Archives for posts with tag: holidays

Christmas Is Cooked Red Cabbage
by Lin Whitehouse

My father was a commercial traveller, he worked in Germany where      customs were
familiar but he always drove home for Christmas. That was the only gift I      needed but
wanted more. While my mother got used to his routine again he and I      busied ourselves:
selected the tree from the farm, which was dug out roots intact, and
potted in the red container we kept in the garage full of garden
     canes the
rest of the year. The scraggly lower branches were severed with      secateurs –-
slipped out of the pocket of faded corduroy trousers –-
because symmetry is balance, but before it could be
dressed the red cabbage had to be cooked, it tasted better
reheated on the day. He sliced it and washed it in the tin pan that
terry nappies were once boiled in — everything had more than one use      — purple rings
stained the pan from previous Christmases, and some years later I used      it for
tie-dying. The cabbage recipe was not written down but committed to      memory:

Fat, onions, garlic, red cabbage, caraway seeds, cloves, bay leaves,      cinnamon stick, cooking apples,
red wine, vinegar, salt and pepper, everything added when it’s time was      due and left to
simmer on the stove for at least two hours. As the sweet and sour smell      subdued the
freshness of the spruce, we peeled the protective papers from the      painted glass baubles and
systematically adorned each branch. Luminous plastic angels and      shooting stars, of German origin,
were hung on the top circle of branches and glowed eerily at night.
     An outline of a silver star with
dangling bell took the place of other people’s fairies. Red apples were      polished to resemble
hand-sized rubies and laid on the bottom branches along with      Lebkuchen stars, threaded into edible
leys. Candles in their metal-petal holders were clipped on judiciously then      finally Lametta, strands of
silver foil, were draped over the branches like skinny scarves.

There had been arguments about the present giving: on the eve or on the      day, it didn’t
matter to me but my mother won that fight and after halves of grapefruit
sprinkled with sugar had been grilled and eaten for breakfast, and bacon      and eggs fried and
digested, we opened our presents. The candles were only lit on      Christmas Eve but the
comforting aroma of cooked red cabbage lingered until New Year, when      my father
packed his samples and left for another trip.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: All holidays are special but Christmas is more than most. With just days to go as I was unpacking decorations to put up for Advent, I couldn’t resist reminiscing about my childhood Christmases when I used to sit on the wall outside our house in the freezing cold (it always seemed to snow back then) waiting for my dad to drive down the hill and the celebrations to start. Before Christmas day I cook big pans of red cabbage from memory — ingredients are never weighed — and still love the smell of the cooked cabbage!

Black Forest 1958

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: I managed to find this one of me (in the middle) on holiday in 1958 with my German cousins in the Black Forest.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lin Whitehouse lives in a small English village with her husband and two sons. She works for a children’s charity and writes whenever she can. Her writing has appeared in poetry magazines and anthologies, including Turbulence, Writing Magazine, and The Great Gatsby and short story anthologies including Whitby Abbey Pure Inspiration. Her short plays have been performed around East and North Yorkshire and recently as part of 2015 Cornucopia Festival.

A Christmas Pretzel
by Joanie Hieger Fritz Zosike

The holidays turned me into a pretzel.  I wanted to please, please, please. The more I tried the more I offended those I aimed to please, please, please. Sometimes being loved is a curse. I don’t mean that.

Yuletide holidays were spent with best girls, Lee and Billie. Lee got custody on Christmas and Billie, in deference to age, got Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve. For New Year’s, joined by brother Bert, we all traipsed to St John the Divine for the Peace Concert, until Bert and I could no longer endure the acoustics and lack of political awareness.

Billie and Lee were gratified by the candlelit beauty of the Cathedral. They weren’t as bitter as Bert and me, who begrudged St John’s for its descent from 60s radicalism. Bert and I declared independence and reserved New Year’s for dinner and a movie, or the occasional Brooklyn Bacchanalia. I felt relieved when the holidays were over. I could settle into inevitable winter gloom.

Things got re-Pretzeled when Bestie #3, Dani, moved from Oakland to New York. She insisted not only on Thanksgiving dinner but a Christmas overnight, too. This pretzel was agony. No one accepted partsies, nor alternating years. It’s fine to be loved but you’ve got to be a contortionist if you have multiple Best Girls.

Until Billie passed away two years ago, I did my best to please, please, please everyone. Meanwhile, Lee and Dani grew to love each other and even survive in the same kitchen. Holidays are now celebrated with Dani and her husband Piet (#4) in Poughkeepsie. Lee comes across the river from New Paltz to help prepare food. #5, Nick, is raconteur. I fold napkins and bus the table. I think of Billie and twist myself into a pretzel in the parlor in her memory.

PHOTO: New York City, Rockefeller Plaza.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This is the first prose piece I’ve submitted to Silver Birch Press, ever. Emboldened by a recent MOOC with the Iowa Writer’s Lab, I’ve had a story tugging at my sleeve about an extremely important friend who passed away a couple of years ago but left an indelible mark on my life. A sister traveler in the peace movement, a sister in a love of the arts, a dear soul, a loyal friend, an honorary family member, a sister indeed. I learned so much from her, and she keeps coming back .to remind me of that…and to keep me in line. I miss you so much, dear friend. This story is for you.

Josey and Billie

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Joanie Hieger Fritz Zosike’s first job in New York City was as a Santa at Macy’s. She was on the front cover of the New York Post as the first female Santa Claus, although she was actually the second. That same year, she met her first transgender friend, an elf transitioning from male to female. It was a propitious time. Since then, she studied with many well-known writers, directors, and actors, and performed extensively (and till this day) with the legendary Living Theatre. She is perhaps best known for her appearance on Cash Cab, and is thrilled her poetry has been published by Silver Birch Press, most recently in The Great Gatsby Anthology, Ides (chapbook entitled Bliss, Not Weight), and the  Alice in Wonderland Anthology.

PHOTO: Joanie and Billie (aka Sallie), Christmas holidays circa 1990.

Maureen Sudlow
Christmas Past
by Maureen Sudlow

the joy of Christmas
was always in the anticipation
wondering if this year
it might be different
this year Santa really would
manage to get something down
that problematic chimney

waiting, in the morning
for breakfast over and dishes done
before we sat around the tree
sweets, and some fruit, and sometimes
oh joy, a book or a doll

six children, and a father struggling
to find enough for extras
but the fun, as well,
family gatherings
shelling peas, coming together
around the long table to eat

no money, but when I look back
I wouldn’t swap that time
church bells and roast chicken
fun and laughter
enough to forget for a while
the bad days

© Maureen Sudlow

PHOTO: The  author as a toddler, on a visit to Father Christmas, late 1940s.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Maureen Sudlow is a resident of the Kaipara in the north of New Zealand. She is a member of The New Zealand Society of Authors and writes poetry and children’s picture books. Her poetry has been featured in various online and print journals, and she has just published her first poetry anthology Antipodes, which is available from her blog site

eucalyptus tree
Eucalyptus Christmas
by Virginia Lowe

A huge gum tree branch
propped in a corner of the room
touching the ceiling
big enough to support the actual gifts
for everyone invited to the party
Decorated with the presents, ornaments and balloons
specially, a month early, for my birthday
It was satisfying, the hanging gifts brightly wrapped
Just like Dad’s family Christmases
the exotic translated to the native

But Mother disapproved – dropped leaves, twigs
there in her best room
Besides, originating with his family
a tradition not to be continued

It only happened once
but it was glorious

PHOTO: Eucalyptus Christmas tree found on

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Somewhere there is a picture of this very tree, but I’d have no hope of finding it (in one of four cartons, but I’d need to look through them all). Anyway the poem says it better, and I’m not in the photo. It’s a long time ago – I was seven or eight. It might have been 1952.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: The photo is of me with my grandchild, about 1999.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Virginia Lowe lives in Melbourne, Australia. She has been writing poetry for at least 50 years (way before computers, so a lot of it is lost). She has had poetry published in several anthologies, and is working on a collection of one poem for each year of her life, as well as a novel, when not teaching people how to write for children, especially picture books.

(four quatrains)

by Mark Hudson

Here I see me, by the Christmas tree,
touching an ornament, what could it be?
The year must be the year 1973,
and I must be the tender age of three.

What thought must be inside my head?
Why do the ornaments all seem red?
Did I get up and sneak out of bed?
Am I just sleepwalking instead?

I was in the post office with a woman so mad,
she sent an ornament in the mail, she was had.
She complained about the price, she was sad.
It could break in the package, her choice bad.

Today, on my own, I don’t even put up a tree,
I am the ornament, a display in society.
Love me or hate me, it means nothing to me.
Santa can’t come because I have no chimney.

PHOTO: Mark Hudson, Christmas, 1973, age three.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mark Hudson is a poet and writer, artist and photographer. His poetry was featured in the Silver Birch Press “My Sweet Word” Series.  The holidays can cause Mark a bit of anxiety, but he was delighted to make it through Thanksgiving, and actually have some fun, memorable experiences. He often finds the holidays can be an interesting prompt for good writing, even though for some it can bring some sadness. He wishes whoever reads this happy holidays, and if the holidays make you depressed, you are not alone. Find some good people to lift your spirits, and have safe, enjoyable holidays.


Christmas Tradition
by Jarod Schneider

Christmas has always been a common point of unity in my family. Every year, my parents, siblings, and I meet with my grandparents and go to Christmas Eve church services before heading home for turkey and opening one –- maybe more than one -– present. I admit that my family has never really had any substantial financial issues concerning Christmas gifts, and thus they are a big part of the holiday for us. Although this does not exactly make for a heartwarming story of how one year Mom and Dad managed to scrape together enough to buy us one or two gifts, I still feel that we have a wonderful family tradition that, admittedly, is rooted in the materialism of the holiday. Nevertheless, my siblings and I are eternally grateful for all of our gifts; we always make sure to let our parents know just how thankful we are for what they do for us. On a related note, another major part of our Christmas tradition is abundant outdoor decorations. Every year, my father and I take turns heading downstairs to reset breaker after breaker blown from someone firing up a vacuum on the same circuit as 700 or so lights and a few inflatables; this is a comical scenario each year. On the morning of December 25, my siblings, in accordance with tradition, rush out of bed at dawn –- or a few hours before dawn -– to run out to the living room to greet our gifts and stockings, waiting for us to open them. In all, our Christmas is not unique, but it is still important to us in its own ways. The holiday will always hold a special place in our hearts as a time of unity and thankfulness.

schneider family
AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: I am on the far right of the photo next to my father. We had just returned from church services on Christmas Eve 2014 in the photo, except my younger brother (far left) had already changed. We are standing in front of our Christmas tree in our dining room.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jarod Schneider is a student in the 11th grade at George Walton Academy in Monroe, Georgia. He has a large interest in computers, games, and technology. Jarod is currently taking AP Language and Composition, which assists him greatly with his writing. His family is heavily into Christmas celebrations every year.

Alien Nation
by Betsy Mars

In isolation, a consolation,
prized: the Chanukah bush
attended by a stuffed tie-dyed snake
masquerading as our surrogate–Santa,
without beard or belly, bearing
bags of good will.
May it follow us all the days of our lives.
Candles duly lit, dreidels spun.
Latkes fried, the golden pot won.
The annual miracle, snake oil
medicine to treat our family ills.

Eight days: a week and then,
around the corner,
Christmas is in full swing.
Shining tinsel hangs, silver icing
atop a flock of
sheep in the manger. Knee deep in
popcorn and cranberries.
Stringing along while singing a song.

It’s starting to look a lot like
the little drummer boy sat in the corner
forlorn. Like me, an outsider.
A witness to incense and pine tree scents,
hot cider bubbling and families juggling
strands of lights on shaky ladders.
Three kings arriving on camelback to meet the
My first taste of chazeret,
a bitter herb.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: This is my father and son at Chanukah in 1992. Although my father was reluctant, I was able to convince him that it was important to impart some knowledge of the rituals and beliefs of the Jewish people to my children so that this part of their heritage would not be lost. Both children came to love this holiday particularly because of the lack of pressure or emphasis on gifts as well as this special time with their grandfather.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Throughout my childhood, I attended religious services with friends of different faiths. Although I never found God through my exposure to these services, I found acceptance and inclusion with my friends’ families and developed a lifelong love of Christmas and an appreciation for multiculturalism. My father was a lapsed Jew and so I was brought up with little ritual and no religion. Prior to second grade, I had never been aware of my “otherness” and in an effort to share in the joys of the season, I exerted pressure on my parents to introduce some strange customs into our festivities—hence, my stuffed animal snake was reborn as the Chanukah snake. I was not quite alienated, but I was always aware that we were in the minority. I’m still wrestling with my spirituality and trying to wrap my mind around life, the universe, etc.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Betsy Mars is a Southern California poet of Jewish descent. Her work has appeared in several anthologies and she is currently working on becoming more disciplined in her writing both as a means of personal growth and communication. Relationships are paramount for her presently and she hopes that better communication will enhance her bonds with those she loves. Her nonverbal communication skills are vouched for by her dog and three cats.

bike ornament
My Christmas Memories
Age 9
by Susan O’Donnell Mahan

Caroling and colored lights
Going in town to see the sights!

Jingle bells and building snowmen
Getting freezing cold and wet, then…

“May I have some cocoa, please?”
Decorating Christmas trees

Santa left us popcorn balls!
He brought my sister baby dolls

He gave my brother a fire truck
And me a RED BIKE—just my luck!

It was a special time that year
Memories that I still hold dear!

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: My mother died of cancer when I was 14, so my perspective on holidays changed drastically after that. I searched for a happy Christmas memory and wrote this poem.

Mahan pic1
AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Each year, I take a Christmas picture with my two grandchildren and send it out as my Christmas card. I couldn’t find a picture of me at age nine for my poem, but my granddaughter is 10 in this picture, so I decided that was close enough. This picture was our card in 2008.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Susan Mahan has been writing poetry since her husband died in 1997. She is a frequent reader at poetry venues, including the Boston Public Library. She has self-published four chapbooks, including Missing Mum (2005) and World View (2009). She has been published in a number of anthologies, including Kiss Me Goodnight, Solace in So Many Words, Living Lessons, and The Widow’s Handbook.  She has also been published in Silver Birch Press several times.

December 25th
by Ann Hart

The city hums behind me
glowing warm with life and expectation.
Chicago should draw my attention —
Christmas lights on Michigan Avenue
the 40-foot-tall, tinsel-covered tree in Macys —
but standing on the lakefront trail
I face the lake.
Icy wind stings my eyes
blows cold under the collar of my coat.
I wrap my scarf more tightly around my neck
and squint my watery eyes
at the gray-on-gray horizon
barely visible on this winter afternoon.
Peering across the miles
I hope to see across time.

The Christmas my mother miscarried
we did not go to the ritual family gathering
for card games and turkey dinner
and rosy cheeked hours
sledding on rolling hills.
Instead we cuddled under blankets on the couch
Listening to my brother’s
Star Wars soundtrack album,
my dolls standing in
for Luke Skywalker
and Darth Vader,
their epic battle of good and evil
reenacted in the glow of our Christmas tree.
My mother’s friend,
soon to be my mother’s next lover,
made us Rice-A-Roni and applesauce for Christmas dinner.
The father to the lost child was
nowhere to be found.
A holy day in my memory.

Viewed across 75 miles of waves
my Christmas past is
wonderful and terrible
perfect and flawed.
I would like to spend more time there
but wind numbs my cheeks
So I wipe away frozen tears
turn from the lake
and walk toward the city.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ann Hart was born on a snowy Christmas Eve in southwestern Michigan and spent her childhood winters sledding, shoveling, and walking to school in hip-deep snow (uphill both ways). She loves Christmastime and snow but hates cold so her eventual goal is to live in a warm climate with an extensive collection of snow globes. She currently resides in Central Illinois with her wonderful husband and two snow-loving dogs. This poem was inspired by many summers as a child on the Lake Michigan beach, looking across the lake and hoping to catch a glimpse of Chicago and a trip to Chicago this winter when I realized I am now an adult staring at the lake and trying to see Michigan.

Christmas sweets
Christmas Dessert
by Peyton Hutchison

On Christmas morning the children singing,
The gifts bringing smiles to our faces
Lunch is delicious—the cheese
From the North.
Christmas dinner brings out
Friends bringing baked grape leaf things,
And Mom makes bread.

My sisters want dessert freshly baked
In the oven—cake and cookies and bread and pie—
BOOM! Smoke poured from the oven—
The cake pops no more.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Peyton Hutchison enjoys writing narratives and short stories during her free time. She writes most often about her competitive cheerleading, but she also enjoys writing about memories and fiction. Peyton loves reading post-apocalyptic novels and historical and science fiction. She is a junior in high school and enjoys learning.