Our Laguna: Holiday traditions, from family to foods

Traditions are the bookmarks in the stories of our lives. And the holidays abound with traditions, including some I could do without, like Brussels sprouts at Thanksgiving. Some of the holiday traditions are shared with many — decorating a Christmas tree, lighting a menorah — a tradition even more special for Lee Winocur Field Lee Winocur Field now that her daughter, Diane, is a rabbi.

Other traditions are special to just the family or close friends.

“My family grew up in the ’50s,” Marsha Bode said. “Everything was new and exciting. My mother’s tradition was no tradition. We had a different tree every year.”

Then there are people like my family. My sons, Kevin, Kenny and Paul, have always joked that they could tell the season of the year by the color of the candies in my candy dishes — pastels for Easter, orange and black of Halloween, silver kisses and red and white candy canes at Christmas.


For us, Christmas began when I unpacked the Santa Claus mugs I bought on sale in 1954. The kids drank their milk, hot chocolate or the rarely allowed Coca-Cola from the mugs until they were packed away for another year. Now, my grandchildren are drinking from the same mugs.

As children, my sons filled one of the mugs for Santa to go with his cookies on Christmas Eve and another with the celery and carrots for the reindeer. Another tradition my grandchildren have carried on even though the youngest of the seven is now a teenager.

The chimneys in my sons’ separate homes in Marin County, where I spend the holidays, are still hung on Christmas Eve with the stockings I made for them when they were toddlers — a half-century ago. They are a little tacky now — the stockings, not the sons — but replacing them is not to be considered.

And we still have bagels and lox for Christmas breakfast, a tradition started by my sons’ late father, who was Jewish.


At my house here, every flat surface is covered with holiday decorations. And one of my trees always gleams with the silver Gorham snowflakes I began collecting in 1970, augmented by silver Reed and Barton Christmas crosses my darling daughter-in-law, Chris, gives me every year.

Lighting the pepper tree at City Hall is one of my favorite holiday traditions, and judging by the crowd this Hospitality Night, it’s a favorite with a whole bunch of folks.

“The tree is just beautiful,” said Mayor Elizabeth Pearson, who rode with Santa to his house on Forest Avenue in a horse-drawn carriage.

But her favorite tradition is singing Christmas carols in German, which she learned to do in Castle Barbarosa just outside of Kaiserslautern, where she lived as a child.

Penny King also loves singing Christmas carols. And Community Concert Band founder Carol Reynolds loves to accompany carolers on the piano.

“That’s why my name is Carol,” she said.

Planning Commissioner and Laguna Beach Woman’s Club board member Anne Johnson really loves the club’s holiday Tarnished Treasures event and a traditional luncheon with 11 close female friends.

Councilwoman Verna Rollinger somehow manages to find Star Trek calendars with the original cast every Christmas for her son.


Chiropractor Veronica Nice buys a special ornament for her mother every year and gets one in return.

“One year, we both bought the same ornament,” Nice said.

Mayor Pro Tem Toni Iseman hangs stockings on the fireplace for the family, including Fluffy and Minnie, the cats that succeeded the famous Bob, in the Iseman-Miller household.

Kate Buda and her family make an annual trip to Rogers Gardens, and the children pick out a new ornament.

Cindy Soloman’s favorite tradition is attending 6 p.m. Christmas Eve church services. Frances Scinto always goes to Mass on Christmas Eve.

Festival of Arts board member Fred Sattler cherishes Christmas Eve, when he empties stockings with his daughter, while drinking a couple of bottles of really good champagne.

City Clerk Martha Anderson’s favorite tradition is getting her dogs to pose for the Christmas cards that she and husband, Andy, send, featuring their basset hound, General Cambronne, named for a French officer at the Battle of Waterloo, and their English bulldog, Field Marshal Allenby, named in honor of a British officer in World War I.

Councilman Kelly Boyd loves to decorate the home he shares with his wife, Michelle, for the holidays.


“I did it this year without her help,” he boasted.

Maybe because she was too busy finishing the comfy hats Boyd gave his fellow council members at the Dec. 15 meeting.

“My favorite tradition is handmade gifts,” Michelle Boyd said. “My new concept is fleece hats embellished with buttons for all the female friends and family members. The guys get caps without the buttons.”

Arts Commission Chairwoman Pat Kollenda gets a kick out of watching her husband, Jim, set up his train set around the piano.

Food is a huge part of the holiday traditions.

“Everyone is welcome at my house for a formal, sit-down Thanksgiving Dinner,” said former school board member Eileen Walsh.

Tivoli Terrace’s Bobby Fader loves cooking dinner for his family. Talk about a busman’s holiday!

AAUW member Peggie Thomas cooks a Christmas goose and drinks hot buttered rum.

Laguna Beach Visitors Bureau President Karyn Philippsen made no bones about it.

Her favorite holiday tradition is eating.

“Cooking and eating,” said Laguna Beach County Water District Commissioner Debbie Neev.

Sande St. John loves Christmas dinner.

Stephany Skenderian doesn’t wait for Christmas Day.

“My favorite tradition is my big Armenian family’s Christmas Eve dinner,” she said.

Pauline Walpin’s favorite tradition is Christmas Eve dinner and exchanging stockings with her grown children.

“Baking cookies,” said Michael Kinsman when asked for his favorite tradition.

Same for Laguna Beach Woman’s Club President Gayle Waite.

Waste Management’s secret weapon Michelle Clark bakes cookies for Santa.

And former Mayor Cheryl Kinsman still serves cake in honor of her late mother’s Christmas birthday.

Sawdust Festival Executive Director Tom Klingenmeier looks forward to watching his kids — and now his grandchildren — open their packages.

Ann Quilter’s favorite tradition is waking up Christmas morning and then descending on her brother-in-law’s home and watching the Quilter brothers Matthew, Charles, Pat and Chris — exchange “silly and highly inappropriate gifts.”

John Hoover likes giving, but not receiving.

Housing and Human Services Committee member Faye Chapman is the first one up on Christmas morning, waking her children before dawn.

“I’m more excited than they are,” Chapman said.

Time spent with family or friends is another favorite tradition.

Planning Commissioner Norm Grossman invites friends to decorate his Christmas tree with the ornaments he has made over the years.

Nancy Joseph’s dear friends include Norway, the Lab she is training as a guide dog for the blind.

“My kids come home,” said Design Review Board member Caren Liuzzi.

Assistant City Manager John Pietig enjoys the time spent with his family.

“My favorite holiday tradition is the whole family getting together at my home or my parents’ home,” said Deputy City Clerk Lizette Chel.

Christmas with her grandchildren warms Kim Salter’s heart. Diane Connell drives to Arizona to spend Christmas with her children and grandchildren.

Chamber of Commerce President Jeff Redeker takes his family to Mammoth right after Christmas.

Artist Lu Campbell and her husband, insurance broker John Campbell, have perfected their tradition.

“We fix a gourmet dinner on New Year’s Eve, including making the desserts, and serving the appropriate wines with each course,” he said. “We talk and we write our goals for the coming year and look back at the old year. Then we go to bed.”

OUR LAGUNA is a regular feature of the Laguna Beach Coastline Pilot. Contributions are welcomed. Write to Barbara Diamond, P.O. Box 248, Laguna Beach, 92652; call (949) 380-4321 or e-mail