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Holiday traditions bring meaning to Christmas

By Margie Mansure (

Article Published: Dec. 20, 2012 | Modified: Dec. 20, 2012

At times, the Christmas season can seem truly bothersome.

Holiday merchandise arrives in stores earlier each year, even before Halloween. Seemingly endless advertising continues, until the day of gift giving finally occurs. Then it’s abruptly over, with some people hardly considering the lessons that Jesus taught humankind.

Including meaningful, yearly rituals has helped me to transform my bad seasonal attitude. Quality time with family and friends make the holidays something to look forward to. Since not everyone has family that they enjoy being around, it’s wonderful that friends can be like a family that you choose.

To make Christmas more of a season instead of a day, consider an advent candle ritual. This usually starts four Sundays before Christmas, with a candle being added for each week. Reading a Christmas story that has meaning, such as “A Christmas Carol,” then singing a carol or playing music is easy to pull together.

Traveling to a choose-and-cut tree farm to choose the perfect tree really kicks off the season. Children of all ages love to decorate and see the ornaments that have been collected over the years.
Combining a Christmas play and dining experience makes a nice outing. Barter Theatre in Abingdon, Va., is top quality, and the town is historic and quaint.

Asheville’s Grove Park Inn hosts a yearly gingerbread house contest. The creations must be edible, but many are so technical, you would never think so. This viewing is free and open to the general public certain hours.

Relaxing is probably the best part of having a little time off from work and school. Playing board games and watching a few movies is free and fun.

Of course, there are traditional recipes to prepare. Everyone has their family favorites, and this sweet potato casserole is one of mine.

Sweet Potato Casserole with Praline Topping

½ cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
¼ cup chopped pecans, toasted
3 tablespoons butter, melted
½ teaspoon cinnamon
4 medium or about 2 ½ pounds medium sized sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into small pieces.
¼ cup honey
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
5 ounces low-fat milk
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine first 5 ingredients in a bowl, stirring to form a streusel.
Set aside. Place sweet potatoes in a large pot or Dutch oven, cover with water and bring to a boil.
Simmer 30 minutes until very tender. Drain well. Place back in pot and mash. Stir in half the streusel, honey, vanilla extract and milk. Spoon into a 2-quart casserole dish coated with cooking spray; top with remaining streusel. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Serves 8-10.

Margie Mansure, M.S., R.D. is a registered dietitian/nutritionist and extension agent with N.C. Cooperative Extension. She offers personalized classes to improve the health of citizens in Watauga County through worksites, schools and community groups. To contact Margie, email or call (828) 264-3061.

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