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Holiday memories keep piling up

If you could go back and revisit your most memorable Christmas, what would it look like?

Let me make the question more open-ended — your most memorable holiday experience overall. I’m doing an entirely unscientific family-based inquiry which asks that question. My plan is to foster more comfort and joy. Tis the season.

The results of my survey, to date, achieve the intended goal. My husband’s response touched my heart. He tenderly remembers the first time his grandfather sang “Oh, Tannenbaum” in German while sitting in his comfy chair with surprised grandchildren surrounding him.

“Ach Tannebaum Ach Tannebaum du bist ein edler weig!

Du grünest uns den Winter, die lieben Sommerzeit.”

My sister, who married 50 years ago, at which time she converted to her husband’s Jewish faith, remembers all the holidays when they were raising their family of four children with both Christmas tree and menorah in the home. Their children were given a present each night of Hanukkah as well as a festive stocking full of sweet treats on Christmas morning. And, yes, with their children and eight grandchildren scattered across this country, they still observe that type of Hanukkah gifting.

Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday that lasts for eight nights and usually occurs in December. It is also known as the festival of lights. It celebrates the military victory of Jews over foreign rulers.

My daughter, who is eager — especially this year and in these unsettled times — to hang on to traditional Christmas rituals, remembers making Norwegian krumkake over the burner of a gas stove with my tiny 85-year-old mother standing on a kitchen stepstool directing us in the one-cookie-at-a-time effort. The most memorable year was when we almost set the kitchen on fire. Not surprisingly, I am gifting Jenna with an electric krumkake maker this year.

“Krum kaka” is a Norwegian waffle cookie made of flour, butter, eggs, sugar and cream. A special decorative two-sided, iron griddle is used to individually bake the thin round cakes that must be immediately rolled into a cone shape.

Her husband, my Hawaiian-Filipino-Chinese son-in-law, strongly believes “food is love.” He will indulge one or two krumkake but prefers rice and pulled pork. When queried about a favorite holiday food, he quickly calls up his recipe for Hawaiian Macaroni Salad — a Christmas mainstay.

Hawaiian Macaroni Salad: Combine cooked elbow macaroni, mayonnaise, milk and grated carrots in a large bowl until macaroni is well coated. Chill for at least two hours. Eat with a spoon and a smile.

This year we are giving this gentle-spirited, strong man a cookbook as a gift. The title is: “I am Filipino. This is How We Cook.” So he can make new memories.

Our youngest grandson turns 8 on New Year’s Eve, so this time of year is a continuous unending holiday celebration for him. When asked about his favorite holiday memory, Jordan responds with, “Actually, everything. It gets better every year.”

Indeed, dear grandson, indeed.

Sharon Johnson is retired Oregon State University associate professor emeritus. Reach her at sharjohn99@gmail.com.