Tag Archives: decorations

A model for keeping Christmas

selectingthechristmastreebybrucestambaugh

By Bruce Stambaugh

My late father loved Christmas. In truth, he lived for Christmas. Dad got so excited about Christmas it was as if our poor mother had six children, not five. When it came to Christmas, Dad was a grown man who never grew up.

Dad’s exuberance for the holiday was prolific, to the point of over-spending an already limited income. No matter the economy, there were always plenty of presents for everyone under our Christmas tree. I really don’t know how my folks financially did it.

dickstambaughbybrucestambaugh

My late father, Dick Stambaugh, with Senator Bob Dole at the World War II Memorial, Washinngton, D.C., Sept. 12, 2009

His joy for the season wasn’t limited to gift giving. Dad dragged us downtown in frigid weather to watch Santa arrive on a fire truck in the annual Christmas parade. He hauled us to his workplace where we stood in line with thousands of others to receive Christmas candy and small gifts.

Choosing the Christmas tree became a family event, too. Dad would stuff as many of us kids as he could catch into the car, and off we went, oftentimes tromping through the snow to select and cut the perfect tree.

Dad made the house a priority for being properly trimmed for Christmas. The tree was erected in front of the large plate glass window in the living room for all to see. Garland, tinsel, lights and heirloom ornaments nearly hid the needles. The plastic white star always crowned the glittery tree.

decoratedtreebybrucestambaugh

A little plastic church that lit up took center stage on the fireplace mantel between a pair of red candles in glinting glass holders. Of course, the stockings were all hung with care around the hearth.

Dad’s perennial priority project, however, was outside the house. His beloved light display seemed to grow each year. It started with the six-foot pine planted on the corner of our lot at 44th and Harrison in Canton, Ohio. It was a rather busy intersection in our post-World War II suburban neighborhood.

Dad loved to load up the tree with string after string of colored lights. The single lighting option then was using strands of large bulbs, which were individually screwed in. We got lots of compliments about the tree, which only encouraged Dad all the more.

As the tree grew, he added additional cords of lights. Later, the extension ladder came out until it was no longer practical for Dad to try to decorate a 20-foot tree. Instead, he loaded up the shrubbery with lights, and outlined the ridge of the house with those big bulb lights. By then, all of us kids were no longer kids. We had grown, married and had families of our own.

christmasgatheringbybrucestambaugh

Each Christmas the Stambaugh family, like thousands upon thousands of other families, gather to celebrate the day and its meaning. We continued to do so long after our parents were unable to host the annual family gathering. Our late mother, Marian Stambaugh, is in the center of attention.

Dad kept his holiday lighting tradition going nevertheless. When the dainty icicle lights came out, Dad draped those from the multi-colored lights around the facing of the house. It was festive, but not exactly aesthetically award winning.

Dad capped off the holiday merriment with buying out the neighborhood candy store of its assortment of tasty chocolates. I think he alone kept the store in business for years.

On each Christmas Day, my brothers and sisters and I gathered with our families and extended families in the home where we grew up out of celebration for the day and respect for our Santa Claus parents. Those were magical days, made more so by a man who refused to grow up, and who bequeathed his fervor for sharing joy to the next generation and the next.

If anyone knew how to keep Christmas, our spirited father, artfully aided by our loving mother, surely did.

christmastraditionbybrucestambaugh

Keeping the Christmas tradition alive in the Stambaugh family.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2012

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Pumpkins are for more than pie

Great pumpkin by Bruce Stambaugh

Pumpkins, including the Great Pumpkin apparently, are sold in lots of large boxs at a produce auction near Mt. Hope, OH.


By Bruce Stambaugh

Besides the colorful leaves, pumpkins have to be right up there as one of the top icons of fall. The portly orange fruit seems to be everywhere this time of year.

By their sheer numbers, people appear to be in love with pumpkins. Maybe that’s because they don’t have to rake them like they do the pumpkin’s leafy fall compatriots.

Perhaps the pumpkin’s versatility is the primary reason for its popularity. Pumpkins are used for all sorts of things. My favorite, of course, is in pumpkin pie; hold the whipped cream please.

Pumpkin pie by Bruce Stambaugh

My wife's fabulous pumpkin pie.


I know I’m prejudiced. I’m partial to the pies my good wife makes. That doesn’t deter me, however, from enjoying the baking efforts of others just to prove my point.

Fall is the time of year when real, honest-to-goodness pumpkin pie begins to show up on the menus of local restaurants. There’s good reason for that. It’s pumpkin harvest time. Of course with canning and freezing, pumpkin pie can be made anytime. But given its delicate ingredients, it’s best made in cooler climes.

It’s also worth noting that the pumpkins we see for sale in the market, at roadside stands and in people’s front yards are not generally the kind of pumpkins of which pie is made. For that, you need pie pumpkins, which makes perfect sense to me.

Pumpkin display by Bruce Stambaugh

Homestead Furniture, Mt. Hope, OH used pumpkins in it's 20th Anniversary Sale last October.


These pumpkins have a much higher calling. They are for show. Pumpkins decorate front porches, yard displays, commercial displays and accent fall flower gardens. Their bright orange color warms the coolest autumn morning.

Toward Halloween, people pick the perfect pumpkin for their Jack O’ Lantern. Carving a face into the anointed pumpkin can be a family affair that makes lasting memories for impressionable children. On October’s darkened nights, a single lighted candle sufficiently illuminates the caricature designed and desired.

Colorful pumpkins by Bruce Stambaugh

Pumpkins of different colors.


To be chic, pumpkins now come in alternate colors. There are white ones, gray ones, brown ones and even blue ones. These, too, are prized for their ornamentation qualities, and exhibited indoors and out.

Pumpkins are so highly regarded in our North American societies that they even earn their very own festivals. Towns around the country, especially in the Midwest where most pumpkins are grown, celebrated with contests like the largest pie and the largest pumpkin grown. To date, the record belongs to a young man in Wisconsin with a pumpkin that weighed in at 1,810.5 pounds.

Painted pumpkins by Bruce Stambaugh

Pumpkins even get painted rather than carved so they last longer.


Pumpkins show up on our dinner tables in other forms besides pies and decorations. There are pumpkin cakes, rolls, ice cream, lattes, ravioli and soups. The seeds can even be roasted and eaten for snacks.

We shouldn’t be surprised at this. We are simply repeating history. Native Americans taught early explorers to North America to roast pumpkin slices skewered on long sticks over an open fire. Settlers learned to cut the top off a whole pumpkin, hollow it out, and fill it with milk and spices, and then bake it on hot coals. This entrée was the forerunner to our pumpkin pie.

The indigenous peoples also understood the pumpkin’s versatility. They would dry strips of pumpkin, and then weave them into mats to sit on.

Besides our early history, pumpkins have also played major roles in our folklore. Cinderella’s coach turned into a pumpkin at midnight. The headless horseman in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow threw a pumpkin at poor Ichabod Crane. Of course, Charlie Brown is full of hope, still looking for the elusive Great Pumpkin.

Whether reading, eating or decorating, enjoy the pumpkin variety show while it lasts. Now pass the pie please.

Large pumpkins by Bruce Stambaugh

Pumpkins of all shapes and sizes are sold every fall at the Mt. Hope Produce Auction, Mt. Hope, OH.

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Christmas walking tour planned for Millersburg churches

By Bruce Stambaugh

A candlelight walking tour of five churches in Millersburg, Ohio is planned for Friday, Dec. 10, from 6 to 8 p.m.

The tour is designed to coincide with the Advent season, according to Kate Findley, of Millersburg, who is coordinating the event.

“We want this to be a relaxing, enjoyable evening for families,” Findley said. She is a member of the First Presbyterian Church in Millersburg, one of the participating congregations.

Findley said that the churches will be decorated for the holidays, and that each church will have representatives on hand to provide historic information about the church.

“Participants can also enjoy music and refreshments at each stop,” Findley said.

Churches participating include Faith Lutheran, 187 South Clay Street, First Presbyterian, 90 South Clay Street, Millersburg Christian, 125 North Clay Street, Millersburg Mennonite, 288 East Jackson Street, and St. Peter’s Catholic, 379 South Crawford Street.

Findley said people can begin at any church they choose, and tour at their leisure. Maps will be available at each stop to guide people from church to church.

“Everyone is invited to complete the evening at the First Presbyterian Church, at 8:15, for a time of Christmas caroling,” she added.

“This is an opportunity for people to visit church buildings that they may have never been to before. Some people might attend their own church and drive by others, but have never seen them.”

Findley said the five churches were chosen because of their close proximity.

“We wanted to make it as easy as possible for people to walk from church to church. But they also have the option to drive the tour.”

Parking is available at each location.

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