Looking at what makes a holiday memorable

With Christmas Eve upon us and the year coming to a close, we’ve decided to take a break from the hard news beat and have some fun with residents’ favorite holiday memories. You’ll find recollections of traditions, visiting relatives in a foreign country and how Santa managed to deliver, despite the circumstances.

Cy Wyse, Kingston:

Cy’s brother, Jack Wyse, a professional country/western music and swing singer, reached out to extended family members with holiday music during a particularly difficult time.

It was just after the Battle of the Bulge in World War II and Jack, stationed in Europe, was about to be sent home. Before heading back to the United States, he decided to look up some German relatives on his mother’s side and found quite a few of them. He brought some cigarettes, candy and his guitar.

“Of course, they wanted to see this American cousin,” Cy said.

Jack wound up having dinner with 30 relatives, and during his visit, they asked him to sing a song. The only song they seemed to know was “You Are My Sunshine.”

That didn’t go over too well, Cy said. Jack then remembered about a half-dozen songs his mother had taught him to sing in German.

He first started singing “Edelweiss” shocking the relatives, followed by “Silent Night.”

“When he finished, of course, they loved him,” Cy said.

For several years following the war, Cy and Jack’s mother received cards from the extended family in Germany “thanking them for having this wonderful son,” Cy said. “To me, it’s what Christmas is supposed to be about.”

Bill and Roddy Reynolds, Kingston:

Years ago, Bill started a tradition while the children were living at home. He did some secret shopping for the kids, wrapped the gifts and numbered them. Each child was given a number and on Christmas morning, at random, he would call a number, “really adding a fun special moment for each child,” Roddy said.

Ted George, Port Gamble S’Klallam Elder:

Bennie and Martha George had 10 children and lived on the Suquamish reservation. The youngest children were always primed that Christmas and Santa Claus were coming and the kids better be good. But the reservation Santa Clauses seemed to be tanned and didn’t “Ho Ho” or talk as much as those that the kids saw elsewhere, Ted said.

When Christmas Eve came one year, older sister Marjorie looked out the window and saw Santa headed toward the house.

Three of the George children quickly pushed chairs to get to the window to see St. Nick headed in their direction.

“Sure enough, in his red and white outfit, with a beard and large bag, Santa was coming toward our back door,” Ted said.

But the family’s large dog wasn’t too keen on Santa’s presence and suddenly began barking, growling and charging at Santa.

The jolly elf took off running — “quite quick and agile for his age,” Ted said — toward the family’s south porch that was being built. Santa jumped and grabbed the railing but it collapsed.

“The wood, Santa with the bag and our dog were in a melee,” Ted said. “Santa quickly rolled over and escaped by climbing onto the porch.”

When he finally came in, he was dirty, his clothes and face were twisted but he delivered as promised.

“I later thought, that Santa ran hard but not fast, with short choppy steps, just like my brother Cecil,” Ted recalled. “He’d been a star running back on (North Kitsap’s) Class of 1932 football team. It may have been the most dominating of any — they were undefeated and unscored on.”

Bob, Ted and Carrie George had a very special exciting and unforgettable Christmas moment, Ted said, and Santa never forgot it either.

Sally Heacock, Kingston:

“My husband Steve often must endure the many holiday traditions of my homeland, the Isle of Man (a small island in the middle of the Irish Sea). We fondly recall our first Christmas gathering on the island at the home of an aunt: lots of dry sherry, big slices of rich fruitcake covered in marzipan and icing (called Christmas Cake over there) and the unmistakable smell of strong English Furniture polish on musty family heirlooms. A delicious cocktail of Christmas cheer for my family but a recipe for disaster for my poor new American husband’s stomach – he became very sick.

“We were able to salvage his reputation on New Year’s Eve when the Manx people have a tradition called the ‘First Foot’. At some point soon after the New Year has been rung in, a tall, dark stranger must carry a lump of coal through each home on the street.

“This ‘First Foot’ must walk in through the front door and out through the back door, sweeping with him the cobwebs of the old year and clearing the way for good fortune in the new. Manx people tend to be on the shorter side and are very, very, pale and there really are not many strangers in my small village in the middle of winter. Steve, being taller and dark, became the most popular guy around that year — with much of the welcoming hospitality that accompanies this tradition.”

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