Traditions – old, new, and saying goodbye

Published 9:53 am Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Blink and it’s over….but not without mixing in a few old traditions, starting some new ones, and unfortunately losing a key part of my past.

Christmas has always been, for many of those that celebrate this special holiday, a long, drawn out build up for what turns out to be roughly a three hour event; to include a meal, cleaning the kitchen, unwrapping gifts, sharing a couple of family stories, and bidding each other farewell.

We spend way too much money, and submit ourselves to an overabundance of stress….all for what: to ensure good will and happiness within your family and/or circle of friends.

But no matter how many times we swear we’ll never again put ourselves through the same type of stress, we take that same path next year.

Traditionally, I shop late in the Christmas season. This year was no different as I used Dec. 23 as my annual trek to purchase all but one of the gifts on my list. The lone exception was a battery-powered four-wheeler I ordered online for my grandson on Black Friday.

From start to finish, to include drive time, my shopping excursion took three hours (sound familiar?).

Christmas Eve was spent entirely at home (a rare Saturday where there was nothing on my normally busy calendar). I used it wisely…earning a few “brownie points” with Deborah by dusting and vacuuming the entire house and wrapping about 20 gifts.

Meanwhile, Deborah was busy in the kitchen, cooking up what later proved as a tasty meal for Dec. 25. Her work included a couple of my mom’s recipes (still in her handwriting): chicken salad and potato salad.

Breaking from Bryant tradition, we no longer gather as a family on Christmas Eve night. That part of my life started as a child, making the trip to Roanoke Rapids (where my dad’s mother, step father and two brothers lived). Later, that tradition moved to my mom and dad’s home, part of which was dad’s reading from the Bible about the birth of Jesus, with his children, and later his grandchildren, at his feet and hanging on every word.

Nowadays, our main Christmas gathering for the family is on Christmas Day. It starts early with a short walk next door to the home of my nephew, Patrick Bryant, and his family, along with my brother (Patrick’s dad) Tommy and his wife, Patricia, and my niece Rebecca Martin (Patrick’s sister and the “world famous proprietor of the Minnie Pearl Boutique in beautiful downtown Conway) and husband Jonathan. The visit there is short….just to see what Patrick’s two young daughters received from Santa.

Then it’s off to Colerain for a relatively new family tradition (since 2013)….visiting with my daughter, Danielle, her husband, Brandon, and my grandson, Brody.

Christmas is indeed for children. Brody’s smile and his wonder-filled eyes make my day complete.

Christmas 2016 also brought sadness. On Dec. 22, the Lord called Viva Barnes Hoffman home.

Miss Viva was like a second mom to me. Her only child, Michael, and I grew up together, spent many nights at one another’s home, and graduated high school together.

We both loved to fish and enjoyed several outings together to the Outer Banks to “wet a line” and visit with his mom while there (she once resided in Manteo) and enjoyed some of her famous fried chicken.

We lost Michael in 1996 when he drowned while fishing inshore in Oregon Inlet.

Twenty years later, mother and son are finally reunited. Betcha the fried chicken is still good in heaven.

Cal Bryant is the Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at or 252-332-7207.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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