Valley Forge Christmas Traditions

by Don Meyer, Ph.D. | Dec 19, 2015

“Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.”
Hamilton Wright Mabie

For some reason, I have been thinking a lot about the traditions of Christmas this year. As Ellen Goodman said, “Traditions are the guideposts driven deep in our subconscious minds.” 

Evie and I still have the original nativity set that we bought for our first Christmas in 1967. The first time we took it out of the box and placed it in that tiny, sparse college apartment, we handled each piece like it was a special treasure.

Our Christmas tree ornaments are a repository of precious memories. Each year as we decorate it, Evie and I are transported across the decades to places and people often forgotten except for that annual Christmas reminder which we tenderly hang in just the right place. 

It would hardly seem like Christmas without Aunt Margie’s porcelain Christmas tree or the story of “A Cup of Christmas Tea” or Hershey Kiss cookies and Kevin’s pumpkin bread and so many more. 

At the University of Valley Forge we have our institutional traditions. For 19 years Evie and I have given a Christmas ornament to each of our employees. We love finding special ones from places we have visited or celebrating events here on campus. And what would the Christmas season in Phoenixville be without the UVF "Christmas at Valley Forge" concert. 

Here are some UVF employee traditions. Billy shares Christmas with his in-laws, in front of a fireplace and always reading the Christmas story. Rich has three grandchildren. Each Christmas morning he takes the stereo and plays for them the Chipmunk song. Cyndi remembers as a child that she and her siblings would all sit at the top of the steps on Christmas morning waiting for their parents to wake up. 

Over the years, Mark has faced many changes in his life from the loss of his father to siblings getting married and from moving away from home to his brother serving three tours of duty in Afghanistan but one thing has remained constant, “We have always had Christmas cookies.”

As newlyweds, Pete and Grace have started two traditions: finding a light display to view (like Longwood Gardens) and making gingerbread houses. 

Highlights for Chrysta have always been the Christmas Eve candlelight service with her father singing “O Holy Night;” her mother’s homemade orange rolls for breakfast on Christmas morning; reading the Christmas story and giving Kimble, their dog, a big rawhide bone. 

Dan’s Uncle Bud owned a restaurant in Petersburg, Alaska, where one of his signature dishes was clam chowder. Each Christmas Eve his mother made the recipe and now he makes it for his family. 

Before opening any gifts on Christmas morning, Dick and Darlene’s children and grandchildren act out the Christmas story, sometimes dressed up in bathrobes and beach towels.

Kevin and Wendy have a large basket of Christmas books they have collected over the years, some going back to Wendy’s childhood. That basket has traveled with them back and forth to Bulgaria and today it is next to the fireplace where, as a family or as individuals, they will pick one up and take a look. A favorite is a scratch-and-sniff book that Wendy has tried to revive with essential oils and baking extracts which even today no one has outgrown.

Michelle has four small children and together with them she makes a birthday cake for Jesus. They love seeing Christmas lights, going to Christmas Eve services, following the arrival of Santa on their phone app, as well as being with her family and Mark’s. And every year they take the train to Philadelphia to go to Macy’s (the old Wanamaker’s) to watch the Christmas light show, tour Dickens’ Village and eat lunch at the Reading Terminal. 

We all love Christmas traditions but the Valley Forge ones are some of the best. 

Think about it.