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Tuesday December 2, 2014 Edition
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Holiday Traditions Times Two Sharing Holiday Memories With Lucille & Cecile

Twin sisters Cecile ( Quesnel) Lawrence and Lucille ( Quesnel) Skeffington love the holidays and share traditions including card games, box socials and just being with family.
photo by Cookie Steponaitis
Twin sisters Cecile ( Quesnel) Lawrence and Lucille ( Quesnel) Skeffington love the holidays and share traditions including card games, box socials and just being with family.

Tuesday December 2, 2014

By Cookie Steponaitis

While eighty-seven year old twins Lucille and Cecile Quesnel were born and raised in Leicester, Vermont in 1927 and have lived in Bristol since November 1, 1939 they were raised by parents who came from Canada. “One fact that might surprise most of the readers,” shared Lucille, “was that in our home growing up New Year’s Day was the big holiday and Christmas was, well, let’s just say the smaller of the two events.”  While the twin’s parents Anatole and Lumina Quesnel celebrated Christmas, it was New Year’s Day that meant a gathering, celebration and time for the two family favorites for visiting and playing cards.
    “We would go to midnight mass on Christmas Eve,” reflected Cecile, “and then we would come home and open our present.” There was only one present under the tree each year for the twins and often it was shared. One Christmas brought a sled and once two dolls were there, but the idea of loads of gifts is not one the twins were familiar with. There were also Christmas pageants at the girls’ one room school. “It really irked me,” explained Cecile, “but they would dress us up and have us sing some French song for the audience. We were VERY shy and the whole twin factor was a lot more interesting to the audience than it was for us to be on the stage.” While the girls’ parents spoke some English the sisters learned their English at school and spoke mostly French at home.
    “You know,” grinned Cecile, “I have to share with you that I can’t think of a thing that I didn’t love and respect about my parents. When I hear children today speak so poorly of their families it really is sad. We were always warm, had food and knew we were loved. No one had much back then but we had each other and we loved to get together.”
    Holiday gatherings increased in size and tempo when it came to New Year’s Day. The Christmas tree was still up and aunts, uncles, cousins and neighbors would descend on the house. Canadian Pork Pies would be the main dish and there would be gifts, laughter and of course playing cards. When talking about the card playing both sisters chime in together and share how cards were a centerpiece part of each holiday gathering. Whether it is Pitch, Double King Pied, Bridge, Hand & Foot or more, the twins are skilled card players who still spend hours each winter in Florida playing cards with friends. “It really does take years of learning to master all of the games,” explained Lucille, “but we were all encouraged to play and even as children we were a part of the holiday festivities.” The twins mother had a well stocked farm pantry with over 300-400 cans of meat, vegetables, preserves and pickles put up for the winter. Each farm made their wine and beer which was only put out for the holidays. “On the holiday tray, even as children we had our own small glass,” reminisced Cecile. “My father believed that children were to be included and you learned how to appreciate and not abuse alcohol. It was only brought out for holidays.”
    The twins moved Christmas to be the center point of their holidays with their own families and the tradition around the tree is still part of the twins’ holidays each year. The family would come for Christmas Eve and the meal of choice was usually Prime Rib, rolls, fruit salad and time for talking and games. There will be three generations at the  sisters’ Bristol home this year again and then shortly after Christmas the twins leave for a month or two in the sun of Florida where golfing and of course card playing are scheduled in earnest. The equation for a happy holiday is pretty straightforward to twins Lucille and Cecile. “Visit, eat, talk, drink and repeat,” grinned Lucille. While not drinking to the point of intoxication, Lucille and Cecile get their intoxication from a dose of family, fun and visiting. “We do like to talk,” chimed in the pair together, then looked at each other and completed the phrase in unison, “in case you didn’t notice.”
    Another long standing tradition not only for the holidays but any time that the twins enjoyed sharing was a box social. This was usually a way for local schools to fundraise for needed repairs or items for the children. Each family would decorate a box and would fill it with home baked foods, desserts and farm made beer or wine. The boxes would not be labeled and would be auctioned off at the school. “Usually it was good for raising about thirty dollars,” shared Cecile. “I remember mom making one box in the shape of a half-moon,” added Lucille, “the joke was that in our case the twins went with the box!”
    When the cell phone rang Cecile answered it and spoke quickly to her son about travel and upcoming weather patterns. Hanging up she glanced at this reporter and said, “Sorry, but I really don’t like those things,” and when asked why both twins spoke about being at a local restaurant and seeing a young couple dining together. Both partners were on electronic devices and not speaking to each other. “So much is lost,” concluded Cecile, “when people just don’t meet and talk to each other. My children want me to learn to text and I have no interest. I want to hear your voice and see your face. I don’t want to spend my time typing letters in a box. It is the contact that is the holidays.”
    As the season arrives and we all go about in our fast pace to get it all in, perhaps Lucille and Cecile have hit a home run for all of us to catch. Spend some time together, eat a meal together and most importantly talk. And of course, if the chance occurs learn to play cards together which will bond you in ways that toys, electronic devices and gifts never will. It builds memories, connections and brings home the true meaning of the season, family. “You got it!” grinned the twins. “It is all about family.”

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