From Spark to Tradition

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I have a friend who has a tradition of raising turkeys every year for a butchering in time for Thanksgiving.  Well, it is actually her husband and his friends partaking in the butchering, but because she and I walk together in the mornings, I’ve witnessed the turkeys in the pen and the pile of feathers that follow when their annual event occurs.

One year, her dog sat quietly on their lawn witnessing the slaughter and cut up as the gang of guys did their work, and I said to my friend, “Gee, I wonder what your dog is thinking?”  She responded, “…I’m glad I’m not a turkey.”

I never asked her though, how did this whole thing get started?  They don’t live on a farm per say, but this tradition has grown so much at their home, to the point, soon they will need a bigger turkey pen.

Because I grew up on a farm, and my Dad butchered cows, this whole process is not repulsive to me.  At the age of 8 or 9, somewhere around there, I carried cow hearts and tongues in buckets, yes, buckets from the barn to the basement, where my Mom would be there grinding meat and packaging the butchered treasures for storage in the big basement freezer.

I crave freshly butchered meat now more than ever.  Store bought meat never does it for me.  So last year, I purchased a 1/4 of a cow from a local butcher.  The butcher was introduced to me by way of the turkey butchering friends!  Who would ever figure we’d be doing that, …going in on a cow?  Not surprising, but I would not have thought this would become a tradition with my walking partner.  Ironically, we walk right past the cow candidates on our walking route too.  How funny and ironic is that?  Sometimes, I’ll jokingly point to a big cow in the pasture and say, “You are next on our list!”  LOL.

Of the packages of butchered meat, the one I seem to enjoy the most is the ground beef.  The color is so red and fresh, I think I actually drooled once upon opening it.  I told my friend it is vampire-ish.  It brings me back to the memory of juicy meat, fresh from our family farm, and I feel that tradition of my childhood when carrying pieces of meat from the butchering barn to the processing station returning.  With a large family of eight, I’m sure it was the economical way to go as well.  Eventually my Dad had a butcher do the dirty work but we always had fresh meat on hand.

But how this tradition started for my family, or my friends’ family with the turkeys, is a mystery.  Traditions seem to be created over time, starting with an initial spark and leading to a grander event.

For me, my friends, family and some gardening enthusiasts, a tradition sparked at my home three years ago.  It did not include butchering an animal, but we do cut up quite a few evergreens!  I decided to teach a class on how to make evergreen kissing balls for the holidays.  Kissing balls are popular in Canada where my parents are from, and where many of my French Canadian relatives live today.

When we were kids, we headed up north almost every Christmas or New Years as a holiday tradition.  And when visiting Aunts and Uncles’ homes, I always saw kissing balls hung in-front of their doorways.  They hang them in front of local restaurants and hotels too.  When snow is clinging to them, it adds a special feeling of remembering the cold, festive days of a Canada visit.  In fact, you start seeing the evergreen kissing balls when approaching Vermont on the route up north.

These images of evergreen kissing balls dangling to welcome visitors is part of what sparked a thought that I should offer a class on how to make them, plus one of my favorite cousins had asked me to help her make some, so the combo of the two lead to my class.

KB at Spa Restaurant

KB at Spa Restaurant

My “how to make evergreen kissing balls class” turned out to be a very festive afternoon with the ladies, whom I refer to today, in year three of holding this class, as the “Kissing Ball Makers.”  That name was also a spark upon the suggestion of one of the attendees when she replied to an email about it.

Last year, I exclaimed to the group,”I’m going to hold this class every year for as many years as I can.”  And the group returns here on 12/1 this year to keep the tradition going strong.  It is my #1 favorite event for the holidays.

Holding it right after Thanksgiving subsides and the holiday decorating season begins is just about right.  The Kissing Ball Makers relax, chatter, and create before the hustle and bustle of holiday preparations start.  It is a bit of “me time” for the Kissing Ball Makers, and they take home a beautiful and festive evergreen creation of their own style.

During our creation process, we aren’t holding our iPhones (although we use them to check out our Holiday pin boards for inspiration!)  Here is mine:, plus our hands are busy stuffing evergreens or sharing our favorite holiday appetizers without anyone having to do the clean up after.

In fact, I even enjoy that tradition of cleaning up the classroom floor the next day, finding tinsel and glitter here and there scattered around, some empty cocktail classes, and the sound in my mind of all the laughter and fun from the prior day’s event.

If you didn’t get a chance to get in on the sign-up list for this year’s class, which includes new items to make such as wreaths and mailbox evergreen swags, your next best alternative is to tune in on November 27th, Tuesday, at 12:30 pm, Channel 8 to see me return as a guest speaker on the CT Style program on, or watch it on the web right after it airs.  See

KBs in-front of house in Burke, VT.

In the meantime, I have to ask, “What is your favorite holiday tradition, and how did it spark?”

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone, Cathy T