Favorite holiday traditions and memories

Favorite holiday traditions and memories

December 22, 2019

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A look at some of the favorite holiday traditions, songs, gifts and memories of prominent people in harness racing.

by Dave Briggs

In an ongoing holiday tradition, Harness Racing Update again polled some of harness racing’s biggest names to ask them four holiday questions:

1. What is your favorite holiday tradition?
2. What is your favorite holiday song?
3. What is your favorite holiday memory from your childhood?
4. What is the best gift you have ever received?

Check out the 2018 edition here.
Check out the 2017 edition here.
Check out the 2016 edition here.

Corey Callahan

1. Just getting together with family. It’s the one time of year when they actually aren’t racing! LOL.

2. Run Rudolph Run by Chuck Berry.

3. Mine is when I was 10. As a kid, your feet grow so fast. So, my parents would always buy me used hockey skates every year. But on Christmas morning my belief in Santa was very much alive as I opened a box with brand spankin new 451 Super Tacks! So, yes, I believed in Santa for at least one more year.

4. It wasn’t a Christmas present. It would be each time my four kids were born. I’m very blessed and the joy and excitement I see on their faces each Christmas is the best present I could’ve ever asked for.

Andrew McCarthy

1. Mom always made ham and cheese croissants for breakfast. We have carried that tradition on for our kids.

2. I hate to sound like The Grinch but I pretty much despise most to all Xmas music. You can blame department stores in October.

3. When living in Queensland we would head to the beach after opening presents.

4. One year my older brother, sister and I got a Shetland Pony. Mom and Dad snuck him in and had him inside by the Xmas tree.

Tom Grossman

1. Movie and Chinese food Xmas afternoon.

2. Springsteen’s Santa Claus is Coming to Town

3. A $55 daily double at Aqueduct with my dad when we were supposedly shopping for presents.

4. Hand knit sweater from my daughter.

Mike Tanner

1. Decorate the tree on Christmas Eve, open presents on Christmas Day.

2. I’ll go with “White Christmas,” and in particular the Drifters’ version that came out in 1954. Most people know it from the soundtrack to the movie “Home Alone.” It – the song, not the movie – never gets old.

3. When I was a kid, my family always had a big party on Christmas Eve for family and friends. It was an open house and there were always a few surprise guests, with everyone arriving late and many staying until the wee hours of the morning. I loved those nights.

4. Last year around this time, we learned that my wife’s cancer was fully in remission and that her surgery the previous month had been successful. Best Christmas present ever.

Blair Burgess

1. Generally when it’s over… but I do enjoy our yearly get together with friends and family on Christmas Eve for food and drink. “Swedish style”

2. None of them. It’s all the same. When “Do they know it’s Christmas” comes on I have to refrain from kicking the radio down the shedrow.

3. Going to my grandparents on Christmas Eve.

4. Glidemaster bought us a family trip to Hawaii in ’07.

Brent MacGrath

1. Our family going to the woods getting a tree home and decorating it; having seafood chowder at our home with friends and family.

2. Little Drummer Boy by Bob Seger.

3. I am the youngest of four boys. We all opened one present on Christmas Eve and were always up early on Christmas Day, which I learned from my older siblings.

4. As a young boy, a hockey net sticks in my memory.

Dave Landry

1. Dinner at my parent’s place where the whole family gets together.

2. Embarrassed to admit Holly Jolly Christmas by Burl Ives.

3. Going out and playing hockey on Boxing Day — usually sporting something new that was received for Christmas.

4. Rockem Sockem Robots.

Russell Williams

1. My husband is Jewish, there’s a Lithuanian brother-in-law, and a Korean niece. So the holiday tradition is maximum culinary diversity. For Hanukkah we have latkes and all the normal Jewish dishes. Lithuania takes over on Christmas Eve, when we sit down to Kūčios, which includes several pre-Christian traditions, and a 12-course seafood tapas series à la Vilnius. Our Christmas is typical, except that the niece’s Kimchi is spicy enough to require a hazmat certificate.

2. The Hallelujah Chorus, if it’s a sing-along. One year we were at Boston Symphony Hall (in the audience) for one of these. I had the score and sang the bass part, but the ladies next to me kept rolling their eyes because I wasn’t singing the familiar melody. They seemed to think I was tone-deaf, but in fact I was on pitch with the bass part. Such is life.

3. We always traveled from Florida to Pennsylvania to stay with my grandmother at Christmas. There were tons of books in remote parts of the house and I loved sitting in a window, with the winter landscape outside, and reading. It may sound stark and Dickensian, but for this kid from Florida, the silence of winter and discovery of books were a mortal lock.

4. Forgiveness. Fortunately, I didn’t have to wait until Christmas.

Ken Weingartner

1. Hosting the family for Christmas Eve dinner followed by watching A Christmas Story.

2. I enjoy a wide variety of holiday songs. If I had to pick a favorite it would be Christmas Time is Here by Vince Guaraldi.

3. The arrival in the mail of the Sears catalog Wish Book, fending off my siblings, and pouring through the pages looking at all the toys and making a wish list.

4. A pinball machine. I was about 10. It wasn’t a full-sized arcade machine, but a good-sized replica with digital scoring. We kept a notepad next to the machine to record high scores, which had to be verified by a second person. That machine was played in our basement for years.

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