However you celebrate, it’s Christmas

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 24, 1999

Margaret Fetter’s holiday season begins with two Christmas tree ornaments.

Friday, December 24, 1999

Margaret Fetter’s holiday season begins with two Christmas tree ornaments.

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No matter what the theme, no matter how hectic the shopping schedule, Mrs. Fetter starts the Yuletide routine by decorating her tree with a tiny gold tea kettle and an angel dressed in red silk – her son’s and daughter’s favorites from childhood.

"And they won’t take them home, either," she said. "They want to come here and see them."

The family gathering tradition reigns supreme in Mrs. Fetter’s home, a throwback to her childhood.

"There were 14 of us and we’d each get one orange and a bag of candy," the Macedonia native said. "Then, later, while mom and dad were still living, we’d all go home and everybody would take a covered dish on Christmas Day."

Now, her children – Allen and Suzanne – come home either Christmas or Christmas Eve, sometimes together, sometimes one a day.

No matter what, they open presents every time one comes home, even if it means doing it twice, Mrs. Fetter said.

And her daughter’s covered dish contains cookies.

"I bake every year, but Suzanne makes the cookies."

This year’s total – 24 dozen.

Shelia Montgomery observes the family gathering tradition by visiting her brother in St. Albans, W.Va., each Christmas Eve.

They have traded names for years. The entire family, from her seven siblings and mother down the line to her mom’s great-great grandchildren, exchanges a gift.

"We put the names in a pot whenever we get together before Christmas, then draw," Mrs. Montgomery said.

Everybody gets mom something, though, she added.

Back at home on Christmas Day, her own family sits down to their traditional dinner – always a turkey and always a ham.

Jim Mayberry’s holiday tradition involves family, too, and a lightweight 20-gauge shotgun.

"I always try to go out rabbit hunting Christmas weekend with my brother-in-law," he said.

Rabbits have been scarce around Dobbstown this year, but Mayberry found a farm in Kentucky where he’s itching to try his luck.

Ed Kittinger’s family in Milton, W.Va., found their Christmas tradition at church.

They’re always in church Christmas Eve, no matter if there’s a flood or 50 feet of snow on the ground, said Kittinger, who works for the Lawrence County Education Services Center.

"In Colorado one year, we pulled off the road and found a church," he said.

This year, the family is leaving on Christmas Day to visit relatives in Florida because they don’t want to miss the Christmas Eve service at Milton Presbyterian Church.

There’s something very touching about having hope for humanity when lighting the candles, and it’s important for families to have such activities to count on every year, Kittinger said.

That’s tradition’s way of establishing hope in the future, he said.

"And, it’s a way to let my kids know this is important to me and hopefully will become important for them."