Cheese fondue and Guam, Christmas trees and family.
People around Portales have many Christmas traditions and memories, but they all center on family.
The Robbins family
Local peanut farmer Laura Robbins and her husband gather with their three grown children and the children’s families for Christmas.
Robbins said they go to a Christmas Eve service and have a cheese fondue dinner. Afterward, the family may watch old movies or home videos.
On Christmas Day, they open gifts and have prime rib for dinner.
“What’s special about it is being together as family,” Robbins said.
Also, she has carried on her mother’s tradition of making a pineapple cream pie and peanut brittle for the holiday. Robbins passed her mother’s peanut brittle recipe on to her daughters, who make the candy and give it as gifts.
The Nuckols family
“We do a pretty traditional Christmas,” said Portales Fire Chief Gary Nuckols.
On Christmas Eve, the adults in the family have a “dirty Santa” gift exchange. When participants’ turns come, they can pick a gift from the pile or take one from someone who’s already chosen. At the end, they learn what’s inside the wrapping.
“It’s just kind of a fun gift thing,” Nuckols said. “We just call it ‘dirty Santa’ because you can take someone else’s gift away.”
The family has an informal Christmas Eve dinner — Nuckols was planning green chile chicken chowder.
On Christmas Day, the family exchanges gifts and has a formal dinner with Nuckol’s mother and siblings.
The Martin family
When he was about 12, Taco Box owner Tom Martin’s mother made a special Christmas dinner that included lobster. The shellfish made Martin’s face swell and his throat close.
His father called a doctor friend, who prescribed medication that removed the symptoms.
“That was certainly my most memorable Christmas,” Martin said.
On a thoughtful note, Martin said a line from the Trans-Siberian Orchestra has stayed with him. The line, he said, says everyone needs to make the spirit of Christmas last.
“The feeling, the giving, the loving, the sharing. We don’t do enough of it the other 364 days of the year,” Martin said.
The Smith family
Every two years, Portales teacher Marea Smith and her family gather with her mother, her siblings and their families — 25 people in all — and spend at least seven days together around Christmas, either in Portales or St. Louis, Mo. Smith said they organize meals, plan a craft every afternoon and do activities such as sock hops and hay rides.
“My sisters literally are my best friends,” Smith said. “We are close throughout the year, but we just think it’s really important for the cousins to get to know each other and reconnect. It’s rejuvenating for all of us. We take the opportunity to really share in one another’s lives and just problem solve, in child raising, just everything.”
The Gamble family
“Growing up in a military family, it seemed like every other year, we were in a new location,” said Eastern New Mexico University President Steven Gamble.
The family — Gamble, his younger brother and his parents — might have lived somewhere hot, Guam, for example, or somewhere cold such as Alaska during the holiday.
“But as long as the family was together, it was a good Christmas,” he said.