• Dawn Hosmer

Happy Holidays from Gestalt Media

Updated: Feb 1

In the spirit of the holiday season, we've asked everyone at Gestalt Media to share their favorite holiday tradition

or memory for this post.

Christmas Lights by David Allen Voyles

Author of The Thirteenth Day of Christmas

A favorite Christmas tradition is one from my childhood that I'm afraid to say is performed inconsistently now in my latter years—and that is the practice of piling as many family members as possible into one car and

driving around to look at neighborhood Christmas lights.

As a child this journey would always include a trip to a Baptist church near our home that performed an outdoor nativity scene with live actors and real animals. Thank God it wasn’t ours because my family was very active in our church and I’m sure I would have been drafted into service if we’d been members there. And I’m sorry but the last place a kid wants to be on Christmas Eve is at church.

We would pull up into the parking lot behind the church, my father thoughtfully cutting off our headlights, just like you do if you arrived late at a drive-in movie, and then were ushered into an available parking place by an invisible attendant with a glowing flashlight that hovered mysteriously before us in the darkness. You might arrive, of course at any point in the continuing drama, so it was quite possible to arrive with the shepherds already paying their respects to the new-born king in the stable, watch them work their way back in the darkness to their home base where the fire was, and then watch as the story began again.

It started of course, with shepherds herding some live sheep around a fire who were, as expected, surprised by the sudden glowing appearance of a choir of angels that were standing within a well-made framework of angel wings on the roof of the church. I always hoped that just once on one of those Christmas Eves that one of the “angels” would not show up and there would be a lonely pair of wings with an ominous gap between them floating eerily amidst the choir. That would have been so cool—a ghost angel! I’m sad to say that never happened.

Once the shepherds had all recovered from the shock of arrival of the heavenly host, a recording blared out, a voice that we came to always look forward to each year, speaking the lines for the head angel from the gospel of Luke.

This was the highlight of the show, for my mother loved to hear the voice of this particular angel. The speaker was a woman with a very strong Southern accent and my mother just found it very funny to have a Southern angel.

Now that I think back on it, it was quite remarkable in the late 50’s and early sixties which is when this family tradition occurred, for a Baptist church to have had a female angel—and to let her be the head angel, no less. I guarantee you that at that time that same “angel” would not have been allowed to be a deacon in that church, and it was quite likely she would not have been allowed to teach Sunday School, all because she was a woman.

“Feah not,” the voice rang out. “For be-hold. I bring you tidings of great jo-y. (Two syllables.) For unto you, is bawn this day in the city of Day-vid, a Sav-yah, which is Christ, the Lor-ud. And this shall be a sign unto you; ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddlin’ clothes, lyin’ in a manguh.” It was a tad ironic for my mother to find this humorous since she had an accent that could put Scarlet O’Hara to shame.

Once the shepherds had recovered from their trauma of seeing this celestial host, a recording of Handel’s Messiah blared forth, and the poor angels shivered on the roof as their robes blew in the breeze. When the song ended, the lights when off on the angels and the shepherds gathered flaming torches, leaving some poor guy wearing a robe and Converse sneakers to tend the remaining sheep, and trekked through the darkness on their long journey of about five yards to the stable which suddenly lit up upon their arrival, where they found you-know-who…excuse me…You-Know-Who in the manger. It was always a matter of debate in the car whether they found a live infant or a doll. I personally was more interested in the livestock and thought it was cool that they definitely had a real donkey in the stable. I bet Mary and Joseph were less thrilled.

After a proper amount of oohing and ahhing, the shepherds extinguished their torches, the stable light went out, and they walked in darkness back to their fire. We would then back out of our parking space, being careful not to turn on our headlights of course—nothing ruins a live nativity more than an accidental spotlight—and resume our tour of Christmas lights.

I rarely see any nativity scenes these days, but I do try to round up as many family members as I can for a ride through the neighborhoods looking for the best home displays. But whenever I see a nativity scene in someone’s front yard, especially one with shepherds, I always roll down my window and call out, “Feah not! For be-hold, I bring you tidings of great jo-y…”

Yule Book Flood by Jason Stokes

Founder of Gestalt Media and author of Watcher & Ghost Story

My favorite Christmas tradition is the Yule Book Flood, an Icelandic tradition that really strikes home for a book lover.

In Iceland it's estimated that one in ten people will publish a book in their lifetime. The Iceland Publishers Association sends a catalog of every book published that year to every... single.... home which kicks off the holiday season with a massive new TBR pile for celebrators.

The tradition, Jolabokafloo, is easily boiled down to this: On Christmas Eve, every one picks out one book and gifts it to someone they care about. Then..... the best part, you spend the REST of the night reading that book and eating or drinking chocolate.

I have no idea if chocolate was part of the original holiday but it has become a necessity for ours. For a bookworm, there is absolutely no better way to spend the night before what is typically a crazy day filled with family and obligations than kicking back, making some cocoa, and falling into the pages of a great book.

Snow Globes & Nutcrackers by Dawn Hosmer

Author of Bits & Pieces and The End of Echoes

First of all, let me say how difficult this is because I love everything Christmas...movies, decorations, carols, gift buying. You name it and I love it. Well, maybe not wrapping presents so much!

Since I have to choose, I'd say my favorite holiday tradition started when my children were younger. Each year for Christmas we buy each of my sons a nutcracker and both of my daughters a snow globe. This way, when they have their own homes and families they will have a nice start on Christmas decorations. I remember being a young, married woman trying to decorate my first house for the holidays and how expensive it was to get started.

My favorite part of decorating each year is displaying their snow globes and nutcrackers and seeing how the collection has grown. Sometimes, the theme of the snow globe or nutcracker will go along with something important that happened in their lives that year so it's always nice to recall the memories with them of those happy times. I also love shopping for them each year and trying to pick out the perfect one for their collection.

I've grown used to the snow globes and nutcrackers being out each year and will be sad when the kids finally take them to set up in their own homes. But, at the same time, I will be happy that the tradition will continue with their families and into the next generation.

Traditions of the Witch's Family by Ryen Lesli

Author of RIVER and FATE

Our mother always baked in the week leading up to Christmas. She loved to bake. We’d make batches and batches of her world famous Sugar cookies, plus No Bakes, Gingerbread for my dad. Christmas music was always playing, and the house always smelled like heaven.

When me and my brother and sisters stard having kids, our mother wanted to continue this tradition, so we created a baking day at mema’s house. We’d load up the kids and head over. When I would walk in, I always breathed deep. The familiar scent of my mom’s sugar cookies made me grin, remembering when I was my heathens age and we were doing this.

Our parents have this long dining room table that seats twelve. Our mother would have both leaves in and it was covered with wax paper. Me and my sisters would start making colored icing and putting candy in bowls to decorate the cookies.

It was always exhausting. I don’t enjoy sticky children much, plus, I’d always eat way more cookies than anyone but at the end of the day, after devouring the chili that my dad would have on the back burner, I’d load up my sleepy, sticky heathens and head home, happy that they got to have that moment with their mema.

The grandkids are mostly grown now so we haven’t had a baking day in a few years, but I’ll continue this tradition. My first Witchlet was born in July, and when he’s old enough, grammy will have a baking day to make those special sugar cookies of mema’s for him.

And when he runs in, I want him to breathe deep and smell that perfect little piece of heaven. One he’ll always remember.

A Day of Holiday Fun and Memories by DM Simmons

Author of EVOKE

We used to go to the Symphony and Nutcracker every year, but my 2 year old won't sit still for those things just yet. So, my favorite holiday tradition we just recently started is going into the city when the kids are finally out of school/daycare. We spend the day visiting the tree in Union Square, going to the Fairmont & visiting their kids' room where they can write and send letters to Santa, build their own hot cocoa, and walk through the life-size Gingerbread house in the lobby. Then we head to Macy's Christmas shop and pick a new ornament for the year. We finish off our day by grabbing a bite to eat somewhere in the city - usually House of Prime Rib.

I love when traditions become traditions without even knowing they are becoming them! The things I used to cherish as a kid are incorporated into my family now in new and unique ways.

We also do a Christmas Eve dinner of seafood gumbo (no turkeys!) and then spend Christmas Day in our jammies watching movies, snacking, eating, and sleeping.

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