‘It’s a family tradition’

Lowell Sun (Lowell, MA)
December 6, 2004 Monday

‘It’s a family tradition’

NANCYE TUTTLE, Sun Staff

Tradition, tradition …

Tevye, the milkman, sang of its significance in the popular musical
Fiddler on the Roof.

And at this time of year, families draw on their own traditions to
make the holidays special and truly memorable for every member.

It may be as simple as trooping into the woods to chop down the
Christmas tree or decorating cookies for a family celebration or
savoring the same festive dinner each Christmas Eve.

Whatever it is, traditions are important for solidifying family ties
and creating memories to last a lifetime.

Traditions often are food-centered and faith-based. That’s the case
in Sara Bogosian’s family.

“Christmas is a very special time of year for our family, filled with
many age old traditions because of our multi-cultural, multi-lingual
backgrounds,” says Bogosian of Lowell.

Her parents were 100 percent Armenian, but Sara and her mother before
her were born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. So they blend several
different cultures’ holiday traditions.

The real Armenian Christmas, primarily a religious celebration, is
based on the Julian calendar and celebrated on Jan. 6. Bogosian and
her family celebrate on both Dec. 25 and Jan. 6.

“On Christmas Eve, our immediate family gets together with cousins,
aunts, uncles and friends. We go to Christmas Mass and then come home
to a dinner filled with Argentinian and Armenian cuisine,” she said.

Besides dinner, there are traditional desserts, including an Armenian
Christmas pudding called Anoshaboor.

“It is a pudding made of whole grain wheat, apricots, yellow raisins,
pistachio nuts, walnuts, filberts, sugar, rose water, almonds and
pomegranate seeds. The pudding is placed in a large bowl and
decorated with the almonds in the shape of a big star to represent
the star that shone on Christmas night,” said Bogosian.

Music also plays a big part in the family celebration, with a carol
sing around the piano.

Before going to bed, each member celebrates the Argentinian custom of
putting their shoes out at the front door for the Three Wise Men who
come bearing gifts. In the morning, the shoes are filled with candies
and little gifts.

Even though Bogosian’s children are now 21 and 24 and a niece is 18,
Santa still gets his due.

“Every Christmas Eve, we still put out a long note to Santa, along
with milk, cookies and carrots and celery for the reindeer. Amazingly
enough, Santa, in spite of his busy schedule, always seems to write
us back, mentioning every member of the family. Before we begin to
open our gifts on Christmas morning, we read the note from Santa out
loud. It is a funny, and sometimes emotional way to start off the
gift giving,” said Bogosian.

Christine and Bruce Brown’s holiday traditions focus on food as well.
And the famous cookie tray is a major focal point, says Chris, who
directs the Center for the Arts at UMass Lowell

“Most of our holiday traditions are food-related. In the 18 years
since we’ve lived in Lowell, we’ve always welcomed many of the Brown
family on Christmas Eve. It’s a large family and they come from all
over,” says Chris.

The evening always starts with a big, sit-down dinner of roasted loin
of pork, tiny roasted potatoes and Bruce’s mother’s special pork
sauce recipe.

“We eat by candlelight, and then go into the living room for a
gift-opening respite,” says Chris.

Following gifts, they retreat to the dining room again for the
fabulous cookie tray.

“This is something I inherited from Bruce’s mother when we got
married. We always have a big discussion on what will be on the
tray,” she said.

There are usually eight varieties, but painted cutouts, coconut
macaroons, almond spritz, and triple orange frosted brownies are
always on the tray, Brown says.

On Christmas Day, Chris, Bruce and their son Ethan, now a sophomore
at University of Michigan, traditionally walk down the stairs holding
hands to see if Santa came. After breakfast with a sour cream coffee
cake that Bruce always bakes, they open stockings and enjoy an “orgy
of Christmas present opening.”

Then they travel to a brother’s home in Newton for Christmas dinner,
always a traditional turkey with more cookies. During the day, they
all help put together a jigsaw puzzle.

“It’s always a new one, set up on a card table and everyone helps put
it together,” says Chris.

Retirees Chet and Carole Babineau of Pepperell have a few happy
traditions that they enjoy sharing with their family.

“Christmas services on Christmas Eve, no longer a midnight Mass, but
we like to go Christmas Eve and hope it is [snow] flurrying as we
leave. That really sets the mood,” said Chet.

They have stockings at their house for the five grandchildren who
live next door. “We invite the little tykes up to our house later in
the day so they can retrieve what Santa has left in their stockings
that Nana hangs on the mantel,” he said.

After Christmas, they celebrate New Year’s with a bang with their
Texas grandchildren.

“It’s a ban-up time in Texas, as they can set off fireworks. The
street looks and smells like a combat zone after the display. This is
our second Christmas with the family there,” said Chet.

Nancye Tuttle’s e-mail address is [email protected]

GRAPHIC: Every Christmas, Christine Brown of Lowell creates ‘the
fabulous cookie tray’ for members of her extended family a custom she
took over from her mother-in-law. sun file photo