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West Shore families putting new spins on old Christmas traditions

Welcome to the magic of monkeybread
Baking is a big part of Christmas traditions for some. On the left are Teresa Ackroyd’s gingerbread cookies and on the right is Angela Ferguson’s monkey bread. (Courtesy of Teresa Ackroyd/Angela Ferguson)

Christmas is steeped in tradition.

As families gather together for the holiday period, some have taken to putting their own spins on old traditions, keeping inherited ones alive or inventing whole new ones in their own right.

With food being such a big part of Christmas, meal times are often where families can establish new Christmas traditions. Langford resident Teresa Ackroyd makes a fondue dinner for her family on Christmas Eve, something that dates back more than 10 years to when her kids were in middle school and Ackroyd first tried fondue for a birthday party.

“I wanted to make sure that they had stuff to look forward to and things that are not with the shopping and stuff outside the house,” she said. “I wanted to have things that were in the house that were for us, that we could share and carry on with.”

As the years have passed, Ackroyd’s kids have grown. One will be on shift as a nurse at Royal Jubilee Hospital on Christmas Eve, meaning the tradition is being moved back until Boxing Day this year.

The family also got together recently to bake gingerbread, another annual tradition they keep alive even as her children have moved out.

Enticing children back to the nest is part of the reason behind Angela Ferguson’s traditional Christmas breakfast called monkey bread – so named because it’s eaten with your hands – which she started making six or seven years ago.

The breakfast treat is made with Pillsbury dough, butter, apples, cinnamon and nuts. It is then eagerly torn apart by the Ferguson family after presents have been opened in the morning.

“I just think it was more exciting for them, you know how kids can get when they’re older and they get up and open their presents, and then everybody does their own thing. This is kind of a way to get everybody together and sit for a bit and enjoy Christmas together.”

Belinda Jay’s tradition is a little older, perhaps dating back all the way to the Great Depression. Every year, Jay puts a small orange in the bottom of a stocking. She says it was something her mother always did when Jay was growing up, who likely inherited the tradition from Jay’s grandmother. Back then the oranges – likely a mandarin nowadays but Jay remembers calling them Japanese oranges - came in a cardboard box individually wrapped in green tissue paper, adding to the mystery.

“I would always take everything out of the stocking and eat the orange, but now my son takes it out and it doesn’t really interest him, he just puts it back on the counter.”

Despite the fruit becoming more commonplace on grocery shelves nowadays, Jay plans on persisting with the tradition.

While the traditions have disparate origins and forms, they have a common, unifying theme: bringing people together on Christmas.

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