Celebrations rich with family, friends


December 25, 1991|By Randi Henderson and Patricia Meisol

The sound of an old, familiar song. The taste of a well-remembered treat. The evocative sights of red and green and silver heralding a sparkling season that remains imprinted in your mind from year to year to year.

Christmas is a time to unearth memories and customs, a time to celebrate tradition and nostalgia. We have asked some of

Baltimore's better-known citizens to share some of the Christmas traditions that make their season special.

BEA GADDY -- On Thanksgiving, on the weekend before Christmas, on Christmas Eve, Bea Gaddy has been busy doing what she has become known for doing: feeding and clothing the hungry and the poor. She looks at Christmas as her day of rest.

"For the past five years I've tried to sleep on Christmas," Ms. Gaddy said. "I'll go to church, my kids will be dropping in and out, but there will be no big Christmas dinner. Christmas Day will be a day of resting and cleaning and praying." The day after Christmas, she added, will be "a big day" when she gets together and exchanges gifts with her nine grandchildren.

BROOKS ROBINSON -- Baltimore's most famous third baseman enjoys celebrating Christmas with his family: Two of his sons

and his daughter will be home this year; his youngest son lives in Florida and won't make it. And he looks forward to a long-standing family tradition, sharing Christmas dinner with his good friends Sam and Rose LaMartina and theirdaughter Mary Lou.

It was Mary Lou who initiated the friendship years ago, when he first came to Baltimore, Mr. Robinson related. She started a Brooks Robinson fan club "and we've been close with the family ever since," Mr. Robinson said. "They're a typical large Italian family and for us Christmas wouldn't be Christmas

without them."


DR. BENJAMIN CARSON -- The Johns Hopkins pediatric neurosurgeon and his family have a different kind of Christmas tradition: They do something different every year.

"I guess you could say our tradition is getting together with family and close friends," Dr. Carson said. "Sometimes we'll go to Michigan to celebrate with my wife's family, sometimes we'll go to Indiana to celebrate with my brother. This Christmas we're going to visit close friends in Long Island."

The father of three, aged 4, 6 and 8, Dr. Carson also tries to teach his children that there is "more to Christmas than getting gifts. Always around the Christmas season we try to point out how fortunate we are, and how important it is to be kind to people."


JOHN WATERS -- Baltimore's home-grown moviemaker spends Christmas morning with his family: "Mom, Dad, brother and sisters, their spouses and their kids. I'm the crazy uncle for my nieces and nephews."

Later in the day he'll go to his own home and "look at all my Christmas presents with any out-of-town house guests that still may be lingering after my own Christmas party several days earlier." Then he'll visit with his good friends Pat Moran and Chuck Yeaton and "fa-la-la." And he'll top off the holiday by visiting some of his favorite nightspots. "I like to go out because everybody who started out in Baltimore and moved away is back in town for the night. They're not used to being cooped up with their families for 48 hours straight, so it's interesting to see how nuts some of them get."


WILLIAM C. RICHARDSON -- The Johns Hopkins University president is a relative newcomer to Baltimore -- he settled here in June 1990 -- but members of his family have a Christmas tradition they carry with them. His two daughters will be in town -- one coming all the way from her home in Hong Kong -- and on Christmas morning all attention will be focused on Christmas stockings.

"Back in the '30s my wife's mother started knitting these large red, green and white stockings for every family member," he explained. "They're all the same except they have the date the individual joined the family, either by birth or marriage. We collect stocking presents all year long, and the first thing we do when we get up Christmas morning is look in our stockings.

"It's been that way for more than 25 years for us, and it follows the same pattern for other members of my wife's family. She has a brother and a sister, and we know they'll be doing the same thing we're doing, with stockings that look just like our stockings."


KATHLEEN KENNEDY TOWNSEND -- Christmas Eve in the Townsend home typically features an after-Mass reading of Dylan Thomas' "A Child's Christmas in Wales." Another tradition, interrupted this year by the arrival three weeks ago of a new baby, Kerry Sophia, is to invite friends over for an evening of

caroling a few days before Christmas, said Ms. Townsend.

"We also make sugar cookies and decorate them and we decorate the house -- we put greens up the staircase. We put up the creche without the Baby Jesus and we put him in [on the day] when he gets born. . . . "

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