For many of us this holiday season will mark the return of celebrating with the family and friends we’ve been missing since the pandemic began. The annual Christmas gathering has always been a major event for my family. It was so important that even when I lived in Washington, D.C. I would make the long drive in all kinds of weather to spend the holidays back home in Moniteau County.
In my neck of the woods, it was a tradition to bundle up and help our church serve chili and hot chocolate during the annual Christmas parade. Nowadays we never miss seeing the Magic Tree in Columbia.
Christmas traditions like these take place across rural Missouri. Many of my friends who live in the city still return to their old stomping grounds to cut a cedar from the family farm. Scotch pines might be less painful when you are decorating your tree barefooted, but nothing smells better than a fresh-cut cedar.
Our churches put on live Nativity scenes, bring joy with Christmas carols sung to the homebound and add to the anticipation with candlelight services. There’s hardly a small town that doesn’t host a holiday parade, complete with Jolly Old St. Nick arriving in everything from horse-drawn carriages to a flatbed truck and gooseneck trailer.
Food plays a big part in our traditions, and the best recipes are the ones that come from family members. Some recipes aren’t written down, but are passed on from generation to generation by putting on the apron and getting in the kitchen to help. You can always tell it’s that time of year when my wife, Lindsey, starts baking rohliks — something I had never heard of before we got married, but now can’t live without.
Thanks to COVID — and the out-of-whack supply chain — many of our holiday traditions have had to be adjusted. For example, I’ve always been politely browbeaten into going Christmas shopping with my wife the day after Thanksgiving. Somehow this year I found myself Christmas shopping the day after Halloween after dire warnings to shop early because potential gifts could be tied up on ships stuck off the California coast.
Those delays won’t be an issue if you shop local. Across Missouri, there’s a wealth of talent creating the perfect gift for everyone on your list, whether it’s a sweater handcrafted from Missouri-raised sheep, a knife forged in a blacksmith’s fire or a chess set made in a country woodshop. If you’re on my list, chances are you will get a big slab of peppered bacon from my favorite Moniteau County business, Burgers’ Smokehouse.
This is a great time to create new traditions. While you are out enjoying the twinkling lights rest assured your electric co-op will keep them shining bright. However you celebrate, here’s hoping you get to spend time with those you love. From my family to yours, have the merriest holiday ever.
Caleb is the executive vice president and CEO of the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives and a member of Boone Electric Cooperative.