[Sign Up Now] to Receive Our FREE Daily SCVTV-SCVNews Digest by E-Mail

Santa Clarita CA
Today in
S.C.V. History
March 20
2012 - County supervisors approve 50-year operating agreement for Placerita Canyon State Park [read]

Dianne Erskine-Hellrigel
| Wednesday, Dec 25, 2013

DianneErskineHellrigelEach of us celebrates the Christmas season by observing traditions not only common in the United States, but we also include elements from our personal heritage. Did you ever wonder where some of these traditions originated?

My family, being Czech, Swedish and German, has some wonderful traditions. The Czechs greet each other with Štědrý den/Štedrý deň, which means “Generous Day,” or the day of giving gifts. This sentiment of generosity is associated with Dec. 24. Czechs love to give presents and believe that everyone they know deserves to be appreciated and recognized with a gift. It is a tradition that confuses most of my all-American friends.

The Czech Christmas dinner usually consists of fried carp, potato salad, koláče (a sweet, apricot-filled bread) and cabbage soup. My family has opted to keep the Kolaches (U.S. spelling) in the menu but to move toward the other family ethnicities for the remainder of the celebratory feast.

deh_xmasOur dinner usually consists of piles of appetizers, pumpkin and brandy eggnogs, cream of cauliflower soup (German), Brussels sprouts with roasted chestnuts (German), roasted goose stuffed with plums, apples and raisins (German), pumpkin pie, apple pie, pecan pie (U.S.) and for breakfast, it must be aebelskivers (little round apple pancakes from Sweden) with Lingonberries. Of course, we pile on the cookies, gingerbread houses, and mini-tarts from each region to share with friends the entire season.

In addition to our Christmas reflecting the foods and sentiments of the regions of our origin, we follow other customs. Mikuláš, which is Czech for Santa Claus, will visit the home on Dec. 6 and bring gifts of candy and other treats that will be tucked into children’s shoes as a precursor to the actual Christmas visit, which brings a much bigger haul of gifts.

However, if your shoes are dirty and left unpolished, do not expect Santa to visit you on the 6th. This is a lesson for all children to change their ways by Dec. 25. If a child is bad, a golden birch rod is delivered by a devil-like character. This can strike terror into the hearts of children and make them run to clean their room, polish their shoes and help mom with the dishes. (Why isn’t this custom more popular? It sure worked for me.)

deh122513In my German family, Christkind, or the Christ Child, is the one who actually decorates the Christmas tree and delivers gifts to all of the good boys and girls. The brilliant thing about the Christkind is that he is invisible, and when he is done placing the gifts under the tree, he rings a bell to let all of the children know he is done.

Legend has it that if the children peek before he is done, there will not be any gifts for them under the tree. This is great kiddie control on Christmas Eve or morning. As a kid, I can remember sitting in my bedroom with the door closed, being as quiet as I could be, just waiting for that bell to ring. Christkind would always leave me a box of my favorite crescent-shaped, traditional cookies under the tree, too.

The other traditions my family celebrates come from Sweden and are influenced by the pre-Christian holiday called jól, or Yule. These practices surrounded the winter soltice, the rebirth of the sun.

Many of these traditions can still be evident today in the Advent. It was a time for gift-giving, drinking, feasting and gathering together. Sounds like Christmas. We often celebrated St. Lucy’s Day, called Luciadagen, which begins with the eldest daughter (me, as an only child) dressing in a white robe or long white dress, a crown of berries and twigs, and a red sash. St. Lucia always woke the family by singing the traditional Santa Lucia song and serving coffee and saffron buns to the family. This was the beginning of the Christmas celebrations.

We always had electric stars and candles in our windows. If you pass my house during this season, you will still see them shining brightly throughout December.

While Americans leave milk and cookies for Santa, we always left a bowl of porridge for the Christmas Gnome. This would guarantee luck for the household for the following year.

We’ve borrowed a few dishes from this side of the family, as well. The Swedish meatballs we serve as appetizers, the Glogg (a mulled and spiced wine with nuts and raisins), Christmas marzipan, cookies, and the oranges spiked with cloves are some of the items that grace our table.

Nearly all of the traditions that Americans consider “American” have come from the nations of our ancestors. We truly are a melting-pot nation. Enjoy your holiday, remember where you came from, and perhaps share some of your traditions with others.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!


Dianne Erskine-Hellrigel is executive director of the Community Hiking Club and president of the Santa Clara River Watershed Conservancy.

Comment On This Story
COMMENT POLICY: We welcome comments from individuals and businesses. All comments are moderated. Comments are subject to rejection if they are vulgar, combative, or in poor taste.
REAL NAMES ONLY: All posters must use their real individual or business name. This applies equally to Twitter account holders who use a nickname.


You can be the first one to leave a comment.

Leave a Comment

Opinion Section Policy
All opinions and ideas are welcome. Factually inaccurate, libelous, defamatory, profane or hateful statements are not. Your words must be your own. All commentary is subject to editing for legibility. There is no length limit, but the shorter, the better the odds of people reading it. "Local" SCV-related topics are preferred. Send commentary to: LETTERS (at) SCVNEWS.COM. Author's full name, community name, phone number and e-mail address are required. Phone numbers and e-mail addresses are not published except at author's request. Acknowledgment of submission does not guarantee publication.
Read More From...
Friday, Mar 16, 2018
Quentin Kopp, retired judge and Bay Area politician, was once chairman of the High-Speed Rail Authority and helped sell the bullet train to voters. He’s now suing to stop it, saying, "The litigation, which is pending, will result, I am confident, in the termination of the High-Speed Rail Authority's deceiving plan."
Thursday, Mar 8, 2018
A wildfire stripped the banks of Placerita Creek of its thick, lush blanket of green – exposing thousands of shoots of the evil tamarisk.
Friday, Mar 2, 2018
In her March 2018 message, Mayor Laurene Weste outlines why Santa Clarita is a tech-savvy "smart city" and previews coming upgrades in street lighting, recycling stations and the local fiber-optic network.
Thursday, Feb 15, 2018
There was broad public support for the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan, which struck a careful balance between lands available for large-scale renewable energy development and the environment. Now the federal government is rethinking it - putting the important and much-needed protections at risk.
Tuesday, Feb 13, 2018
You can prevent vision loss by finding and treating problems early. Medicare covers a glaucoma test once every 12 months for people at high risk for glaucoma
Wednesday, Feb 7, 2018
Sierra Club Angeles Chapter SCV Group Chair Sandra Cattell urges Santa Clarita Valley residents to contact their congressional representatives to push legislation to kill the Cemex mining project in Soledad Canyon.

Latest Additions to SCVNews.com
2012 - County supervisors approve 50-year operating agreement for Placerita Canyon State Park [read]
The city of Santa Clarita Tourism Marketing District Advisory Board's next Regular Meeting is set for Tuesday, March 20 at City Hall starting at 2 p.m.
March 20: Tourism Marketing District Advisory Board Meeting
The Small Business Investment Opportunity Act, sponsored by Rep. Steve Knight (R-CA) and passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in 2017, has been introduced in the U.S. Senate by a bi-partisan group of Senators.
Knight Small Business Opportunity Act Introduced in Senate
The city of Santa Clarita's Planning Commission will hold its next Regular Meeting at City Hall on Tuesday, March 20 starting at 6 p.m.
March 20: Planning Commission Regular Meeting
The Master's University freshman track and field athletes showed great promise at the Ross and Sharon Irwin Collegiate Scoring Meet at Point Loma Nazarene University on Sunday.
TMU Track and Field Freshmen Shine at Point Loma
During Sunday's ninth inning, Master's came out on the wrong side — of a 5-4 final score at McBean Park in Lincoln and a three-game sweep.
TMU Baseball Squanders Grand Slam in Series Finale
The TMU Mustangs baseball team (17-12, 10-9 in Golden State Athletic Conference) was swept 9-1 and 5-3 by NAIA No. 7 William Jessup on the road Saturday.
Mustangs Baseball Drops Two to Jessup
"They'll be back," TMU men's basketball team's lone senior Lawrence Russell said after a 106-104 loss to Peru State College in the first round of the NAIA Division 1 National Championship tournament Wednesday.
TMU Men’s Basketball Team Eyes Another Run
Chandra Subramaniam spent his first week as the new dean of California State University, Northridge’s David Nazarian College of Business and Economics learning about the job and the people he’ll be working with.
Chandra Subramaniam is New Dean of CSUN’s Nazarian Business College
Santa Clarita Valley students, teachers, families and supporters will gather for a "March for Our Lives" rally at Marketplace Park in Valencia on Saturday, March 24, starting at 10 a.m., to demand an end to gun violence in schools.
March 24: SCV ‘March for Our Lives’ Rally to ‘Demand Safe Schools’
The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department is expanding its S.H.A.R.E. Program in an effort to reduce reports of hate crimes and hate incidents throughout the county.
LASD Expands ‘S.H.A.R.E.’ Anti-Hate Program
Los Angeles County Interim Health Officer Dr. Jeffrey Gunzenhauser has extended a county beach use advisory through Tuesday night at 10 due to runoff from the recent rainfall.
Beach Use Advisory Extended Through Tuesday
'NCIS," 'Criminal Minds' and three feature films are among the productions filming in the Santa Clarita Valley March 19-25, 2018.
‘NCIS,’ ‘Criminal Minds,’ 3 Features Now Filming in Santa Clarita
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors invites you to join us in celebrating Public Defense Day today to honor the 55th anniversary of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision Gideon v. Wainwright.
County Observes ‘Public Defense Day,’ Seeks New Top PD
As Metro begins to put together its transportation budget for the 2019 fiscal year, effective July 1, 2018 through June 30, 2019, the agency seeks input from the public to help set priorities.
Metro Seeks Public Input on FY-19 Budget
The United States Senate has passed H.R. 3210, the Securely Expediting Clearances Through Reporting Transparency or SECRET Act introduced by Representative Steve Knight (R-CA), by unanimous consent.
Knight’s Security Clearance Act Passes Unanimously in Senate
The SCV Sheriff’s Station and city of Santa Clarita are joining other public safety agencies across the country this week to promote the “#9pmRoutine,” a social media campaign to prevent unnecessary thefts from vehicles as well as homes.
City, Sheriff Join ‘#9pmRoutine’ Campaign to Keep Valuables Safe
State Sen. Scott Wilk (D-Palmdale) and Assemblyman Dante Acosta (R-Santa Clarita) will co-host a women's safety and self-defense workshop at The Centre in Centre Pointe on Saturday, April 7 from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
April 7: Wilk, Acosta Host Women’s Safety, Self-Defense Workshop
Two crimes were listed on the SCV Sheriff's Station's Public Safety and Crime Information Report for Stevenson Ranch (Zone 3) for the period from February 26 to March 11, 2018.
Crime Blotter: Burglary in Stevenson Ranch
Deputies from the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station wrapped up a pair of related cases Saturday night with the arrest of an alleged motorhome thief in Saugus.
SCV Deputies Arrest Alleged Motorhome Bandit in Saugus
1875, 1:35PM - Outlaw Tiburcio Vasquez hanged in San Jose [story]
1919 - Swall Hotel in Newhall burns down (corner Main & Market) [story]
1927 - Newhall telephone exchange, est. 1900, now serves 100 phones [story]
The 2018 SXSW Film Festival, which runs from March 9 to 18, announced its Jury and Special Award winners on Tuesday with CalArts alumni taking home some of the top prizes.
CalArtians Earn Juried Prizes at 2018 SXSW Film Festival
Santa Clarita Valley Boys & Girls Club "Youth of the Year" Lluvia Partida was among the young people vying for regional "Youth of the Year" honors at the annual County Alliance award ceremony Tuesday night.
County Boys and Girls Club Alliance Names 2 ‘Youth of the Year’ Honorees
Newhall School District administrators will host an information/enrollment meeting for families that may be affected by the possible closure of the Einstein Academy at Stevenson Ranch Elementary School on Wednesday, March 21, starting at 6:30 p.m.
March 21: Newhall School District Info Session for Einstein Families
The SCV Chamber of Commerce-sponsored NextSCV group for young business professionals ages 21-40 will tour Scorpion's new Valencia headquarters on Wednesday, March 28 starting at 5:30 p.m.
March 28: Young SCV Professionals to Tour Scorpion HQ
The Bureau of Land Management has made available for public review a draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement and draft Land Use Plan Amendment that aim to manage dispersed recreation visitation over an extensive area in the Mojave Desert.
BLM Issues EIR for Mohave Desert Use, Seeks Public Comment
The TMU Mustangs men's basketball team lost to Peru State College 106-104 in overtime at the NAIA Division 1 National Championship tournament opener in Kansas City Wednesday night.
TMU Men’s Hoops Team Upset by Peru State in First Round
The Master's University doubled up the University of Antelope Valley 8-4 on a cloudy and cold Wednesday afternoon in Placerita Canyon.
Mustangs Stop UAV Pioneers in Their Tracks 8-4
After standing toe-to-toe with the perennial powerhouse Freed Hardeman Lions, the Mustangs didn't have enough left in the fourth quarter and fell 71-51 in the NAIA Women's National Tournament Wednesday.
Mustangs Fall to Freed Hardeman at Nationals
College of the Canyons starter Joy Veloz struck out nine batters and the Cougars pounded out 10 hits to defeat conference rival Antelope Valley College 7-2 at Whitten Field on Thursday.
COC Softball Team Claims 7-2 Victory Over Antelope Valley
The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority has implemented a one-year pilot program to assist Metro-certified Small Business Enterprise, Disadvantaged Business Enterprise and Disabled Veteran Business Enterprise firms secure sufficient bonding to work on Metro construction projects.
LA Metro Launches Program for Small, Disadvantaged, Veteran-Owned Firms
The Golden Oak Adult School will host its second annual Open House at the school on Tuesday, March 27 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
March 27: Golden Oak Adult School 2nd Annual Open House
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved a $2.7 million payment to the family of a man fatally shot by a sheriff's deputy in Santa Clarita on January 14, 2016.
Supes Settle Suit for Wrongful Death in Santa Clarita for $2.7 Million
The next meeting of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is set for Tuesday, March 20, starting at 9:30 a.m.
March 20: LA County Board of Supervisors Meeting