Monthly Archives: December 2008

Holiday Traditions from the Dr. Laura Staff

Just for fun, I asked members of my staff to tell me some the holiday traditions in their families.  I’ve included my own in this list as well.  As you can see, my “peeps” focused primarily on food (!), and there are ethnic traditions seem to have been handed down over many years:

Here’s mine:  Our son is 23 years old, but we still do the “Oh….what is that sound?”  (Then we make the sound of hooves).  “What can that be?  It must be….no, it can’t be…it must be Santa Claus!”  And this is when we give our last gifts.

From Kimberly Neill:
     Opening one present on Christmas Eve, which is always Christmas “jammies” to wear that night!

From Benjamin Pratt:
     Listening to Johnny Mathis’ “Merry Christmas” and Nat King Cole’s “The Christmas Song.”

And from the rest of the Dr. Laura staff:

* Reading out loud “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” on Christmas Eve
* On Christmas Eve, my daughter and I bake Snickerdoodles and leave a few with a glass of mild for Santa and his elves.  Santa always takes a big sip of milk, and a bit of cookie, which we discover when we wake up in the morning.  After Christmas dinner, we sit around the piano, open up our stockings (which my mom sewed back in the 1950s, when my brother, sister, and I were born) and sing Christmas carols.
* My family and I eat nothing but conch soup on both Christmas and New Year’s Day, and I’m not allowed to spend any money on the first of January, or supposedly it will result in a loss of money for the year.
* Every year, we prepare a nice big meal, get all dressed up, and we wait until Midnight to open our gifts.  Sometimes, though, we start at 11:59PM!
* I’ve always loved English Christmas traditions.  As a teenager, I found a recipe for classic English Christmas pudding, and ever since, I’ve made the pudding and the hard sauce (and it takes 6 to 8 hours to make it), and it’s always one of the desserts on the table at our Christmas dinner, which is a little unusual, since I come from an Italian family!
* Our Italian family continues the tradition of the Christmas Eve fish dinner that’s served over several courses and involves seven fishes.  Supposedly, it signifies the seven sacraments in Catholicism.  We start out with Frutte di Mare (with shrimp, scungilli, calamari and king crab legs), then move on to the pasta course (linguine with white clam sauce and mussels in red sauce), and continue to the course featuring baked lobster tails.  We end the meal with coffee and Italian pastries.
* In Norway, Christmas is celebrated on the 24th of December, so my family and I go to the Norwegian church to hear the Christmas sermon that morning.  Later in the evening, after dinner, it’s a tradition in our family to eat Norwegian rice pudding with berry sauce.  In the pudding, there is one almond mixed in.  Whoever finds the almond in their serving of pudding wins a gift.  Growing up the almond “mysteriously” always ended up in my bowl, but now that I’m an adult, it’s fair game for anyone who is over at the house, sharing in the tradition.

I hope that you and your family either continue long passed-down traditions, or start new ones.  Happy holidays!

Kids Don’t Have To Go To Bed Hungry

At a recent media fundraiser, I was asked how a parent in southern California could best tell a child why he or she would have to go to bed hungry.  My answer (which was met with some silence) was that in southern California, there is absolutely no reason for any child to go to bed hungry, and that parents should do whatever it takes, legally, to make sure that didn’t happen.

That means going to your local church and other available community resources for temporary assistance, getting some part-time, even menial, work in the evening for some extra income, going to “big box” stores with friends or relatives to pool your resources and buy cheaply in bulk….I could go on and on.

I remember one point in my own family’s life when we went through every pocket of every jacket and pair of pants, every drawer, and every little “box-like” entity in the house to pool together enough money to go to McDonald’s with our son.  I remember crying in the mall one day, because we didn’t have enough cash for a second pair of shoes for him.  I remember being angry and scared, and I remember hunkering down with my husband to figure out how to solve the problem.  I’ve been there.

Dave Ramsey is in print and on just about every television program, giving good advice on what to do about your financial situation.  Check him out.

Quote of the Week

I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round, as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.
               – Charles Dickens

Blessings in Disguise

I have always been impressed with the mentality of the Mormons with respect to the issue of charity.  I had a tour of their main charity facilities, and was amazed at what I saw and learned.  There are absolutely no handouts – they barter!

Here’s how it works:  if you could lose your home, or if you need food, clothing, medicine or toys for your children, the Church takes financial care of your needs.  In exchange, you provide services to the very mechanism that rescued you.  This means that folks in the bakeries are people who have benefited from the charitable services; those helping in the stores that sell thrift clothing, housewares and food are those who have benefited from the charitable services, and so on.

The basic concept is to preserve a sense of dignity and pride in those who have temporary need by giving them an opportunity to use their skills in the service of others.  Walking around the premises, I felt the uplifted attitude of all who were there:  smiles, waves, and straight backs.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints provides for people all over the world – not only with goods and goodwill, but with the opportunity to not lose a sense of self when “things” are lost. 

I probably sound like an advertisement for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  I am not a member of their religion, but I am impressed with their charitable philosophy, because I believe it teaches our children their real value, while motivating and uplifting them at the same time.

Their young people who graduate high school are expected to go on two-year “missions,” reminiscent of the Peace Corps.  These young people come back much more mature, as they’ve experienced the pain and need of others, and have sacrificed two years of their own comfort to be of service to others.
Other youngsters just don’t want to skip a beat in their acquisition of iPods, cell phones, and other “Internet in your hand” gadgets.

I believe that the economic disaster our country is in right now is a kind of blessing in disguise with respect to values. Without values, life just provides us with “things,” but not necessarily with any profound meaning.

Economic Challenges

I cannot even estimate how many recent callers fall into two discrete, and unfortunate, categories:  the first are largely women calling to find out how they can better deal with the bitter resentment they have toward their husbands, because of economic stress; the second are largely men calling to find out how they can better deal with the feelings of failure as a man because of economic stress.

To the women, I say “Unless he actively burned money in the basement, gambled it away, or spent way, way, way over budget, your fears are turning into rage toward the one person you should turn to, and not on.”  When they (generally) limply come back with “Yes, he spent more than we had,” and I come back with “And, didn’t you?” then the meeting is called to order.

To the men, I say, “I am heartened that you see your responsibilities so clearly, but you are letting your shock get in the way of your problem-solving skills.  You see a hungry tiger in your living room, salivating over your kids.  Shock sets in, and you can be depressed that you don’t have a stun gun or you can’t figure out another way around that tiger to save your family.  We indulge in the shock and sadness of it all, but now it’s time to see the challenge.”

I have teenagers with small incomes from part-time jobs call, wondering if they have to “share” with their parents who are up against it.  Can you imagine that?  Instead of being rather excited about the ability to contribute to the family at a time of crisis, many of our teens are only looking out for “Number One.”

All cities are having charity drives not only for the holiday season, but for victims of fires and personnel layoffs due to incompetency in government and private industry.  Most of the time, this issue is food, but sometimes children’s lists include iPods and laptops!  Can you believe that?  What have we taught our children about humble survival and retrenching when they are still focused on high-priced electronics?