The holiday season is a wonderful time to relive, recreate, and revive family traditions! Every one of us can probably describe a favorite holiday tradition and the magical, warm, and fuzzy feelings it calls to mind. Traditions provide a meaningful connection from generation to generation and fortifies the rich heritage of our families.
We asked two Syverson Strege employees, Debbie Richards and Rachel Watson, to describe a favorite holiday tradition. Thank you for sharing these heartfelt, sentimental family traditions!
Debbie Richards’ Favorite Christmas Tradition
My Grandmother Victoria immigrated to the U.S. from the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, where tortellini en brodo “in broth” originated. Traditionally, tortellini is the first course of Christmas dinner in northern Italy. My favorite Christmas tradition is preparing tortellini in the days before Christmas so that we can enjoy them on Christmas Day with family and friends.
Making tortellini from scratch is a labor of love for all of the women in our family, who gather and make them together. In the old days, my grandmother made the tortellini filling using an old cast steel meat grinder with a hand crank. Before we made the pasta dough, she sent us all straight to the sink to wash our hands and rinse them very well “so the tortellini don’t taste like soap.” Then we sat around her kitchen table, rolled out sheets of pasta with wooden rolling pins, and made hundreds of tortellini from the bounty we’d been blessed with, and in the spirit of the holiday season.
My daughter, now age twenty-six, began making tortellini when she was a toddler. While some things have changed, others never will. These days, we use a food processor and a pasta rolling machine, which streamlines the process. But, each small batch of dough must still be kneaded by hand for at least ten minutes, and each individual tortellino is still uniformly cut, stuffed, and twisted by hand, using the same high quality standards my grandmother set for us. Thank you, Grandma, for bestowing this cherished gift upon us. And thank you, God, for blessing me with a beautiful daughter who lovingly embraces my favorite Christmas tradition and will share it with future generations.
Rachel Watson’s Favorite Hanukkah Tradition
My two favorite Hanukkah traditions are making latkes and lighting the menorah. Latkes (also known as potato pancakes) are a very common Hanukkah tradition and most Jewish families have their own recipe they stick to! It might seem odd to eat fried potato pancakes as a holiday treat, but the oil the latkes are fried in represents the oil that lasted for eight nights in the Second Temple.
While some people might think of Hanukkah as a "Jewish Christmas," both my family and I like to reflect on the story of the Maccabees, a group of Jews who never wavered in their faith in the face of violence. The Maccabees rebelled against the Seleucid Empire rather than let themselves be assimilated (or worse) and won, allowing our people to live and worship freely once again. In reminding ourselves of this story and the strength of the Maccabees, we are able to hold fast to our faith even in times when the world may seem dark. Like the light of the menorah, the story of the Maccabees reminds us all that there is hope, despite times that may seem hopeless – one only has to look for a guiding light.