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Holiday Traditions

Holiday Traditions

By: Nicholas W. Inman

As we finish another year at Missouri Humanities, we are reminded of our 2021 signature series, “Eat, THINK, & Be Merry” and the traditions that are strongly connected to this theme.

Throughout our state, families have gathered together for generations to prepare holiday meals and have passed down recipes to many family favorites, allowing family ties to strengthen and the bond of kinship to be passed down from one generation to the next.

One such example from the rural Ozarks is the tradition of making Sour Cream Twists in the Ebenezer community near Marshfield, Missouri by the Rost family. Although oral traditions differ regarding the origin of the recipe, it can be stated that six generations have enjoyed the fluffy German pastry.

The woman of the Rost family began baking the twists in the early 1960’s after originally receiving the recipe. Lois (Rost) Fraker, Leona Rost, Phoebe (Rost) Cleir, June (Rost) Criger and Delores Rost all began introducing the sugary sweets into their repertoire of recipes and soon they became a favorite of the descendants of Kail and Josey Rost. Later, after they were introduced at church and family potluck meals, they also became a staple within the Fraker family as well.

Earlier this month, several members of the Rost, Fraker and Inman families joined together to bake the special holiday treats and to pass the tradition to yet another generation within the assembled families. The gathering brought together an evening of sharing the bonds of memories, cooking, laughter and fellowship, crossing the divide of generational differences and molding together three families with the common bond of holiday merriment and family history.

Passing down the history and traditions of a family or community is a valuable trait of the shared humanities. It further deepens the roots and cultural connections of many family trees and cements lasting memories among kin and friends. Watching the pure enjoyment on the faces of those gathered around a table, enjoying the shared experience of tackling a project and realizing that generations of the same family have enjoyed the same bond and experience, will long be a treasured holiday memory for the many generations involved in making the twists for the annual Christmas ornament ceremony at the Elkland Independent Methodist Church in Elkland, Missouri.

Although simple in appearance and delicious in taste, the twists have often been served at holiday gatherings, Christmas parties, church meals and community functions in the Webster County area.  The origins of the pastry can be traced to Europe, especially Germany. Many immigrant families brought the pastry recipe and tradition to America, and it has now been handed down within their families and by their friends and neighbors. It has also been shared by local civic clubs and at various community events, further spreading the tradition of family baking and enjoyment.

With the arrival of the holidays many families will remember special dishes and food that have become part of the fabric of their family story. They will recall with fondness the smells, tastes and memories associated with certain foods and textures and they will feel a closeness to their own family history and personal story as they savor these delightful experiences, just as they did in Marshfield, Missouri as the completed sour cream twists came out of the oven and were enjoyed by a room full of family and friends, just as they were intended to do.