My father is the middle child of Swedish immigrants. Every year, usually on Christmas Eve, we celebrate his heritage by having an authentic Swedish Smorgasbord, or julbord — complete with pickled herring and lox, potato sausage, brown beans, real Swedish meatballs, an array of cheeses & crackers, lingonberry sauce, boiled shrimp with dill sauce, and a sampling of the traditional glogg (a mulled wine drink served hot), which is known to cure any sinus ailments.
We have added dishes, like deviled eggs, to make it more palatable for the kids, and expanded the menu to include dishes that were not in the Swedish cookbook that my grandmother once used, like dromskinka and duchess potatoes. As my kids settle into the tradition of pickled herring & deviled eggs, I am grateful for this one remaining tie to our Swedish heritage.
Karen Smith, Rome
On Dec. 26 my mother’s side of the family, The Cescutti’s, always get together at Vonnell and Edmund Cescutti’s house to celebrate Christmas.
This includes my grandparents, my mom and dad, immediate family, cousins and extended family, all representing different generations. We now have a new addition, my adorable niece Mary James to represent the new generation.
Nanna, a.k.a. Vonnell, makes the biggest pot of minestrone soup, Don brings smoked salmon, the women bring trays of desserts, Pawpaw makes a big fire and we stuff ourselves full. Then we nap. Then we wake up and open presents and eat again. It’s an entire day of being with our family and relaxing in their company.
I don’t know exactly how long they have been doing this but at least 25 years because it’s all I’ve ever known. When I think of the word “family” the first thing that comes to mind is minestrone soup at Nanna and PawPaw’s. It might not seem like much to some but the simplicity and warmth of that day is what makes it so special to me, especially now that I don’t live close to home. I have never and will never miss the 26th at Nanna’s house.
Melissa Powell, Arlington, Va.
My grandparents served as Church of God missionaries in India, and their five sons grew up eating spicy curries. Now, since several branches of our family live in Rome, 20 or so of us gather once a year for lamb curry, chicken biryani, and vegetable samosas on Dec. 23 — the day everyone in our family refers to as Christmas Adam (the precursor to Christmas Eve). We retell family stories and open a few early presents, spooning hot lime pickle or sweet mango chutney onto our plates and breaking open steaming hot pieces of naan bread.
Jessica Lindberg, Rome
My grandmother, Georgie Kight, has a spectacular house every christmas. She has a christmas tree in every single room of her house and she has it decorated to the max. It is so beautiful. My grandmother and my mother, Robin Wright, worked so hard to make it so beautiful this year, even after my grandfather passing because it’s a tradition in our family. She throws a party for all our friends and loved ones to come and admire it all and celebrate Christmas. She also has a village on her kitchen counter that is so magical. I wish all of Rome could come and see her house and just how magical it truly is. Merry Christmas to all.
Brooke Wright Logan, Armuchee
On Christmas morning my dad puts on a Santa hat and runs up and down our hall honking his Civil War era bugle replica to wake us up.
The first Christmas after my husband Mark and I moved to our current home, it was about 6 a.m. Christmas morning and we woke up to this horrible, very confusing noise outside. When Mark ran out the door he saw dad peeling out in his old truck, headed back home. Every year since then he does the same thing, always at the crack of dawn, even though we’re a good 15-minute drive from his house.
Lindy Dugger Cordell, Shannon
Here is one of The Jerry Wiley family Christmas traditions. We have been doing this since 1978, when we moved to Rome from North Atlanta.
My daughter, Jennifer, then 7 years old, was bored on Christmas vacation and missing her school friends in Atlanta. I suggested she make a Santa hat and beard for our school clock in the living room. I told her how much Santa would enjoy seeing her artwork.
I gave her red and white construction paper, cotton balls, glue and markers. She made the cutest beard covered with cotton balls and a red hat with cotton balls on the band and the end. We taped the hat and beard to the clock leaving the clock face uncovered. She was thrilled to see how festive and happy the clock looked.
I have saved the hat and beard all these years. The Christmas season doesn’t officially begin in our house until Jennifer, now 40 plus, puts the hat and beard on our clock.
We celebrate and remember that first Christmas in Rome, now our home.
The Jerry Wiley family — Jerry, Teresa, Wayne, and Jennifer, Rome
Our family story is rather unusual. Steve and I dated one another 17 years ago for an extended period of time. We went our separate ways. He married and I moved to Atlanta and married. After not speaking for over a decade we reconnected on Facebook and found we were both single. We are now married and have six kids. Our tradition is taking all six kids out to a Christmas tree farm, we saw down our own tree and take it home. We put this tree up and all eight of us decorate it from memories of our past. We only use ornaments hand-made by the kids, colored lights, icicles and popcorn balls. This tree brings us all together without forgetting the great Christmas memories from our pasts.
Michelle Brewster, Rome
The Brown family gets together on Christmas Eve. We go to three local nursing homes and sing Christmas Carols to the residents and staff. Afterward, we go to my aunt’s and uncle’s house for a hot dog dinner, with chili, slaw, chips, Brunswick stew, and a few desserts.
Once we’re finished eating, we exchange gifts (we pull names at Thanksgiving). Gifts are $10 for children and $15 for adults. On Christmas morning, my grandmother and a few of her children cook breakfast and we eat as a family.
Ayana Brown, East Rome