Blog Post

Freeman Leadership Shares Christmas Traditions

December 18, 2023

Blog Post

Freeman Leadership Shares Christmas Traditions

December 18, 2023
Nearly Every Family Has a Christmas Tradition

Nearly every family has a Christmas tradition.

Think of these celebrated acts as essential aspects of how an individual family celebrates the holiday season. With most families, these traditions are often passed along from one generation to the next, with very little modification. Such traditions can range from reciting a cherished poem in front of the fireplace to cooking a unique recipe from long ago. Above all else, traditions keep a family’s heritage alive.

Recently, members of Freeman Health System’s leadership team were kind enough to share their own family traditions. They are below. We hope you enjoy them!

Paula Baker, President and Chief Executive Officer of Freeman Health System

“Our family has a lot of traditions. My favorite is what I call the ‘green ball.’ When my son, Austin, was 3 years old, all he wanted was a green ball. He told everyone who asked him what he wanted for Christmas this -- he also told Santa. So, every year, I put a green ball beneath the Christmas tree as a wonderful reminder of this magical time in his life.

“Now, that’s just one tradition. We have numerous fun ones, too. For example, we always watch ‘Christmas Vacation” on Thanksgiving night – that is the kick-off to the Christmas season for us. As a family, we always attend late night church service on Christmas Eve. We always share an evening of making Christmas cookies and decorating them together. We also love riding all over town and looking at Christmas lights while we drink hot chocolate; every year, my husband, son and my brother take a weekend trip to Branson to see the Christmas shows and enjoy the beautiful lights. 

“Finally, I have an ornament that was my grandmother’s when she was a little girl. It is probably 150 years old. The glass is so thin you can practically see right through it. We always hang it in a special spot on our Christmas tree every year.”

Steve Graddy, Freeman’s Chief Financial Officer
“As you know, I love to cook for my family! Back in 2006, our family was growing, with our first grandchild on the way, and I wanted to start a new Christmas tradition for us. I found a recipe for “Christmas pasta.” The recipe was by Rachael Ray. She explained how each Christmas Eve, her family would work together to prepare this amazing dish. That sounded good to me! So, on Christmas Eve in 2006 I prepared the pasta sauce and our (then) family of six really enjoyed it. Fast forward now to 2023, there are 13 of us now! This will be our 17th Christmas Eve sharing this same family tradition together. Though the meal is delicious, the joy of being together with everyone, ranging in ages from 3 to 64, is so gratifying and precious to me.

“On Halloween night, my 12-year-old granddaughter started asking me, ‘Are we making Christmas pasta this year?’ I answered with an ‘Absolutely!’ She said it was her ‘favorite meal of the year.’ It’s mine too!”

Vicky Mieseler, Chief Administrative Officer of Ozark Center

“My favorite holiday is Thanksgiving. There is something about the food and family togetherness that is special to me. I am a Thanksgiving traditionalist, and my family and I use the same Thanksgiving menu that I had when I was a little girl; the same menu that my parents had when they were children. The menu never varies and we prefer it that way.

“Now, my favorite part of the meal is my grandmother’s cornbread dressing and my mother’s seven step gravy! My girls and grandsons look forward to this meal every year.  My husband was born and raised in Minnesota and the traditional Thanksgiving stuffing was not cornbread dressing.  After 41 years of marriage, he now admits he has been won over by my family’s Thanksgiving traditions.

“Another tradition we have is each year at Christmas I pull unknown children’s names from the Angel tree to match the gender and age of my grandsons. We then spend one whole Saturday Christmas shopping for these children. It’s a wonderful way to learn about giving back to those in need and it also teaches our children the true meaning of Christmas.  It can be a little stressful with four boys all shopping at one time, but I wouldn’t change it for anything!”

Jeff Thompson, Chief Clinical Officer

“Obviously, I like a lot of foods (chuckle), but if I had to pick one holiday food that I love the most it would be “dirty rice,” – although my mom called it “rice dressing.” Regardless of the name I can remember helping her make it when I was a kid. My wife and daughters all love dirty rice, so I usually make a very large batch and we eat on it for days and days.

“On Christmas Eve, I read “A Cajun Night Before Christmas.” I always read it using a Cajun accent that keeps the kids tuned in and the adults laughing. Both connect me to my childhood in Louisiana, during a time when all my family was still with me.”

Renee Denton, Chief Operating Officer of Freeman Neosho Hospital

“I have two very special holiday traditions.

“Every year a different family member lovingly places a very disproportionate angel at the top of our tree. When I was in first grade my teacher, Sylvia Edgel, fired in her own kiln and painted ceramic angels for the entire class; the beautiful little angel was hollow inside. At age 7, I insisted to my mother this angel was intended to be the angel placed at the top of the Christmas tree. My mother sweetly conceded. For the past 52 years this little angel has adorned the top of our tree. My children and grandchildren know the history of the angel and each year there’s lively discussions about whose turn it is to place here at the top of the tree. The little angel has become symbolic in our family as a very special tradition. She is very small in stature but mighty in having played a part in creating loveable and magical memories.

“A second tradition was established by my mother 42 years ago. With the chaos that comes with opening presents, mom wanted to do more to savor the moments and build anticipation. Each year, she lovingly creates and hides treasure clues that lead her grandchildren, great grandchildren and great-great grandchildren on hunts to find gifts from her and my dad. Her original grandchildren, now grown with children of their own, still look forward to this annual tradition. This is a very special, greatly anticipated holiday tradition that we all hold dear in our memories and hearts. It brings my mother great joy to hear the question they all ask her each year – ‘Nana, is it time for the treasure hunt?’”