By Richard Mundy
For Hometown News
It's a question friends ask each other at this time of year. Unlike other parts of the country where the main topic is "Do you think we'll get snow this year?" The question here is "Are you ready for Christmas?"
Random interviews prior to Thanksgiving produced no results, regardless of what retailers did, everyone else was just trying to get past Thanksgiving and then they could think about Christmas.
The "Are you ready?" question produced a number of reactions from a solid "No" of Jeri Odell of Ormond Beach, through Glenda Guthrie's "Getting there" to Teiesa Tassaia's, "Yes I am" and Pauline McGee's "Oh Yeah!"
The two who have all but finished, Teiesa Tassaia from Argentina, now living in Reston, Va., and Pauline McGee, an Albanian by way of Massachusetts, solved the problem basically the same way: they both give the gift that is not only never re-gifted but is always the right size and color -- money. Ms. McGee gives cash and Ms. Tassaia gives checks or gift certificates.
Ormond Beach's Jerry Odell asked her daughter, Jade, to walk off a ways before telling us that she "started some shopping yesterday, but I still have a lot more to do." She took advantage of Black Friday's bargains, but "We only shopped half a day. We actually waited until a lot of the crowds were gone."
Glenda Guthrie, who lives at Fernadina Beach on Amelia Island, did not take advantage of Black Friday shopping because she was in Port Charlotte visiting her sister for Thanksgiving. When interviewed for this article, she was staying at her son's condo in Ormond Beach, having some quiet time before the Christmas parties and other holiday things.
Ms. Tassaia doesn't care for "Black Friday" and Ms. McGee said, "Black Friday is crazy. You know what gets me about the whole thing? It's where is Thanksgiving? What happened to Thanksgiving? It's the one big family holiday ... and all of a sudden you open the stores on Thanksgiving."
Only Ms. Odell said she does any shopping online. "I buy from a lot of the clothing stores online. It's just easier to buy online, and their sizes are always the same."
As for special preparations, Ms. Tassaia, with a sparkling manner and more than a touch of Argentinean accent, said, "Oooh, I like to cook." And the dishes might be different each year. "Some years we do the typical turkey or ham and some years I cook la paella."
Ms. McGee said, "We put up a tree two weeks before Christmas and decorate it, and then I make a big meal for Christmas Day and pies and whatnot."
She was a chef at the Ramada Inn in Massachusetts for 10 years and then, "I had a motorcycle accident. Now I'm retired."
She is also a pastry chef and her favorite is her apple pie (not served with a slice of cheese). She says she makes a unique apple pie, one in which she "uses six pounds of Granny Smith apples in one 10-inch pie tin. It's mounded. Then I put a glaze on top of it which is confectioners sugar and milk."
Glenda Guthrie "usually makes a favorite cookie. I think it's called a peanut cluster; I'm not sure. I married a widower and he has a son and a daughter, and the son's mother, who has passed away ... always made this cookie at Christmas, so I try to do that for him."
Jeri Odell said, "This year we had to get everything ready ahead of time because we're going on a cruise over Christmas."
As for traditions, Ms. McGee, being an Albanian, says she makes pastries, such as a spinach pie, and baklava. Albania sits on part of the northern coast of Greece, which explains some similar food dishes. Her spinach pie is called La Croix and is made with eggs, onions and feta cheese layered in phyllo dough sheets.
Teiesa Tassaia's family celebrates on Christmas Eve with the opening of presents, but technically it's Christmas because they wait until after midnight, which is the custom in Argentina.
Ms. Odell said, "Usually we have all the neighbors over for a Christmas dinner" but because we'll be gone (this year) we'll be doing it over New Years Day.
Glenda Guthrie said, "We try to have as many friends and family members in, just to bring people together ... it's a special time of the year to give thanks and also the 'gift giving' is as important as the visiting."