Holiday Traditions: Judy Elling

Wednesday, November 29, 2017
Judy (left) and Ron Elling have wonderful memories of holiday traditions involving a wide array of family members.
(Contributed image)

Judy Elling, who lives in rural Concordia and works as an administrative assistant at the Lafayette County Extension office, grew up in Iowa, where she said there was a lot of snow — and tradition — during the holiday season.

Elling is from the small town of Wiota, in southwestern Iowa, population of about 100.

“I went to school there through the seventh grade,” she said. “Then the school closed, and my younger sister and brother and I went to the nearby Atlantic School District, and I graduated from high school there.”

She fondly remembers Christmas traditions that included lots of snow, and waking up Christmas morning and finding presents under the tree. Since the family did not have a fireplace and no stockings to “hang by the fireplace with care,” they placed their shoes under the tree.

“In the morning we would find nuts and candy in them,” she said. “My Dad always said this was a Danish tradition, since that is where his family originated. After opening presents and playing with the toys, we would go to my grandmother’s house for Christmas dinner. After dinner, we would have more presents to open.”

She said she has wonderful memories of spending time with her grandmother.

“It was always fun to go to our grandmother’s house for the holidays. In fact, we got together every Sunday for dinner. We would either go to her house, or she would come to our house, and we would enjoy dinner together,” she said. “We would play games or watch television during the afternoon.”

Elling’s family included older brother Ken, younger sister Linda, and younger brother Randy. And now they are making their own traditions.

“All my siblings are still alive and now we try to meet for Christmas at my sister’s house in West Des Moines,” she said. “My older brother lives in Minnesota and sometimes, due to weather, he has trouble making it to Iowa. My younger brother lives in Atlantic, Iowa.”

She said her sister’s husband, George, was a chef so they get an awesome meal with all members contributing to part of the meal – mainly desserts.

“George starts out with an assortment of appetizers and then goes into the full meal of a fabulous pork loin or prime rib, mashed potatoes with gravy, salad and asparagus. Desserts may include a cheesecake, Christmas cookies, Christmas candy — you get the picture,” she said. “Last year, my sister cleaned out her quilting closet (her husband told her she would have to give away some quilts) and gave each of us a quilt that she had made — the idea was so she could make more quilts. It was truly a wonderful present — something handmade by her for each of us, which included about 20 people, since our children and grandchildren were also there and received quilts, as well.”

She said the family also gets together with family members of her dad’s brothers on another day during the holidays.

“All of my dad’s brothers and sisters-in-law are deceased so we, as descendants, take turns hosting the dinner,” she said. “Since this is in Iowa, and to make it easier on those of us that don’t live there anymore, we have a potluck dinner and get to see family that we don’t always see. There are usually 40 or so in attendance.”

Elling said later in her life, after she moved to Missouri and married husband Ron, her family added a Thanksgiving tradition of her dad, mom and sister visiting for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.

“I would fix a turkey with stuffing, potatoes and gravy, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, rolls and pumpkin pie,” she said. “I liked the sweet potatoes because that was about the only time we would have them. The family would stay overnight, and my mom, sister and I would shop some of the Black Friday bargains, and then they would go back to Iowa. And, of course, we would travel to Iowa for Christmas.”

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