Special music, foods, gifts and religious celebrations all part of Christmas traditions

A Christmas tree, Santa Claus, religious celebrations and having family nearby are all part of what makes the holidays so special.

A season of hope and love, the Christmas season also evokes happy memories of holiday traditions unique to each family.

Like many families, Shirl Graff's Italian family celebrated Christmas Eve with special foods.

"The emphasis was on fish," she said.

"We ate bacalao, spaghetti with tuna fish, and polenta with mushroom sauce."

Now she and her husband Richard celebrate on Christmas morning with a breakfast of clam chowder and mimosa (champagne and orange juice).

But the menu, she said, isn't the point.

"It's not what you eat that counts," Graff said.

"It's what is in your heart."

For Kathy Wenerstrom it wasn't Christmas growing up without the Carpenters - Richard and Carol Carpenter, a brother/sister singing duo from the early 1970s - and her mother's special avocado salad.

"We would decorate the house and then turn on Carpenter's Christmas carols.

I still listen to them," she said as she held the Carpenter Christmas tape.

Dolores Shores and her husband, Herman, practiced a special Christmas Eve tradition for the 59 years they were married.

"When our kids were young we had to fight with them to get them to eat anything on Christmas Eve.

They were so excited," she said.

"Then a Mexican lady across the street said, 'We make a big bowl of chili and the kids just eat when they feel like it.'"

From that day forward the Shores made homemade tamales and chili on Christmas Eve, until Herman died last year," Shores said.

"We are starting other traditions," she added.

"Now that my kids are grown and have families of their own, they take turns visiting me on weekends the month before Christmas so they can spend Christmas day with their own family and their in-laws."

Debera Daugherty remembers a family tradition of going to her aunt's house for lentil soup and attending church services every Christmas Eve.

Now that she is grown and has children of her own, Daugherty said her brother Richard, who is also a Kingman resident, is continuing with the tradition of serving lentil soup on Christmas Eve.

She also started a tradition of making Christmas gifts with her two daughters, Kassie, 11, and Jessica, 6.

"I wanted them to learn to give, as well as receive gifts," she said.

"They make bracelets with buttons, ornaments, or use bead kits to make sun catchers.

As they get older the gifts are more detailed."

Daugherty also wants to incorporate her religious beliefs into the family's Christmas traditions.

"I tell them Santa is an angel from God who gives gifts to good boys and girls to remember to be more like Jesus," she said.

Nancy Head said Christmas wouldn't be the same without the traditional gifts exchanged within her family.

"After all these year's my husband Terry, who is 41, still receives a coloring book from his mother at Christmastime," Head said.

Head also gives traditional gifts.

"I started giving my sons a flashlight and a package of socks every Christmas as soon as they learned to drive," she said.

"Even though Ken is 25 and Tim is 23 now, I still give them a different sized flashlight and a package of socks every Christmas.

"Now that Ken is married, I give his wife the same thing."

Barbi Trapp still remembers helping her mother and grandmother cook the Christmas day dinner of turkey, sweet potatoes and her grandmother's famous German stuffing made with bread, onions, apple slices and raisins.

From the time she was 10, Trapp also helped make soft pumpkin cookies, a tradition she continues every year with help from her son, Nicholas.

Before the Trapp family's Thanksgiving turkey has turned into leftovers, Trapp begins getting ready for Christmas.

"The first thing I do is get the Christmas letter written and buy the Christmas cards.

I try to stage things, so I don't get overwhelmed," she said.

"I make sure to start each day quietly ...

and I make lots of lists."

Trapp's sons, Chris, 14, and Nicholas, 13, help put up, and decorate the tree, every year and after intensive baking the family hands out care packages of freshly baked cookies and other "goodies," to neighbors and friends, Trapp said.

On Christmas day the Trapp family, including Trapp's husband Tom, and Trapp's mother and father, Gordon and Duey Buchanan, who live next door to the Trapp family, get together for a Christmas celebration.

Jackie Bowers, 90, said what she remembers the most about Christmas is having lots of family around.

"We didn't have television back then, but we didn't need it," Bowers said.

"We made our own fun.

The kids played tag and other games and the adults played cards."

She remembers her mother baking lots of pies and sending the children to bed early to get ready for Christmas day.

"We didn't open presents on Christmas Eve," she said.

"Everything took place on Christmas day - presents, a big family gathering, a nice big fire in the fireplace and turkey and dressing."