Stitching Holiday Traditions with Florence Taylor

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Lisa Woolfork  0:00  

We are wrapping up 2022. And this means it's time for Stitching Holiday Traditions. These first person narratives from members of the Black Women Stitch community are beautiful narratives of how sewing, creativity and holiday celebration all coalesce into a beautiful time of family, tradition and fun. So tune into the Stitch Please podcast this month to hear stories from Lena King, Vanessa Martina, Florence Taylor, Martha McIntosh, and Kamali Oboagu all talking about how their creativity shapes their holiday celebrations. And as we wrap up 2022 We invite you to join the Black Women Stitch Patreon. Your direct support makes a huge difference in our ability to bring the podcast to you every week. Thank you for listening. Thank you for your support. And here comes Stitching Holiday Traditions. 

Florence  1:03  

Happy Holiday, friends. If you're listening to me, I can't believe that you're listening to me and I'm saying thank you so much. I want to first say thank you to Lisa and to her beautiful, amazing podcast Black Women Stitch, to her supporters, to her listeners, to everyone that is partaking in this beautiful journey of crafting, sewing and creating. So what I'm going to give you is a slice of Christmas. 

Florence  1:35  

Picture this, 1970 Something Brooklyn, New York first generation American me, living in a loud, loving, rambunctious, exciting, demonstrative Haitian household. Growing up in my house my father has the most beautiful tenor/baritone voice. We would listen to Tino Rossi singing "Petit Papa Noel." Bing Crosby and country music Christmas carols and French Christmas carols are all the rage in my house.

Florence  2:21  

My parents were loving and thoughtful, amazing, hard working individuals. And they gifted us every single day with their smiles, their music with their heart. Christmas for them was not about what we wanted but what we needed, such as heavy and beautiful winter coats, boots, snow pants, mittens, socks, new dresses, and such. Now, to adolescence, children's and teens this was not exciting at all. But now as a 48 year old woman, oh, please somebody buy me a nice downy wool coat. And please get me some awesome Sherpa socks. I beg you. But such was not the case in my household. But it was always full of love, laughter and music as I said. I have taken that tradition into my own home now. 

Florence   3:29  

I did at first give my children the illusion of Santa. I mean, I wanted to, I want to let them have that experience that most of their peers had. The story, the suspense of disbelief, how is one a human being able to circumvent the globe and get to everyone's home, the toys and all the wishes that they wanted in one freaking night? Impossible. But was it? No, of course not. So I did allow them that fantasy of Santa for a while. And then one day, I realized that my children were giving thanks to the wrong person. Unacceptable. 

Florence  4:09  

I wanted my children to understand that they have a responsibility to our local community, as well as our regional community, and to have the opportunity to provide amazing imprints of who they were, as individuals and their character. I have told them, and my husband has told them that hey, every single day is Christmas for you guys. We celebrate. We honor you. So let's be, let's think about the things that fill you up.  So Christmas, for them are about those little, that one big thing that speaks to who they are as individuals, right. I have twin girls who are 13 and have a son who's 15. And he'll be 16 this new year. And they all this year have asked for things that speak to who they are as humans, right? And how they want to be seen out in this world and what they want to create and what they want to do. And that's what Christmas means to us. We provide them a big gift, or multiple small gifts, that speak to who they are and what they're trying to craft and curate for themselves for that new year. Whether it's instruments, musical lessons, acting, voice lessons, etc, etc, because these are things that feed their soul. And that's what we're interested in. Christmas for us, whether it is the food that we partake in, the gifts that we share are about feeding our children and the people that we love, their souls, their spirits and their bodies.

Florence  5:59  

I am living in a different state from my parents, and it can be very lonely at times not having both grandparents so close by. And as such, we decided a few years ago to adopt grandparents at our local nursing home.  A lot of some of the senior citizens didn't have family that came to visit them as regularly. So what that means is that we contact that nursing home, assisted living, senior care home, and ask if there's someone that is in their facility that doesn't have regular scheduled family visits, that seems a little down, that would appreciate having a family send them some things, whether it was a gift, calling or cards, presents or monthly or bimonthly visits. Imagine for my kids how exciting it is. Every year we pick a different person that we want to share our lives with. And as such, we do. So Christmas time comes around and we think about that senior citizen that we want to share our holiday with. What are we going to do? How are we going to show them that we care? Well, we take that same premise with the people that are in our lives, whether it's family, friends, etc. Christmas for us, whether it is the food that we partake in, the gifts that we share are about feeding our children and the people that we love, their souls, their spirits and their bodies.

Lisa Woolfork  7:42  

You're listening to the Stitch Please podcast, and the special edition episodes about stitching holiday traditions. We'll return to this story after this break.   

Get your stitch together with the Black Women Stitch 2023 wall calendar. Loaded with full color illustrations that center and celebrate Black women, girls and femmes in sewing, the calendar also has historical resources from Black history, women's history, activist history and sewing history. New this year, thanks to our friends at Row House Publishing, is a full slate of Row House titles from 2023 that will help you get your stitch together all year long. So head out to the blackwomenstitch.org website and we'll help you get your stitch together. And now we'll return to Stitching Holiday Traditions. Thanks for listening.

Florence  8:39  

For us and how I celebrate Christmas is with music. We sing. We listen. We share. Christmas also are the sounds and smells of delicious cooking and baking. By sounds, I am talking about the stomping and the beating of the dough, because if I am not making Haitian patties for Christmas morning, my kids want no part of me. If there is no bread to be had with the soup, please I might as well just leave this house as well as the cookie making, oh, and the dancing sounds of sprinkles hitting that sugar dough and cookie press and everything that goes along with it. 

Florence  9:25  

And then the sight: lights, cards, homemade cards, we cut out snowflakes, and we decorate them. We decorate Christmas, how people celebrate them in different countries and try to find postcards or online images and put them all over the house. We want our house to be filled with warmth and creativity. We want the spirit of Christmas to be about being altruistic and seeing that it is more than presents. It is about community. It is about building. And it is about sustaining family and tradition. That's what it's always been for me to the point that I make them leave out their shoes because in Haiti there's a tradition you leave out your shoes for Petit Papa Noel, which is Father Christmas, Papa Noel. And he will come and he will put money in your shoe- not a lot because you know, nobody's tripping off like that. There are no red bottoms at the front door that I'm dropping a $100, but I will leave $10 or $20 for the kids and that is their play money, whatever they want to do. 

Florence  10:39  

Additionally, we always open a gift Christmas Eve as a family and that is typically a family gift, something that we all are going to share whether it is a board game because I love board games, or a trip that we have planned or cooking lessons, something that we can all do as a family together. And then everybody goes to sleep. And I am toiling most of all the night making sure that the homemade Haitian hot chocolate is going to be ready for the kids to have in the morning. And I will definitely make sure to send Lisa that recipe so that you all can have that experience of Christmas because, let me tell you, the Haitian hot chocolate is something to be, yeah, it's something to call home about. It's homemade chocolate bark and it is not sweet like how you think regular chocolate might be and you shave it and you steep it in this milk or cream carnation with star anise and cloves and cinnamon and such, and it's just magnificent and it's thick, like almost like sludge. But it's delicious. And you have it with Haitian bread that I freshly bake. My kids wake up. We go to mass in beautiful shiny homemade outfits. Oh yes. Freshly sewn, gorgeous. We look like the family that you know is the family. Colors are matching and coordinated to the tees. Hair and all shiny and all pretty. Baby, hair it's all out. Son fresh hair cut looking fly. We are that family. Oh yes. There we go the mass. And then if we're not visiting any of our in laws and we're home, we make sure we call everyone and tell him that we love them. and that we miss them and we hope they got our gifts. And we laugh and we talk about that. And then we have lunch. And lunch is the thing that I've typically prepped and prepped and prepped for days. And everybody talks about how amazing it is and what the contribution was and some of their favorite dishes. Then we open more gifts. And we watch Christmas movies. I always save my favorite Christmas movies for Christmas Day. We do watch a bunch of holiday movies. But on Christmas Day, it's always going to be Miracle on 34th Street. And It's a Wonderful Life. And then I started incorporating Scrooge with Bill Murray because I love that movie and it makes me laugh. Everybody's in and out of our house. They're taking some of the baked goods that I've made. They're dropping off some stuff. And it's just full of laughter. 

Florence   13:46  

So for me and my family, Christmas is about the sights, sounds and smells, the sounds of laughter and music, the sight of color and imagination and the smells of how I show my love to them in terms of baking and how I want to nourish them. So for anyone that's listening, take this life lesson away with you when you want to celebrate the holiday. Let it be the kind of celebration that gives your family and yourself heart memories that on your darkest days you can look back on that day and that experience and know that you gave the very best of yourself, that you were selfless and caring and loving ad mindful to those that you wanted to have seated at your table and those that are implanted in your hearts. Happy Holidays, friends, and to you many many more and blessings 

Lisa Woolfork  15:02  

Thank you for listening to this episode of Stitching Holiday Traditions. We hope you enjoyed it as much as we did. And to help you get your stitch together for 2023, we invite you to pick up a copy of the Black Women Stitch wall calendar. Loaded with full color illustrations that center and celebrate Black women, girls and femmes in sewing, the calendar also has historical resources from Black history, women's history, activist history and sewing history.  New this year, thanks to our friends at Row House Publishing, is a full slate of Row House titles from 2023 that will help you get your stitch together all year long. So head out to the blackwomenstitch.org website, and we'll help you get your stitch together. 

Hosted by Lisa Woolfork

Lisa is a fourth-generation sewing enthusiast who learned to sew while earning a PhD in African American literature and culture. She has been sewing for more than twenty years while also teaching, researching, and publishing in Black American literature and culture.

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