for everyone to take a pair. If anyone got the wrong size he or she could exchange with someone else. It went over big.

Frances Krushenick

For decades, on Christmas Eve we’ve settled around the woodstove in the living room to read holiday stories, but we have two favorites.

Dylan Thomas’ “A Child’s Christmas in Wales” is read out loud by a different person every year. In one part of the story, an after-dinner smoldering fire develops and the two boys run to ring the fire brigade while the father smacks at the smoke with his slipper. The firemen put out the embers and an elderly aunt descends the stairs, peering into chaos. The boys wait to hear what she would say. “She said the right thing, always. She looked at the three tall firemen in their shining helmets, standing among the smoke and cinders and melting snowballs and said, ‘Would you like anything to read?’”

We also include Bill Morse’s 2009 Times Argus essay, “Remembering Christmases Past.” In the essay, Morse describes a large family gathering that included a Christmas tree with candles and a vigilant Elliot Morse armed with a 20-pound fire extinguisher. “All the grandchildren gathered around the tree to have their picture taken. We suddenly realized that the hair on the tallest one, Brian, was on fire. Everyone rushed to the tree but my mother Dot shouted above the din, ‘Lordy no, not the candles, just put out Brian!’ “

The pleasure of this mild humor never diminishes. Old jokes are best.

Kristin Glaser

Some years ago, we began a holiday tradition we call “Clickety-Clack: Down the Track to Bratt and Back.” We take the Amtrak train from Montpelier to Brattleboro for the day and invite friends to join us. The train leaves Montpelier at about 10:30 a.m. and arrives in Brattleboro at lunchtime.

On the way, we relax, chat, admire the scenery, read, or play games. Upon arrival in Brattleboro, we go to our favorite restaurant and order our usual dishes. Afterward, our group usually splits up. Some hike the trails at the Brattleboro Retreat, others shop, or admire holiday decorations and local architecture.

The Brattleboro Museum of Art is yet another option. We catch the northbound train home at about 5:00, arriving in Montpelier at about 7:30 pm. One time we chose New Year’s Eve as the date. This year we spread the word through the Montpelier Senior Center and billed it as a Winter Solstice Train Trip. So far, over 30 people have purchased tickets. Who knows? It’s another month before the trip date. We may get to 50 people!

Nancy Schulz and Anne Ferguson

My Welsh grandfather made milk sherbet twice a year—once in the summer and once at Thanksgiving. He churned it in a wooden ice cream freezer packed with ice and rock salt. My father carried on the tradition but made sherbet at Christmas. When he died, my husband prepared the recipe, and he and my son-in-law packed the wooden freezer and cranked the handle to the perfect consistency. The sweet, tangy sherbet is perfect with favorite cookies at Christmas or any time of year.

Here’s the recipe:

3 lemons

2 oranges

2 cups sugar

1 quart milk

2 eight-pound bags of ice

1 bag of rock salt

Soak the bucket overnight before you begin so that it swells and doesn’t leak.