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Families share their Christmas Eve traditions

Some area families share their Christmas Eve traditions that date back generations.

PENNSYLVANIA, USA — A number of you might be up early on this Christmas Eve to prep for that traditional family meal.

So many in our area have special dinners on tap tonight that you shared with Newswatch 16’s Ryan Leckey on social media.

For some area families you’re about to meet, their Christmas Eve dinners tonight involve traditions that date back generations.

That includes Kristin Black’s family from Carbon County. They are among the many celebrating special holiday moments.

"I would call it as a Slovak tradition," Kristin Black said. "We are from Nesquehoning. We have about 22 people who come to Christmas Eve dinner every year."

Black has been carrying on her family's traditions for decades: 

"I just turned 40. So we've been doing this for 40 years. My mom and my aunt have been doing [this] for 70 years," Black said. 

And with everything that goes into the Christmas Eve tradition, Kristin says they have to start early:

"We have been starting the dinner at like twelve or one, just because it's so long and our family comes from afar," Black said. 

And it all begins with the table setting.

"We lay straw, which is the bed for Jesus," Black said. 

They also pepper the table with all sorts of special ingredients.

"We have salt and honey, which is the sweetness and the bitterness in life. Before we sit down at the table one by one, from the oldest to the youngest, we wash hands with the silver dollar, which is right here," Black said. "And this represents good health and prosperity. The best part of the meal is we actually throw peas up in the air."

Black explained this unique tradition. 

"And when we do that, we're feeding the wolves, so the wolves will stay away."

Many believe this attracts good vibes for the new year. And that’s just a few of Kristin’s family traditions, that as you may imagine, take plenty of time to get through before more food hits the plates.

For the Steele family of the Dallas area, their annual holiday happening comes with pops of pink!

"We share a family flamingo," Dianna Morgan of Dallas said. 

It's a Christmas tradition that started around 2010 when a relative ended up flocking another one’s front yard, aka placing about 50 plastic flamingos all over the place as part of a fundraiser for a local nonprofit.

"It got crazier and crazier," Morgan said. 

The family flamingo was named Flo and later Jazzy after Flo bit the dust. Jazzy, the stand-in, continues to spread joy.

"This silly flamingo has brought us together," Morgan said. 

And others as well, since the bird shows up outside the holiday season at all sorts of community events. The family even takes turns sharing the feathered friend throughout the year.

"Whoever has her will take pictures and post them to our group on Facebook," said Alysa Gronski, another relative who lives in Covington Township.

"It just kind of became our thing. And I think it's really important that we keep this going and certainly makes Christmas Eve exciting," Maive Morgan of Hoboken, New Jersey, said. 

So from these fun lovin’ flamingo fans, as well as Kristin Black’s crew, a message from them to all of you!

"We hope you and your family have a great Christmas holiday, a great New Year's, and peace, love, and happiness," Kristin Black Said

And from Dianna Morgan, "Merry Christmas!"

Alysa and Emma Gronski say "Happy holidays!"

And Maive Morgan hopes you all "enjoy your time with your family."

After all, no matter what tradition you celebrate, family, whether it’s by blood or the family you choose, is the people who make our lives and our holidays so special.

Kristin Black's Christmas Eve Dinner:

Specifics shared by Kristin

  • Family arrives for dinner, and straw is laid on the table. Everybody must touch it. This is the bed for Jesus. There is a lit candle that signifies the first star.
  • Before dinner, the entire family washes their hands from the oldest to the youngest with a silver coin which signifies good health and prosperity for the entire year.
  • A knife is not used at the table, and only one bowl is used. We eat out of one bowl because it signifies the family coming together.
  • This first dish is bread (everybody must touch it), garlic, salt, and honey. This signifies the sweetness and bitterness in life.
  • We then eat borscht (red beet soup) and pampushky (baked dough with prune filling and coins). Then mushroom soup, pierogi, and bubalky.
  • And now the fun part is eating the peas. The head of the household would say, “na tya woky horochy shebe ya mya neviedela ot roky do rok,” meaning feeding the wolves from coming around from year to year and throwing a few peas up in the air.
  • We then pull hair so it would grow like the vine of the peas.
  • Next dish is cabbage and potatoes, and finally, pansky, which is prunes and barley. We then put our utensils under the table cloth, which custom says helps backaches.

Finally, we say a prayer of thanksgiving, sing carols, and put out goodies, such as candy, nuts, cookies, and fruit. The gifts are opened from the youngest to the oldest. 

The entire day can take up to 12 hours or so from the start to the finish. This is the only holiday the entire family is together. This tradition has been going on for a century and will continue. 

 Dianna Morgan and "Team Steele's" Christmas Eve tradition:

Team Steele originates from Dallas, and "Steele" is the four Steele girl’s maiden name. Team Steele consists of our four mothers, their spouses, cousins, and cousins-in-law.

  • We began the family flamingo tradition Christmas of 2010 after one aunt “flocked” our cousins. A local organization was doing a fundraiser that anonymously came to the house to set up 50 flamingos in your front yard when you were not home. She informed our cousins on Christmas Eve 2010 that it was her who “flocked” them.
  • Flo the flamingo lit up and traveled frequently to Team Steele events such as the Back Mountain Library Auction, Black Friday shopping, Polar Bear Plunges, Cardboard Box Derby, and many other events we complete together.
  • This flamingo has bought together cousins ranging in our 20s to 50s.
  • Once Flo died after Black Friday shopping, she was replaced by Jazzy, who is made of metal to help sustain her activities.
  • Every Christmas Eve, Jazzy comes back where we compete for her with whatever theme it is that year. Sometimes it’s an ugly sweater/pants/hat competition or a friendly game where the winner wins by luck and not by voting.
  • Whoever wins Jazzy takes her for the year. We have a private Facebook group where we share pictures of what Jazzy has done that month and dress her up for the events/holidays she participates in, like taping our bid numbers to her during the Back Mountain Library Auction.
  • Winning the family flamingo comes with a gift basket that consists of flamingo-themed things like figurines, pillows, glasses, coasters, stuffed animals, key chains, etc.