December Minis

To celebrate the season, we asked some ladies to share some of their favorite family memories from the holidays. Enjoy!


For as long as I could remember every year during Christmas time we would have my Grandpa Pete over to our house to eat his famous chill and to watch Chevy Chases' Christmas Vacation. When I was younger I didn't understand the humor much, but now as an adult it's my favorite thing to watch throughout the holidays. I laugh harder each year and I'm sure I can recite every line for you at this point. Because I didn't understand the humor in the earlier years my favorite part of this was watching my very quiet Grandpa belly laugh so hard his laugh sounded winded. That was so funny for my family because that movie made him so happy. He always told us it was his favorite part of the Christmas Holiday for him. That was our tradition with him till he passed in 2008.

Now our family honors him every Christmas by having a party with my mom's side of the family where we watch Christmas Vacation and cook my Grandpas chili. This year we went all out! Everyone was required to dress like a character from the movie and we had a costume contest for the best one. As each person showed up I would laugh so hard I'd have tears in my eyes. My mom made "Aunt Bethany's" green jello in the form of jello shots, my Uncle Curt wore a black dickie under a white pull over sweater like "Eddie", and my dad wore blue pajamas with a big red ribbon like "Mr. Shirley". All of these people out of context for someone not familiar with the movie won't invoke any laughs, but if you have watched this movie you would've lost it at this party. We stuffed ourselves with Grandpa's chili and talked over the whole movie out quoting one another at a very loud volume. Cocktails in hand mind you. Christmas wouldn't be the same without this tradition for me, and I look forward to it every year. "SHITTER'S FULL!"




Christmas in the O'Neal-Casey household:

Almost every year Grandma McGrane would come to California from Iowa, the years that she spent with us in California was always magical. One year we went to the Christmas tree lot and picked out a wonderful tree, once we got it home, it had a vacated birds nest from the summer tucked deep inside the limbs. Giving the meaning of new life a great perspective.

As I grew up, being with my brothers and sisters was always a treasured memory, my brother was in the Navy and deployed to Vietnam. I can remember waiting at the dock in a white faux fur coat to catch a glimpse of him. I am truly blessed to have a brother as fabulous as him.

My sisters always made me feel beautiful, making sure that I was dressed up and matched perfectly. Even though I was probably a spoiled brat at the time with them. They are my best friends today.

My mom would bake what seemed like thousands of cookies and cakes. The baking tradition has faded somewhat with me and I don't have all the recipes anymore, but the memories of baking Kris Kringel Cookies, applesauce chocolate chip cakes, banana bread, sugar cookies and chocolate chip cookies, I can still smell the succulent sweetness from the kitchen.

My dad's company would have a Christmas party each year at the Shriner's Auditorium in downtown Los Angeles and Santa was always there to listen to your Christmas wish and give you a gift. I always remembered Santa knew my name and knew special things about me. One year, the program didn't print "Special appearance by Santa" but put the gentleman's name who played Santa - it was my great Uncle Gordie...yes I was devastated, but I was also secretly proud that my dad's uncle was Santa.

Church was always packed, but wonderfully decorated.

Christmas Eve we got to open one gift. Our stockings were always filled with an apple, orange and something special.

Christmas day has always been more than a day to open gifts, but to reflect on the ultimate gift given us all in the Spirit of Christ.


I'm fortunate to have enjoyed a number of happy and memorable Christmases. I could make a list of all my favorite memories: waking up my parents with my brother and sister on Christmas morning, getting our traditional candy cane gifts from my grandparents, or the year I got an All American Girl doll (Josefina is still in my closet). But I would rather talk about my favorite Christmas gift of all time. 

It was 2000, and my siblings and I had just finished unwrapping all our presents. We were looking through what each other had, when my parents got up to make an announcement. I can't even tell you what it was they said to us, because all I can remember is seeing the smallest puppy stumble over his own feet as he ran down the hallway towards us. 

He was our first pet, a gorgeous Shetland Sheepherder, named Skylar. He looked like Lassie, but so much smaller (and so much better). For years, Skylar was always named our favorite Christmas gift. Every holiday, we would pose him in front the tree and presents, much to his dismay. 

Skylar was with us for 16 years. He was stubborn and neurotic, but he loved being around us, especially during Christmas time. Skylar was beloved by many, as he was an integral member of our family. During his last Christmas season, Skylar was often found, literally, laying under the Christmas tree. 

Skylar died on July 6, 2015. This will be our second Christmas without him, and it's noticeable. I miss him stomping through Christmas wrapping. I miss him barking at us if he felt we were having fun without him. I miss how much my love my parents had for him, spoiling him with presents each year. 

But I know I'm lucky to have had 16 years with a dog that was as special as Skylar. And although no other Christmas gift could ever match the significance of Skylar, I still love the way Christmas makes me feel, the way that dog made me feel.