Shelby Countians celebrated Christmas in different ways

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By Beth Herrinton-Hodge

What did you do to celebrate Christmas? Do you have long-standing family traditions? Did you begin new traditions this year? Did you spend the holiday with family? Or did you take an excursion to a far-off place?

Not every family celebrates Christmas Day as Norman Rockwell might have painted it. Although, there are a number of families whose celebration center around a feast. Where Shelby Countians celebrate, and how they celebrate, may come as a surprise.


The Waffle House?

Rev. Dave Charlton and his family have a long-standing tradition of dining at the Waffle House on Christmas morning. Yes, the Waffle House!

“When our children were younger, we’d get up on Christmas morning and open presents before packing up to go visit my parents later in the day,” he said. “Of course, there weren’t many places to eat that were open on Christmas morning, except the Waffle House. The kids were always hungry, so we started stopping at the Waffle House for a late breakfast on our way out of town.” Now that their children are grown, the Charlton’s continue their Waffle House tradition. They even invited several other families to join them there on Christmas morning. “It’s gotten to be a fun way to celebrate with our friends. There’s always a lot of laughter and fun when we get together at the Waffle House.”


Starting new traditions

Nancye Hawkins and her extended family have always gathered around food to celebrate Christmas. “We would all meet at one house for dinner. We always had steak, salad and baked potato. It was the same every year,” she said.

 “After dinner we’d drive around Shelby County to look at Christmas lights,” Millie Cunningham, Nancye’s daughter said.

But in the last few years, the family tradition changed. They no longer travel to one another’s homes. “

Said Nancye Hawkins: “We picked a restaurant in Louisville, and let them do the cooking. The tradition of looking at lights has expanded to take in highlights in Louisville, too.  After mother died, my brother-in-law also passed, so my sister suggested we all go out for Christmas dinner.

“It’s a new tradition for us, and it’s one that makes the loss of our loved ones a little less difficult. Of course, we miss them, but having our Christmas in a new place and setting a new tradition softened our loss a bit. My sister and I were together. Our children and our grandchildren were with us. It’s a nice sized group. We had a lot of fun together.”

There’s no particular restaurant where Nancye and her family dine each year. “We select a different location from year to year, but we try to find a place that serves steak, salad, and baked potato,” Millie Cunningham said. “After all, that’s tradition!”


Without the children

This is the first Christmas that Libby Blair spent without her children. Libby is a single parent. She shares custody of her children with her former husband, their father. Last year, their first year after the divorce, the children spent Christmas with Libby. This year, they’re with their father.

“It was hard to imagine a Christmas morning without them,” Libby said. “I prepared Christmas dinner for my daughters and my parents on the Sunday before Christmas. It was a fun holiday season this year, as the girls and I purchased our first tree and put it up in our own little home. We’ve gone Christmas caroling with our new church family. We rang bells for the Salvation Army at Walmart.

“Since I knew I wouldn’t see my daughters on Christmas morning when they popped out of bed and ran to see what Santa brought them, I introduced them to Santa’s elves. They came to our house each night during the week before Christmas. They worked a little magic; left a few gifts. It was so much fun watching my youngest daughter wake up every morning so excited to see what the elves have been up to the night before. I could only imagine what it looked like for them on Christmas morning.”

Libby wasn’t alone on Christmas; she spent a relaxing day with her parents.


Moving around to several family homes

Mark and Mickey Bates and their family stretched their Christmas celebration over several days in several locations. “Mark’s parents are divorced, so we have three sets of grandparents to visit over Christmas,” Mickey Bates said. “We traveled to see Mark’s father’s family in one town last Sunday. On Christmas Day, we celebrated at our home. My parents live in Shelbyville, and our house can accommodate everyone for the day.”

Mickey’s mother built up a large collection of Santa figures, which she has passed along to Mickey after downsizing her own home. “My mother enjoys coming here to see the pieces that used to be displayed in her home,” she said.

Later this week, they’ll travel to visit Mark’s mother and his extended family. “Our sons enjoy this trip because they get to see their cousins.”

And what child, or teen, doesn’t enjoy having more than one Christmas.