Skip to main content

Holiday Celebrations

Dec 18, 2011 11:35PM ● Published by Anonymous

Traditions are what bind us closer to family, memories, the seasons, and even strangers when commonality is found. And while there are traditions that seem almost universal (gift giving), there are those uniquely our own. You know yours, but let’s take a look at how several well-known Maryland personalities and their families celebrate the holidays with tradition.

Chris Nelson

Christopher B. “Chris” Nelson is tall and gregarious. Since June 1991, he has been president of St. John’s College in Annapolis. A 1970 St. John’s graduate, he earned his Juris Doctorate degree in 1973 from the University of Utah College of Law. In Chicago, he practiced law for 18 years. He was chairman of a law firm when he was selected to head St. John’s. During the two decades since his return to Annapolis, his roots in the city, Anne Arundel County and the state have grown deep and wide, although the family also owns a log cabin in the Northwoods of Wisconsin.

“Though we stayed in Annapolis in 2010, we traditionally celebrate Christmas by going up to the Northwoods, two and half hours north of Green Bay. We ski cross-country and snow shoe on Washington Island, larger than the island of Manhattan. We walk around the block—five miles around. We might pass one car.

“We cut down a Christmas tree on our property and put it up under the cathedral ceiling of our little house. The children and grandchildren all come,” says Nelson.

The family often feasts on ham and Swedish meatballs on Christmas Eve and a turkey dinner with all the trimmings on Christmas Day. Whether in Annapolis or the Northwoods, the Nelson clan bakes, cooks, and stews at Christmastime. The adults celebrate with a little Glögg, a spiced, sweetened Scandinavian wine.

“We cut down a Christmas tree on our property and put it up under the cathedral ceiling of our little house. The children and grandchildren all come.”

Tony Spencer

Anthony J. “Tony” Spencer is an official with the City of Annapolis. He is also a recording artist, vocal performer, composer, poet, actor and model. In 1988, he founded Enrapture Records and Enrapture Ministries. He has appeared onstage with Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, WAR, James Cleveland, Shirley Caesar, BeBe & CeCe Winans, and many other artists. His wife, Dr. Vivian Spencer, is a professor at Anne Arundel Community College.

“Usually, we are at home in Annapolis for the Christmas Eve dinner and Christmas Day. Our two grown daughters and our granddaughter put up and decorate the tree. Kwanzaa begins on December 26. We celebrate Kwanzaa with Thomas E. Arthur and his wife Barbara. There is a musicians’ celebration in their basement every year with plenty of great food and singing. Dr. James and Natalie Ballard also have a Kwanzaa celebration and share plenty of wonderful food. We light the kenorah.”

“For New Year’s, my wife, Dr. Vivian, and I invite several couples to our house. Stefan “Stef ” Scaggiari, a musical arranger and performer on my CD; Rick Reese, My publicist, and Debra Mims, his wife, plus a few others in the entertainment or journalism worlds. If Stef is working, we wait ‘til he gets here to have a midnight toast and dinner. We sit around and talk and have a great fellowship time. New Year’s Day, Vivian and I just chill back and have blackeyed peas and corn and spent time with friends and family.”

"New Year’s Day, Vivian and I just chill back and have black-eyed peas and corn and spent time with friends and family.”

Jason and Suzanne Stearns

After a long career with the U.S. Army Band, Jason and Suzanne Stearns are still “in the business.” Actually, they’ve been professional performers for four decades. The two shuttle between the couple’s home in Annapolis and their Upper West Side co-op apartment in Manhattan. Their son, Aaron, a Spanish major, completed his college education at SUNY-Albany earlier this year and spent his senior year in Santiago de Compostela, Spain.

Jason is busy as an opera singer, often performing with the Metropolitan Opera in NYC, in recent years he has also sung at the Oslo Opera House in Norway, and at opera houses in Austria, Finland, Germany, and Brazil.

Suzanne maintains a studio in the Stearns’ Annapolis home teaching piano and vocal lessons. Many of her singers have been asked to do leading roles in their school productions, and some have even performed professionally with local theater groups in Annapolis, such as the Summer Garden Theatre.

“From Las Vegas shows where we were leading singers, to traveling the world entertaining on cruise ships, dinner theaters, nightclubs, and as soldiers in the U.S. Army,” says Jason, “we have entertained millions in our twenty-year careers with the Army Band singing in the Army Chorale and Army Chorus. Yes, Aaron’s mother really did wear combat boots!”

Usually, the three Stearns spend the holidays quietly together. In 2010, Aaron opted to take a short ferry ride to Morocco with several friends, instead of hassling with trans-Atlantic airline traffic during the busiest time of the year. Jason and Suzanne spent the holiday in New York City, which is known for the extravagant displays in shop windows and the beautifully decorated Christmas trees at Lincoln and Rockefeller Centers. “Our holidays are usually compromised by my singing schedule, but the Met is at least dark on Christmas Day,” says Jason, “so we can have our simple and traditional holiday together.”

Ken Nuimatalolo

Ken Niumatalolo, now 46, was promoted to head football coach at the Naval Academy on Dec. 8, 2007 after being on staff since 2002. He is the 38th Head Coach of Navy Football. Ken is the second Polynesian head coach in Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) history and the first Samoan collegiate head coach on any level. Much of the credit for the Naval Academy’s winning record since 2003 can be shared by “Coach Ken.” He is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. With his wife Barbara, the couple has three children Va’a, Alexia, and Ali’i.

“We normally go Christmas caroling at our neighbors’ houses in St. Margarets with our friends. My wife makes a big breakfast and we open gifts on Christmas morning. For Christmas dinner, we eat Teriyaki steak for some island flavor, along with stuffing and traditional dishes. We read, in the New Testament, Luke’s account of the birth of our savior.”

"For Christmas dinner, we eat Teriyaki steak for some island flavor, along with stuffing and traditional dishes."

Lt. Gov. Anthony G. “Tony” Brown

Tony Brown is Maryland’s eighth Lieutenant Governor (since the post was reestablished in 1970)—and a Colonel in the U.S. Army. He has been on active or reserve duty with the Army since 1984 and was deployed to Iraq in 2004 for a 10-month tour with the Multi- National Force-Iraq. He currently commands the 153rd Legal Support Organization located in Pennsylvania, and is the highest-ranking elected official in the nation who has served a tour of duty in Iraq.

The Lt. Governor, now in his second term, attended Harvard for his undergraduate and law degrees. He served two terms in the Maryland House of Delegates and was Majority Whip during his second term. Residing in Prince Georges County, he has two children.

“Every year, my kids—Rebecca and Jonathan—and I go to the Watkins Park Festival of Lights in Upper Marlboro and listen to holiday music on 97.1 while driving through the display. It never feels like it’s truly the holiday season until we leave the park.”

“Every year, my kids—Rebecca and Jonathan—and I go to the Watkins Park Festival of Lights in Upper Marlboro.”

Dr. Thelma Thompson

Dr. Thelma Thompson has been president of the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore since July 2002. Early in her career, she worked for The Washington Post, before entering the academic world. She was a Dean at Norfolk State University before accepting the position at UMD-Eastern Shore.

The former professor is one of seven surviving siblings of eight. The family moved to the U.S. in 1969 from their Jamaican homeland. Thompson and her siblings, all naturalized American citizens, live in the Washington-Chesapeake Bay region. Their father has passed away and their mother lives in a senior community in Silver Spring. Dr. Thompson also has four grown children.

“When I grew up in Jamaica, it was still a British colony,” she says. “Many of our Christmas traditions reflected our British and African heritage. There was Junkanoo: on Boxer Day, the day after Christmas, men danced in the streets wearing headdresses and masks of animal heads. Christmas was a 10-to-12 day celebration, but, here in America, we don’t have that luxury.”

Christmas here, though, is special. The entire family gathers at one of the siblings’ homes near Silver Spring. Though they promise every year to lighten up on the food, everyone still brings their favorite holiday dish.

“We always have red beans and rice, a Caribbean meal! There’s curried goat—like a stew— roast pork, baked turkey, highly seasoned roast beef, a Kingfish or Jackfish, if available, or a red snapper,” she says, savoring the memory. “My daughter brings her special macaroni and cheese dish, using a recipe handed down by my mother. There are candied sweet potatoes, which are different from the sweet potatoes here. Our island sweet potatoes are greenish and extra sweet, harder and dryer than the beautiful, bright, salmon-colored potatoes. We mix the two types together and dress them up with cinnamon, sugar and a little vanilla.”

The family also enjoys English Plum Pudding, also known as the Black Cake. “It’s a black fruit cake that looks like chocolate, but is really burnt sugar and fruits steeped in wine and rum. When you open its box, it has a potent smell. It is served with a brandy sauce. “Christmas for me is real, a real festival. It’s a time to reach out to family.”

“My daughter brings her special macaroni and cheese dish, using a recipe handed down by my mother.”

Iris Krasnow

Iris is a prolific writer, editor, author, American University journalism professor, professional speaker and the mother of four nearly-adult sons. Married to architect Charles “Chuck” Anthony, Iris and her family live in a home overlooking the scenic Severn River Bridge. This tall, commanding woman is the author of three Miramax Books publications: Surrendering to Motherhood, Surrendering to Marriage, and Surrendering to Yourself; as well as I Am My Mother’s Daughter, published by Basic Books.

“We celebrate Hannukah with eight nights of candles, and lots of potato latkes. My sons, even at ages 21, 19 and 17-year old twins, still play spin the dreidel and love the gold-foil wrapped chocolate coins, or gelt, I spread over the dining room table. Our highlight is getting together with three other Annapolis Jewish families on the last night, a tradition we started more than a decade ago. We say the Hannukah prayer and each light our own family’s Menorah. The blaze of fire—45 candles in all—is beautiful as it casts a glow on the faces of our children, which is a tribe of eleven between us.”

"My sons, even at ages 21, 19 and 17-year old twins, still play spin the dreidel and love the gold-foil wrapped chocolate coins, or gelt, I spread over the dining room table.”

Community community
  • Grab your speedo, "Don your gay apparel” and head to downtown Annapolis on Saturday, December 16t...


  • Eleventh Hour

    12/21/2017
    06:00PM — 11:00PM

    Downtown Annapolis Partnership proudly presents Midnight Madness, the annual holiday tradition, o...


 

 

Towne Social