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Local families celebrate with fondue, spelunking
Traditions keep the family in the spirit
Marty, left, and Tracy Woodall help out family members Wednesday evening as they prepare a fondue dinner at their Flowery Branch home. Ellen Davis and family have made the fondue dinner a family tradition at Christmas since 1972.

When you do something special for your children, you never know when it will become a tradition.

That's what happened with Ellen Davis' family in 1972.

"Our three young children were getting antsy for Santa to come. So about three days before Christmas I decided to have a special family dinner for the family, and they were each allowed to open one of their gifts," the Flowery Branch resident said in an email to The Times.

At the time, her family lived in Germany, where fondue dinners were popular.

"Thirty-nine Christmases later, we are still having that special dinner and not even the menu has changed," Davis said. "The first year there were five of us and one fondue pot. Now we need 24 feet of table and five fondue pots."

The annual dinner, which the family celebrated Wednesday night, remains the highlight of pre-Christmas activities, Davis said.

Gainesville resident Juanita Adams' family has a cheesy tradition, too. Hers, however, comes from a tin, not a fondue pot.

"When we gather for Christmas, the first thing my children look to see is the container of cheese straws. Usually a grandchild will help me make them," Adams said in an email.

This year, however, busy schedules meant the family was unable to "man the cookie press," so Adams recruited her friend Jade Yu and her son, Kevin, to help bake.

For the Sayre family of Gainesville, the beloved food occasion is Christmas Eve.

"For the last 10 to 12 years, we have had a get-together with several families," Celeste Sayre said. "We all go to church together at Redwine United Methodist Church ... and then after, we go to someone's home."

We would bring food and visit for a while, and this gave the children time to burn some energy so they would be ready for bed when we got home so Santa could come."

The Sayre family started the Christmas Eve event when their children were 2 and 4.

Back at home after the festivities, the family read "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" and the Christmas story from the book of Luke in the Bible.

They put baby Jesus in the manger of their nativity, laid out cookies and milk for Santa and went to bed.

"Over the years this tradition has grown. Sometimes we have had eight or nine families there, sometimes it's just four or five families," Sayre said. "Our daughters are now 17 years old and 15 years old and they love our tradition. We all look forward to being together in church and spending time with our friends who are like family to us."

Aside from Christmas, Sayre said the families also camp together every Labor Day weekend.

Joel Sneed's family has a Christmas vacation every year, albeit a little different than Clark Griswold's.

"Over the past several years our family, with a few members now living out of state, has developed a tradition of enjoying the outdoors together over the Christmas weekend," the Flowery Branch resident said.

"Having raised my children in various outdoor endeavors, we make one day at this time of year to celebrate the season, spend time together and remember the halcyon days of their growing-up years by spending one day hiking or exploring a cave."

Sneed has been spelunking for decades and hopes to pass his love of the pastime to his children and grandchildren.


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