Residents Rally to Share Warmth & Joy of the Season from a Distance
The holidays are a big deal at Butterfield Trail Village, and residents look forward to decorating their homes, reveling with family and friends, and observing time-honored customs and traditions.
Nine months into the pandemic, however, and it’s clear the holidays will be different this year. We talked to three Village residents who shared how they plan to celebrate Christmas, their passions, their loved ones and beliefs this season – from home.
Stained Glass and the Holidays Go Hand-In-Hand
Through art, Sherry Young expresses what her heart is saying. And making art at the holidays is a family tradition for this BTV resident and fine artist.
“At Christmastime, our family comes together to celebrate by reading the Bible about the birth of Jesus,” Young, a BTV resident since 2015, said. “We also love to give gifts that we’ve made for each other. It’s something we’ve done for years. Even now that our children are grown, we still open presents on Christmas Eve. And we still encourage our family to make gifts.”
As a commissioned artist, Young’s forte is oil and acrylic painting of still life, portraiture and animals – and creating gorgeous stained glass. Her work includes 18 custom, stained-glass windows at Rolling Hills Baptist Church in Fayetteville where she and husband Jim are members. Commissioned by members of the congregation, each 21”x21” stained glass creation carries a personal or religious message.
For many residents at the Village this year, the pandemic has eliminated much of the holiday hecticness that comes with shopping, baking and wrapping. For Young, it means the stained-glass classes she teaches at the BTV Art Studio are on hold. Instead of making new stained glass this season,
she’s revisiting a personal collection of ornaments she made last Christmas at the Art Studio.
“Decorating at Christmas is something I do for me,” said Young, who recently retrieved the collection from storage. “I chose to make the angels (in the collection) because of the role they play in the nativity story – and because they make me smile.”
Placing a stained-glass ornament near a string of lights on the Christmas tree, or near a window where it catches the sunlight adds a touch of magic to your home.
“That’s one of my favorite things about stained glass,” Young said. “If you hold it up to window or near the light, it really illuminates the true beauty of the glass.”
Being at home during the pandemic hasn’t dampened Young’s creative spirits. She has a room converted into a small art studio, but there are only so many walls in her and Jim’s home.
“I’ve resorted to painting on rocks,” Young said with a smile. “I told my husband I’ve run out of wall space, so now I’m turning to the ground outside.”
Ann Marie Ziegler
Santas from Around the World on Display
The holidays are an amazing time of year. For Butterfield resident Ann Marie Ziegler, the day she brings her Christmas decorations out of storage marks the start of one of her favorite times of year.
“I have always loved Christmas and having everything decorated,” Ziegler said. “When I was growing up, my father had a plastic Santa and sleigh hanging on the front of the house. Over my youth, my mother got all sorts of trees. We had fresh spruce, flocked, aluminum with colored lights. My tree preference is green with lots of room for ornaments.”
Last year, Ziegler opened the doors of her Village apartment to visitors as part of Butterfield’s annual Holiday Tour of Homes. But with the campus mostly closed to visitors, this year’s Tour of Homes is cancelled. Ziegler, however, will decorate nonetheless, with an extensive collection of ornaments she’s been building for most of her adult life.
Front and center are more than 100 Santa ornaments and figurines that Ziegler has been collecting for nearly 30 years. She started after she and husband, Joe, were married in 1967. And adding to the collection was a family affair while the couple’s son and daughter were growing up.
“In the early ‘80s, we started collecting ornaments from places we visited or from an event,” Ziegler said. “The very first one was from Hawaii and it says Merry Christmas in Hawaiian. Friends and relatives would also give us ornaments so they could be part of our tree. Once we moved to our new home, I realized I had a lot of small Santas and decided that I would make some displays. After that, whenever we traveled, I’d look for an ornament or a Santa that appealed to me and had meaning.”
The collection includes a Santa painted on a cypress root from New Orleans, a Santa riding a Grizzly bear from Alaska, a fuzzy Santa with skinny legs from a butcher shop in Zermatt, Switzerland, and a large red-nosed Santa from Sweden made of concrete.
“It’s solid concrete,” she said, “so you can imagine me carrying it home on the plane.”
The Christmas décor on display in the Ziegler home took on a deeper meaning after Joe Ziegler was in a serious bicycling accident in 2008.
“The accident happened while he was training for a tour in Colorado,” Ziegler said of her husband who passed away in 2013. “He was in a wheelchair for almost five years after that, and he loved having all the decorations out.”
When Ann Marie moved to Butterfield in 2018, she had custom wall shelves built in her living room for her displays. Dressing her tree alone might take three or four days and involve 1,000+ ornaments. Once her Santas and ornament collections are arranged, she takes pictures so she can recreate the displays again next year.
“I think I like bringing out the holiday decorations and putting the Santas out one-by-one because of the memories,” she said. “They let me remember the places our family traveled to and the good times we had collecting them.”
Celebrating Faith and Joy at Hanukkah
Gene and Kurt Tweraser will celebrate Hanukkah, or the Jewish Festival of Lights, from their Butterfield home. Usually observed in December and occasionally starting in late November, Hanukkah takes place at the darkest time of the year, and since it is based almost entirely on at-home customs and traditions, it might just be the perfect pandemic holiday.
The rituals of Hanukkah — lighting candles on the menorah for eight consecutive nights, exchanging small gifts with family and friends, and celebrating with special recipes, music and games — hold great importance and meaning to Gene Tweraser.
“I was born to Jewish parents, and in Judaism anyone born to a Jewish mother is automatically considered Jewish,” she said. “My life has been greatly enriched by the tenets of the Jewish faith. I enjoy celebrating Hanukkah because I feel connected to past and future generations of my family and to Jewish tradition. I love the songs, games, food and memories.”
When the Twerasers were raising their two sons, the family would gather each evening of Hanukkah to light candles on the menorah, eat traditional foods and exchange gifts. Hanukkah was not originally a time of gift giving other than giving children “gelt,” or small amounts of money, Tweraser said. But in America, some Jewish parents give their children a gift for each of the eight nights of Hanukkah.
And the Twerasers happily obliged.
“My husband is not Jewish,” she said. “But he’s helped raise our sons as Jews and participates in all of the Jewish holidays. Our boys are grown now with families of their own, but Kurt and I still celebrate Hanukkah together.”
The approach of Hanukkah signals it’s time to start peeling potatoes for a traditional dish known as latkes.
Latkes, or potato pancakes, are made with onion, egg and grated potatoes, and cooked in oil. As legend goes, in ancient times, the Jewish people reconquered the Temple only to find it had only enough oil to light lamps for one night. Miraculously the oil lasted for eight nights, until a new supply was found.
“Years ago, I’d make latkes on Wednesday nights during Hanukkah when we had friends over, and everyone just loved them,” Tweraser said. “Because there is a lot of frying involved, I’d make them ahead of time and freeze them. They’d heat up perfectly in the oven, and I was able to enjoy dinner with our friends.”
Latkes, which are customary for eastern European Jews, are usually eaten with applesauce and sour cream, Tweraser said. Jews from Israel and other Mediterranean countries celebrate with Sufganiyot, which are jelly donuts.
The verdict is out on whether Tweraser will make the latkes this year. But she and Kurt will exchange gifts, and play games like spin the dreidel as they do each Hanukkah.
“I don’t do as much cooking as I used to, and the fact the food here is really good contributes to that,” Tweraser said. “While we cannot have friends come and celebrate with us this year, I have much to be grateful for. I’m grateful for being here at BTV, being healthy and happy, having a spouse who is vigorous at 91, and having children, grandchildren and a sister and her family who are all well.”