By Katie Crenshaw
The Kotsopoulous Family
In the Kotsopoulos home, Christmas and Thanksgiving are celebrated Greek style. This means a large family gathering with a crazy amount of food. Connie Kotsopoulos said, “We make so much food you would think an army is showing up. It is truly a feast.”
For both holidays, the entire Kotsopoulos family, Connie, her husband Tony, their daughter Lia and her husband Nate and their son Michael and his girlfriend all get together with Connie’s sisters, brother and their families. Connie said, “It gets close to 40 people.” They eat, drink, hang out, eat, play games and eat some more.
On Thanksgiving Day, they have the traditional dishes such as turkey and dressing, but they also incorporate Greek dishes. They make Manestra, which is orzo cooked in turkey drippings with a tomato sauce and topped with cheese, and Spanakopita which is phyllo dough stuffed with spinach, feta, and eggs, then baked in the oven. “Tony will always make a lamb dish. He has to have lamb no matter what the holiday is. It’s a Greek thing,” explained Connie.
For Christmas, they make Koulourakia, which are braided butter cookies. Connie also bakes a special Date Nut Cake. She stated, “My mom always, always made Date Nut Cake for Christmas. She is no longer here with us. Now I have to make it to keep her tradition.” On Christmas Eve, Connie is famous for making her Avgolemono Soup. It is an egg and lemon soup. “It really isn’t a Christmas soup. You would usually eat it around Easter, but we like to have it at Christmas time. It is a running joke that I am the only one allowed to make it. My children, niece, and nephew will beg me to make it,” said Connie. On Christmas Day, the families will once again have a big feast to include a turkey, American dishes, Manestra and Spanakopita. And for tradition’s sake, Tony will once again create a lamb dish, because it is a Greek thing. OPA!
The West Family
Year after year, the West Family begins their Christmas Festivities with the special Candle Light Service at Snyder Memorial Baptist Church. “Our faith is the most important thing to us,” shared Greg West. Following the service, they return home and Greg will prepare to read, “Twas the Night Before Christmas.” The children: Emma, Graham and Brock, will snuggle up beside their father and listen to the same words they have always heard every Christmas Eve, Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
Next the family will go outside to sprinkle reindeer food in the lawn for the reindeers and return inside to leave Christmas cookies for Santa. Greg said, “We have an ‘If you don’t believe, you don’t receive’ policy in our home. The children are still believers no matter how old they have become.” Emma’s bedroom is downstairs. When she was a small child, she was terrified she would run into Santa, therefore on Christmas Eve she slept upstairs. Emma is now 16-years-old and still continues the tradition of sleeping upstairs on Santa’s big night.
On Christmas morning, the family will awake very early to open gifts. Subsequently, they will drive to Spivey’s Corner for a large brunch with Greg’s family at his mother’s house. At 1:00 p.m., they will leave to drive to Kristie’s mother’s home for an early dinner and to spend time with her side of the family.
Kristie, Greg’s wife, said, “Our traditions are very simple. They are centered on spending time with the family.”
The Short Family
The Short Family practices an un-tradition tradition each Thanksgiving year. Christy is from Pensacola, Florida and her husband Erik is from St. Paul, Virginia. In 2004, the military made Fayetteville their home. For most people, Thanksgiving is about spending time with their family. Christy said, “Our family is spread out. It is really hard to get together with them over the holidays.” Their plans change from year to year. On some years, Christy invites other military families over to their home for Thanksgiving dinner. If Erik is in town, he will deep-fry a turkey. Christy will make the sides. The military families bond together over good food and wine. Christy stated, “Together we get to feel that Thanksgiving family feeling.”
This past year, the Short family celebrated Thanksgiving “Griswold Style.” Two of Erik’s other brothers are Navy Seals. It was the first year in over a decade that the brothers were all in the U.S. for the holiday. They decided to get together. Each family rented their own RV and camped out in their parent’s front yard. Christy stated, “We were quite the sight. At one point, Erik surprised us by busting out of the RV in his mother’s bathrobe and a beer in his hand recreating the very famous Cousin Eddie RV Scene in Christmas Vacation. We almost died laughing.” This was one Thanksgiving that their family will never forget.
This year Christy and Erik are taking their son Colin to Universal Studios for Thanksgiving. It will be a perfect opportunity for them to try the fried turkey leg at the food carts at Universal.
The Pryzgoda Family
The Pryzgoda Family celebrates Christmas with the same traditions most families do. Craig, Kim and their children Alyssa and Will attend candlelight service Christmas Eve at Haymount United Methodist Church. They have a big breakfast Christmas morning and open gifts. Then the family drives to Kim’s mother’s home in Virginia for Christmas dinner. They conclude the day bonding with the family.
Recently, the Pryzgodas have added a new tradition that is very important to them. In 2012, Will’s dear friend Emmi, at the age of only 10 years old, died in a tragic sledding accident. This devastating incident broke the Pryzgoda family’s heart as it did to all those who knew little Emmi. To honor Emmi’s memory, “Random Acts of Kindness- In Memory of Emerson Jean Barbaro” was created. Throughout the year, several people will participate in random acts of kindness to spread joy and love in honor of sweet Emmi. The “Random Acts of Kindness- In Memory of Emerson Jean Barbaro” Facebook page stated, “We ask that you all do a random act of kindness today in memory of Emmi. Put a smile on the face of another and add a touch of kindness to make this world a better place.”
In 2011, on December 27, the Pryzgoda family spent the day at FAPS volunteering with the animals at the shelter. Last year, Will and Alyssa made snowflakes and Christmas Cards to pass out at Kim’s grandmother’s nursing home. This year they will continue the tradition by serving the homeless community. This is a special tradition they hold dear to their hearts to participate in to keep little Emmi’s memory alive.