Archived Story

It’s Christmas time in Alexander City

Published 11:54am Friday, December 21, 2012

All families have their own unique ways of celebrating Christmas, each as heavy laden with tradition as their Christmas trees swaying with ornaments.

Take my grandmother, Margaret Shaffer (your local Mrs. Claus for years), for example. She would wait without fail until Dec. 19 each year to put up her Christmas tree as it was their wedding anniversary.

The Shaffers prepare brunch Christmas morning – oh how I love my mom’s breakfast casserole!  The Howells are notorious puzzle people who complete 2,000-piece puzzles over the holidays – they can all focus on small tasks for hours.

One of my favorite families celebrates Christmas by hosting their own Candy Day at family matriarch Nelda Jones’ house. I have always been fascinated by Candy Day, mostly because of my annual failed attempts to concoct a proper batch of divinity (my favorite).

The Candy Day tradition has been happening for more than 10 years. About 15 people including children, grandchildren, cousins and friends gathered in Nelda’s open floor plan kitchen and made a merry mess. Nelda adorned herself with her favorite polka dotted apron with NELDA emblazoned across the front in cherry tomato red. She wore it throughout the entirety of Candy Day.

Mimosas were prepared and biscuits were eaten prior to everyone rolling up their sleeves. Dolly Parton and the band Alabama’s Christmas albums played in the background as the Christmas lights twinkled and the group spread out old dog eared cookbooks with handwritten notes in the margin.

Family recipes yielded two variations of fudge, haystacks, pralines, divinity, blitzen mix, peanut butter cookies, chocolate cookies, rice krispie treats, sand tarts, white chocolate dipped pretzels and peanut butter balls.

“The holiday season doesn’t officially begin in our family unitl we’ve had Candy Day. Spending the day with my family, listening to Christmas music,and making Christmas goodies is what gets me into the Christmas spirit. I just love it. It really is the most wonderful time of the year,” said Jessica Sanford, Nelda’s granddaughter.

But their family isn’t the only one with special traditions.

Pat Floyd of Cathead Vodka plays Cathead Pong with his dear ol’ granny.

Robbie Jones loves PawPa James’ big breakfast on Christmas mornings with the whole family and a few extras.

Tippy Hunter always hosts a Dirty Santa party.

Elizabeth Howell Strickland’s family watches A Christmas Story every Christmas Eve.

Tara and Sonny Wilson’s family all wear pajamas to their grandmother’s Christmas festivities. Over at the Big Wilson Christmas, Santa pulls the kids on a hayride with a big red tractor.

Christmas has come to Alex City, folks!

Howell works as an advertising representative for Tallapoosa Publishers, Inc., in addition to writing this column. Contact Howell at to keep her In the Loop of events.