By Sherry Ackerman
Holidays are little opportunities to remember. They are like carefully placed benchmarks along the path of life – encapsulated moments in time that get etched in our memories. Without them, things would just morph and change without us noticing. But, the little benchmarks jolt us into awareness – into noticing.
I remember the Holidays when I was a child. We hung a stocking by the chimney and hoped-against-hope that Santa would fill it with goodies. It was one of our homemade wool stockings, not a commercial plush one with rhinestones and glitter. And, the chimney was just that – the chimney. It wasn't made out of cardboard and set up just for the season. It was where the fireplace, that heated the whole house, vented. It was a rather handsome, large structure – brick and mortar – and I could easily imagine old Santa vaulting down it.
If things went well, we got an orange in the darned toe of those old stockings. It was such a treat, as oranges were rare in December in New England. There were no supermarkets back then and produce didn’t travel 3,000 miles to be available year round. We ate what was produced locally and in season. So, that Christmas orange was a really big deal! So was the real chocolate!
Grandma was German and could get a bit of chocolate from family back in the Old World during the year – which she would carefully lay aside and wait for the Holiday to use. And, there would always be some homemade sugar candies, carefully wrapped in little bags made of scraps of old fabric from Mama's sewing projects. Plastic had not yet made its debut.
Under the home cut tree, there’d be all kinds of wooden toys that Papa had crafted... or had found cast off somewhere and taken into his wood shop to repair and repaint! Blocks, trains, sleds that had all been made with a lot of love.
Aunt Helen would come for a dinner of fresh killed wild goose and Fall harvested potatoes, turnips, squash and carrots. The pies were apple and pumpkin from the orchard and garden. Aunt Helen was a widow and made her living as a seamstress. Clothing was made by hand back then and didn’t come on a rack or shelf. If she’s had a good year, she would bring us girls gifts of beautiful dresses that she had made for us out of the remnants of the wedding gowns that she had made for her clients.
These were really Holi-days, not Holi-deals. Nobody had shopped ’til they dropped or maxed out a line of credit. The foods hadn’t traveled cross-country, nothing was wrapped in plastic nor shrink wrapped on styrofoam. The toys were neither neon colored nor made by cheap labor in a third-world country.
We were just happy to be together... to play, to sing, to hug. It was “local and in season.” It was simple. It was meaningful. And, it’s pretty much the way that I still do it.

By Sherry Ackerman Holidays are little opportunities to remember. They are like carefully placed benchmarks along the path of life – encapsulated moments in time that get etched in our memories. Without them, things would just morph and change without us noticing. But, the little benchmarks jolt us into awareness – into noticing. I remember the Holidays when I was a child. We hung a stocking by the chimney and hoped-against-hope that Santa would fill it with goodies. It was one of our homemade wool stockings, not a commercial plush one with rhinestones and glitter. And, the chimney was just that – the chimney. It wasn't made out of cardboard and set up just for the season. It was where the fireplace, that heated the whole house, vented. It was a rather handsome, large structure – brick and mortar – and I could easily imagine old Santa vaulting down it. If things went well, we got an orange in the darned toe of those old stockings. It was such a treat, as oranges were rare in December in New England. There were no supermarkets back then and produce didn’t travel 3,000 miles to be available year round. We ate what was produced locally and in season. So, that Christmas orange was a really big deal! So was the real chocolate! Grandma was German and could get a bit of chocolate from family back in the Old World during the year – which she would carefully lay aside and wait for the Holiday to use. And, there would always be some homemade sugar candies, carefully wrapped in little bags made of scraps of old fabric from Mama's sewing projects. Plastic had not yet made its debut. Under the home cut tree, there’d be all kinds of wooden toys that Papa had crafted... or had found cast off somewhere and taken into his wood shop to repair and repaint! Blocks, trains, sleds that had all been made with a lot of love. Aunt Helen would come for a dinner of fresh killed wild goose and Fall harvested potatoes, turnips, squash and carrots. The pies were apple and pumpkin from the orchard and garden. Aunt Helen was a widow and made her living as a seamstress. Clothing was made by hand back then and didn’t come on a rack or shelf. If she’s had a good year, she would bring us girls gifts of beautiful dresses that she had made for us out of the remnants of the wedding gowns that she had made for her clients. These were really Holi-days, not Holi-deals. Nobody had shopped ’til they dropped or maxed out a line of credit. The foods hadn’t traveled cross-country, nothing was wrapped in plastic nor shrink wrapped on styrofoam. The toys were neither neon colored nor made by cheap labor in a third-world country. We were just happy to be together... to play, to sing, to hug. It was “local and in season.” It was simple. It was meaningful. And, it’s pretty much the way that I still do it.