Schmit Family
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28 December 2004 12:23 pm

Schmit Family Traditions

The Schmit family has a number of holiday traditions. Some have been passed down for generations while others are new. Some are simple and some are complex to the point of being intimidating to the unfamiliar.

Before Christmas

  • Advent Wreath: Each Sunday in Advent, we would light a candle on the advent wreath. Often, we would read some passage from the Bible as well. Carolyn's family had a similar tradition, but would sing Christmas Carols after lighting the Advent wreath. We currently don't have an advent wreath, but I'd like to continue this tradition; especially as Dylan gets older.

  • Bread: We would often bake bread before Christmas and deliver it to neighbors and friends. Sausage bread and coffee can bread are the two varieties that I most remember. I remember setting the bread next to the wood stove and waiting for the lids to be blown off the coffee cans as the bread rose. Since I don't have any coffee cans, I bake the sausage bread. My favorite batch of sausage bread is the one that I made one year in Georgetown with spicy sausage from Elgin.

Christmas Eve

  • Bayberry Candles: The day of Christmas Eve, we burn bayberry candles for good luck. One year I remember charing the wooden candle holders, which were an anniversary present for my parents from Grant and me, when the candles burned too low. We were careful this year. Bayberry candles are very hard to find. I haven't been able to find them since we left Georgetown. Fortunately, my parents gave us some at Thanksgiving.

  • Herring: For Christmas Eve dinner, we have creamed herring on lettuce. I have no idea from where this tradition originates. It's the only time of year that I eat herring and I always struggle trying to remember where to find it in the grocery store (it's in the refrigerated section by the spreadable cheese).

  • Service: We always go to Christmas Eve service. This year we went to the family service. It was a circus. There were literally over a hundred kids at the service. The pastor gave all the kids bells and told them they could ring them all night long to praise God :) Cupcakes were distributed to celebrate Jesus' birthday. Personally, I kind of like the later, quieter, candle-lit Christmas Eve service; especially, when Silent Night is sung in German by candlelight.

  • One Gift: Growing up, we would open one present on Christmas Eve. The purpose of this tradition was to give us kids something to keep us busy and in our beds when we awoke early on Christmas morning. A book, if of sufficient length, would usually suffice. Since I have no troubling sleeping these days and since no present is going to keep Dylan from getting up when he wants, we skipped this tradition this year.


  • Stockings: On Christmas morning, we check the gifts in our stockings first. This is not a simple procedure and follows the rules outlined below in the gifts section.

  • Cinnamon Rolls: After stockings, we eat cinnamon rolls. Yum. This keeps us from getting to hungry while we open gifts. You need to prepare yourself before opening gifts.

  • Gifts: A meeting run using Robert's Rules of Order appears simple when compared to the procedure for opening gifts in the Schmit family. It starts with the eldest selecting gifts from under the tree and distributing the gifts to each person. Then, the youngest guesses and opens his gift. Guessing is very important. Specificity is required. Guessing that the gift is a book or a CD doesn't cut it. Genre, if not title and author is required. Likewise, guessing that the gift is clothes isn't specified enough; nor that the gift is a shirt. Color is required. The generous gift givers write clues on the gift to assist the guesser. The guesser may also tactilely examine the gift. The guesser can shake the gift if the giver approves. One of the better parts of guessing is when the guesser purchased her own gift and can't remember what it is. (The use of the feminine pronoun in the previous sentence simply reflects my preference for alternating masculine and feminine pronouns in my writing to avoid using "their" improperly or the award "he/she" construct and isn't meant to refer to anyone in particular ;) ) After the guess has been made and accepted by the family, the gift is opened. The next youngest person guesses and opens next, and so on until the person who choose and distributed the gifts (the oldest in this first iteration) guesses and opens. The next person in the sequence from youngest to oldest (wrapping around back to youngest) chooses and distributes the gifts (this would be the youngest in the second iteration). Then, the next person in the sequence (this would be the second-youngest in the second iteration) starts the guessing and opening round. This continues until all gifts are opened. At some point, there are no more gift for various people. These people continue to participate in the choosing and distribution rounds and are simply skipped in the guessing and opening round. While we don't exchange many gifts, this complex procedure ensures that gift opening lasts most of the morning.

  • Strata: After the arduous process of choosing, distributing, guessing, and opening gifts, we have worked up an appetite for strata. Strata is bread, sausage, cheese, eggs, and milk. We usually make it in the dutch oven camping, but it can be made at home and traditionally is for breakfast on Christmas morning.

  • Dinner: Christmas Day dinner is always special. As a young kid, I remember setting an extra setting for Jesus at the dinner table. As I got older and Christmas dinner more crowded, I think this tradition was set aside. Perhaps, we'll start it again next year with Dylan....

There are probably other Schmit family traditions that I've forgotten. If my family reminds me of any or provides more detail regarding those that I've enumerated, I'll update this entry.

Update: Oma wrote, "We all enjoyed reading about the traditions. You gave all of us a good laugh. The eating of herring comes from your greatgrandma on your grandfather's side. They use to eat it on New Year's Eve and some how it moved to Christmas Eve. It was for good luck. The best herring your father and I ever had was from the Hudson River when we lived in Albany. I think the pollution in the river helped.

We really laughed when you tried to explain your use of gender. This reader knows who you were referring to!

Christmas Eve Eve Traditon (December 23) -- consists of wrapping Christmas gifts together while watching movies. This tradition also has rules. There are always three movies. They must be either a series or at least related by genre and theme. The theme at Oma and Opa's this year was a person adjusting to a foreign culture. We watched The Terminal, The Last Samuri, and The Manchurian Candidate."

Posted by geoff at 12:23 in /family

27 December 2004 2:39 pm

Ten-Year Reunion

Two years ago, I attended my ten-year high school reunion and took a handful of pictures. I figured it was about time to share them; here are some photos . We had a great evening that started at Santangelo's Restaurant. What was anticipated to be a gathering of a dozen or so turned into a crowd of 70 or more people. We'll see what is planned, and by whom, for the 15-year reunion in 2007!

In 1992, I graduated from Cicero-North Syracuse High School; located in Cicero, New York; part of the North Syracuse Central School System. We had a graduating class of 451 people, according to the local paper. So, a turnout that of 70, which included significant others, is still a small fraction of the total. The first official count I knew for our class was 579 in the fall of sophomore year. We saw small decreases to 568 in the fall of junior year and to 560 in the fall of senior year. And then, a drop of more than a hundred occurred! I don't think it could be a typo (e.g. 541) because less than 500 names were listed in the graduation program.

It was surprising at our reunion in 2002 to learn that people had not heard about the event until the day before. We advertised in the local newspapers, sent out emails, encouraged people to bug their friends, and even tried to contact some people directly. Our class website, is now defunct. But a couple of tools still exist for future communications: Wendy Meyer's Page and .

Leading up to our reunion in 2002, a number of different plans were tried. It started as a summer picnic, changed to a Friday night event at the Hotel Syracuse, then to a Saturday night event at the Everson Museum, and finally occurred as a show-up-if-you-want-and-pay-out-of-your-own-pocket event at Santangelo's Restaurant.

I certainly enjoyed getting a chance to see some folks I hadn't seen in years and meeting some classmates that I didn't remember every having met before. I didn't know who Trevor was until he identified himself as the guy who had the mohawk in high school. And quite a mohawk it was (then not now)! I didn't know him in high school, but I knew of him.

A 15-year reunion for the CNS Class of 1992 is not too far from now. Anyone want to take bets on whether it will happen? As the date approaches, drop me an email and I'll let you know if I hear anything about the plans.

Posted by geoff at 14:39 in /friends

11 December 2004 7:58 am


Silent as an Indian through the brush,
It lays,
   a crushed page of notions.
   a forgotten memory outside the memoirs,
Who will note it?
Not a one.

Still as water of the indigo pool,
It lays,
   a crumpled sheet of recollections,
   a disregarded conception within convolutions.
Who will grasp it?
Not a one.

Shadowed like the mind of man,
It lays,
   a deserted file of impressions,
   a mangled idea beyond understandings.
Who will read it?
Not a one.

Fenner, New York
late 1980s

I don't remember what, specifically, inspired me to write this poem. I was obviously thinking of a discarded notes of some sort, but I'm not sure if just this general concept or a more specific experience was the impetus.

Posted by geoff at 07:58 in /poetry