Grandparents enhance the excitement on Christmas Day

Courtesy photo
This and other garments from Downton Abbey will be on display at Winterthur.
Courtesy photo This and other garments from Downton Abbey will be on display at Winterthur.
Courtesy photo
On March 1, the costumes of Downton Abbey will be on display at Winterthur.
Courtesy photo On March 1, the costumes of Downton Abbey will be on display at Winterthur.

When I was a teenager, I spent Christmas with my grandparents in Massachusetts, as my parents lived in Argentina and it was a little far to go for Christmas. My grandparents included anyone who had a touch of family blood, or if not that, had no place to go for Christmas which made for fascinating gatherings.

Usually there would be 25 to 30 people there for the day. In the morning the children were allowed to get their stockings filled with candy, small toys and always an orange in the toe. Then everyone pitched in at the huge kitchen. After dinner my grandma took a nap, which always seemed incredibly long. When she got up, the group sat in a huge circle that went through the double living room. The youngest child would take a package from under the tree and the recipient would open it and pass it around for everyone to see. Then it was time for another present. As almost everyone had brought at least one present for everyone there, this took the entire afternoon, sometimes interrupted for afternoon tea. (Grandma was English). I married, and by the time we had children my parents were dead and we continued to drive to Massachusetts to Grandma’s for Christmas.

This Christmas is different for us. As happens to so many families, the children marry and move away. The parent’s home is no longer the central meeting place to gather for Christmas. Knowing we would not have a horde of children and grandchildren, the decorations were sparse, a few wreathes and a small tree. It seemed silly to go to a big to do for the two of us. One son is in Michigan, so we would not see him and his family. We were going to New Jersey for a few days, particularly to help our youngest grandchild prepare for Santa’s visit.

We attended church mainly to hear granddaughter sing in the choir. It was a bit of a raggle taggle choir, but the children were filled with pride on their performance. I only wished they had a better director. Then the several children’s choirs went up the aisles carrying rather large wooden cutouts of sheep, angels, shepherds and the holy family. After they placed baby Jesus safely in the manger, the rest of the numerous children in the congregation went up to place pieces of fabric on the manger to keep baby Jesus warm. There were so many pieces of cloth a real baby would have had difficulty breathing, but the children looked very proud of their handiwork.


We put out cookies, milk, apples and carrots for the reindeer. The next morning Santa had not only arrived and left many gifts, he left a thank you note that was treasured. It was amazing. Santa had left everything that had been on the wish list. We wondered how he knew.

This home has many friends who are from other countries. After church on Christmas Eve they arrived bringing all sorts of marvelous food. Lolo from France brought the traditional Gruyere cheese and Merlot dip eaten on Christmas Eve in her part of France. Tish from Belgium brought a raw kale salad with cranberries and pickled pecans that I will say was most interesting. The chocolate fondue with strawberries for dessert was delicious. And I got to read “The Night before Christmas” to a bevy of little girls before everyone went home.

Christmas Day was incredible busy with the emptying of stockings, the Santa gifts, the family gifts, and then all the friends dropping by who shared all the yummy leftovers. Then it was time to drive back to Kennett to spend time with two other grandchildren. Dinner was a gorgeous pork roast with potatoes and my favorite vegetable, perfectly cooked Brussel sprouts (yes, I am serious), and a pumpkin dessert roll.

After we visited with the little princess in New Jersey, the less serious fun loving Kennett kids had set a few traps. The soap in the bathroom turned one’s hands red and they offered candy with centers that tasted like either rotten fish or throw-up. Luckily I escaped both traps as after all these years somehow I can sense when an 11-year-old is up to mischief.

It was a lovely Christmas, and it even snowed. Our contact with our son and family in Michigan had to be by phone. Now, being the grandmother at Christmas, I look back and wonder how my grandmother managed so well year after year. The difference is that we all went to her house. To be honest, it is probably easier for me to travel to the children’s homes than to have them all here. And to be absolutely honest, doesn’t everyone really want to be home for Christmas?



The Gilbert & Sullivan Society of Chester County will perform “Patience” at the Madeleine Wing Adlar Theater in West Chester. This happily ever after Gilbert & Sullivan show has 20 lovesick maidens each trying to find the one who claims to be the perfect embodiment of the popular styles of our time. There is everything from poets to military men, but all ends well. Performances are Feb. 6 through 9 with matinees on Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are $19 for adults, $16 for seniors and $7 for age 21 and under. For tickets go to or call 610-269-5499.


The extraordinary Serafin String Quartet will perform at Trinity Episcopal Church, 1108 N. Adams St., Wilmington on Jan. 11 at 7:30 p.m. The concert with music by Mendelsson, Debussy and Wolf is free although donations would be welcome.


The Please Touch Museum in Fairmount Park in Philadelphia that moved into more spacious quarters five years ago is scheduling monthly special events on the fifth of every month. The first one on Jan. 5 will have a ribbon cutting ceremony by Marvin the Supermarket Manager of the Renewed ShopRite Supermarket. With all the play corners in the building, don’t forget the gorgeous carrousel from the 1900s.


Winterthur is still moving at the speed of light with its two big temporary exhibitions. “The Look of Love: Eye Miniatures” feature hand painted portraits of individual eyes. Gallery tours are given on Saturdays and Sundays at 11:30 a.m., 1 and 2 p.m. The other show is “Common Destinations: Maps n the American Experience” that shows how the maps shaped America as a young nation. Guided gallery walks are given on Saturdays and Sundays at 11:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. Winterthur will close on Jan. 6 and reopen March 1 with the exhibit of clothing from the “Downton Abbey” TV show. The exhibit is being made just for Winterthur and will be on display into February 2015.


The Hotel du Pont will hold an elegant tea worthy of Downton Abbey on Jan. 5 at 3:30 p.m. in the Green Room. As this is special tea with live entertainment, guests are encouraged to dress in early 1900s period dresses. Tea is $34 a person. On Jan. 6 through 17, guests may enjoy an especially themed ‘Downton Abby’ lunch in the Green Room, priced at $19.12, the year that the show was originally set.

On Saturday, Jan. 11, the Green Room will host a four-course “Downton Abbey”dinner with entertainment and white glove service. Special guest Tom Savage, director of museum affairs at Winterthur, will be there to share details regarding the upcoming “Downton Abby”exhibit at the museum beginning in March. Dinner is $100 poer person, inclusive of gratuity, wine pairing and valet parking.

To make a reservation for any of these events call 302-594-3154.


The shows at the Brandywine River Museum will close Jan. 6. A few of the galleries will remain closed for about a week as they remove the Christmas exhibits. The new exhibit of N.C. Wyeth paintings will not be ready for viewing until about Jan. 12, as they will need to move walls and repaint. However all the rest of the museum will be open. There are 12 paintings by N.C. that were used on calendars.


The long battle to prevent AES/Mid-Atlantic Express from building an 88 mile planned natural gas pipeline from Sparrows Point on the Chesapeake Bay to Eagle is over. Proposed in 2006 the pipeline would have crossed 48 streams and 23 wetlands in Chester County. It would have crossed over seven miles of land eased to the Brandywine Conservancy, over four miles of land under agricultural easements. Its construction would have involved 84 acres of workspace on conservation–eased land alone, including prime farmland and forestland, in addition to a permanent new seven-mile, 50-foot right-of way. The environmental impact would have been extensive

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approved the project albeit with 169 conditions in 2009.The conservancy, along with the State of Maryland, 15 affected landowners and others appealed the project’s approval in federal court and the case remained in abeyance (on hold)for several years. The company asked FERC to revoke its approvals this fall and FERC has done so.

“We are extremely pleased that the company finally decided to terminate the project, which we have said all along was not needed…” said Sherri Evans-Stanton, director of the Brandywine Conservancy’s Environmental Management Center. The Brandywine Conservancy, founded in 1967, holds more than 440 conservation easements and has facilitated the preservation of over 58,000 acres in Chester and Delaware Counties in Pennsylvania, as well as in New Castle in Delaware. This is really good news for those who live here and for all conservationists. How lucky we are to have the Brandywine Conservancy looking out for us.


There will be a spectacular new production of Alfred Lloyd Webber’s “The Phantom of the Opera” coming to the Academy of Music in Philadelphia March 19 through April 13.This is the story of the shadowy figure that haunts the Paris Opera House, terrorizing all who work there. He falls madly in love with the young singer Christine and devotes himself to making her a major star. Phantom opened in London 26 years ago and on Broadway 25 years ago and both are still there. Since its debut, it has grossed more than $1.5 billion, played in 77 cities with over 14,500 performances to 31 million people. For tickets $30 - $50 each, call 215-731-3333.


The Bristol Theatre, 120 Radcliffe St., Bristol, will answer “What do women want?” when comedian Robert Dubac answers this question in 90 minutes of on-stop laughter as he performs in “The Male Intellect: An Oxymoran?” Performances run Thursday, Jan. 9 at 7:30 p.m.; Friday, Jan. 10 at 8p.m.; Saturday, Jan. 11 at 2p.m. and 8 p.m.; and Sunday, Jan. 12 at 3. p.m. Tickets start at $35 ($15 for students) by calling 215-785-0100. The show opens with Bobby, who has just been dumped by his girlfriend. He gets advice from five chauvinistic mentors.

Caryl Huffaker lives in Kennett Township.