December 25 … It’s Christmas!

Before we get to the family stuff. Here’s a picture of the Three Wise Men following the Evening Star. Submitted by Silverback Bill (Hinesburg SBs)

Jan (Morris) Erskine

Remembering What’s Important About Christmas [Jan (Morris) Erskine]

It was 1999 and I was the Social Work Coordinator for the Tucson Medical Center Cancer Support Program. Times were tough in health care and rumors of layoffs had been circulating for months. We knew we were vulnerable because support services are often considered expendable when budgets need to be tightened. We had survived the previous layoffs, but this year was different. We knew there would be serious program cuts.

Jan and John were married 52 years

I went into layoff frenzy mode. This is when every unnecessary expense is eliminated at home because of my fear of being without a job and unable to get another one because of my age. However, we had made previous arrangements to go to Sedona for a week and were in a “use it or lose it” deal with our lodging. We decided to go anyway but keep expenses in check. So, off we went and visited our usual haunts; one of which was Garlands Indian Store to admire the latest in Native American jewelry. We saw many beautiful pieces including a particular silver and gold bracelet. Obviously, there was no consideration of buying because you don’t buy jewelry with a layoff looming. Anyway, we left the store and went on to other sights in the area.

Three weeks before the millennium we received our layoff notice. The Cancer Support Program would be eliminated as of the end of the year.  It would be a lean Christmas as I had anticipated and had prepared for.  On Christmas morning John casually gave me a gift to unwrap. It was a box from Garlands with the bracelet I admired. I was stunned! His comment was that he never worried about the effect of the layoff on me; he knew I would get another job and, as it turned out, he was right.

A few weeks ago, I came upon the sales receipt from Garlands. John called them when we came home, bought the bracelet, and had it sent to his office. There was also a notation about it being a Christmas gift.

That was John. He always had faith in me and my abilities even when I didn’t have faith in myself.

[John Erskine passed away on February 14, 2020. This the family’s second Christmas without him.]

A Kinen Ishi Japanese River Stone commemorating John

Where We Are … (Hannah)

Tour guide Hannah has us up early and back into the Magic Sleigh. Rudolph’s red nose begins blinking, and … whoosh! … we have arrived.

Merry Christmas from the white sand beaches of Zanzibar, an archipelago off the coast of Tanzania! After a quick lesson in Swahili, we’ll unpack our bags at the Baraza Resort and Spa and indulge in some relaxation by the pool and on the beach. In the afternoon, we’ll take a tour of Stone Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a magical mélange of palaces, winding streets, markets, antique emporiums, and ancient forts. The food here is out of this world, a delicious mash-up of Indian, Arab, Chinese, Portuguese and African cooking traditions. 

What We Eat … (Sandy)


This moist, streusel-topped cake – our family’s Christmas morning staple – was traditionally served with Yom Kippur and Sabbath dinners. Frequently called Jewish coffee cake, it has several variations. My adopted favorite is by Debby Solomon, food columnist for the Burlington (VT) Free Press in the 1970s.

1975 visit to Santa Land where Stephen and Heather Levesque had a serious talk with The Man.

Cake Ingredients:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup regular or reduced fat sour cream
  • 2 tsp vanilla (or 1 tsp almond flavoring/1 vanilla)

Streusel Topping:

  • ½ cup brown sugar, packed
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts (or half almonds)
  • 4 tbsp (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • Combine brown sugar and cinnamon. Stir in nuts. Mix in butter with fingers until mixture is moist and crumbly.


  • Preheat oven, 350.’
  • Grease 9”tube pan. (I use a springform tube pan, but a 9” square pan also works.)
  • Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  • Cream butter and sugar with electric mixer until light and fluffy. (@ 2 minutes)
  • Reduce speed to low and add one egg at a time, beating well after each addition.
  • Add half the sour cream and half the flour mixture. Repeat.
  • Blend in vanilla and/or half vanilla-half almond flavoring.
  • Spread batter evenly in pan. Sprinkle topping over cake (This is my preference, but some bakers prefer adding half the topping in between two layers of batter.
  • Bake 55 minutes, or until it tests done.
  • Cool. Release from spring pan.

What We Listen To … (Jacob)

Christmastime is Here Again (The Beatles, Christmas 1967)
Part song, part sketch, this recording was edited from the ‘67 Christmas record, and might hold the title for the “best Christmas song that you’ve never heard, as recorded by the highest selling musical act of all time at the height of their power both commercially and artistically.” Uncanny to hear it for the 1st time.

What Makes us Laugh(Patrick)

Looking back on another memorable Christmas

What Amuses Us (Whitney)

Out of all the Christmas movies that ever were, It’s A Wonderful Life captures the best of what the season has to offer: the magic of love, the meaning of devotion to family and community, and the opportunity for redemption that each year offers. The plot manages to balance being charming and slightly dark, while the ending is as life-affirming as they come. James Stewart will always be George Bailey to me. His voice especially embodies the heart and heartache the film succeeds in tying with a bow.

What Makes Us Family (Stephen)

Christmas, 1989. After the singing of We Three Kings (at the 3:40 point) the rest probably only of interest to Morris boys. Singing with Jake and Patrick was a West Brookfield neighbor Zack Maxey.

2 thoughts on “December 25 … It’s Christmas!

  1. Thanks for all the gifts you share on SBD.
    Wonderful, artisnal card crafted by Sandy.
    Merry Christmas and Happy 2023!
    With love, respect and gratitude,
    Mike and Cyndy
    Post Island Pals

  2. Wonderful Christmas issue Will loved the 3 Kings especially and a new to us Beatles song is damn amazing. Enjoy your celebrations.

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