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75 Years Worth of Family Togetherness

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The tradition began in 1916, when Gordon Hinrichs’ parents, John and Lizzie, hosted a Christmas party for their five children, some grown and married, in their Los Angeles home.

Every year since, the family has met. They met through Depression and wars and conflicts. They met after they had scattered up the West Coast and across an ocean.

For 75 years, one Sunday in December has been set aside for the family gathering.

Gordon Hinrichs, 85, of Glendale, is the last surviving child of John and Lizzie. He and his wife, Virginia, continue the tradition.

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“You say that’s Sunday and that’s the family Christmas party and you don’t miss it,” said the Hinrichses’ daughter, Gretchen Macfarlane, 55. “It’s already a foregone conclusion.”

When a family member is forced to miss the party, a group card is signed by everyone and sent to the missing member.

“In World War I, my brother was away,” Gordon said.

“Johnny in World War II, (and) Roseanne and her husband, Gene,” added Virginia, speaking of cousins. “But we kept on going.” Wartime rationing, she said, “never affected our menus;” the family still had turkey and coffee at the party, and butter for baking, though not as much of it.

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In anticipation of about 80 people arriving for the family’s 75th annual Christmas party Sunday

in Pasadena, the Hinrichses have brightened their fireplace mantel with Santa Claus figurines and Christmas stockings. Out-of-towners, including several grandchildren, will be staying with Gordon and Virginia.

But for the party itself, the family has outgrown individual homes, opting for rental halls instead. Everyone contributes toward the cost of the hall and dinner.

Family members will come from San Francisco, Arizona, Hawaii and Washington for this year’s party at the Brookside Country Club.

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Until three or four years ago, Gordon played Santa Claus; once he surprised everyone when he appeared on horseback at a relative’s home in Riverside County.

Now, a nephew dons the 40-year-old handmade suit and cap. “We had to get a new wig for him this year,” Gordon said.

Another feature of the party is the absence of alcoholic beverages. “It’s always been that way,” Macfarlane explained, shrugging her shoulders.

A slide show with pictures from previous Christmas parties will be presented at this year’s celebration.

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Over the years, the event has become increasingly important to the Hinrichs family. Time’s passage is marked not only by births and deaths but also by the annual Christmas party.

“We used to have summer parties,” Virginia said. “Now we’re down to one party a year. It’s a way to keep in touch.”


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