I received an email ad a few days ago from Ancestry.com entitled What can Thanksgiving dinner reveal about your DNA? Immediately, I was reminded of a Dayton tradition of Oyster Stew at Christmas. Dad told me it was one of the familiar smells of Christmas and I thought it seemed odd for an Adirondack farmer, over 200 miles from the ocean, to eat oysters, especially in the winter. It must have been an expensive treat.
I have no memory of my grandparents or the tradition but my oldest brother Jim can remember that it was a highlight of the get-together. Jim says,
…everybody had to have it, even the kids, although we didn’t have to eat oysters…only the broth. Why in the world would country bumpkins like our grandparents serve it, unless they learned it from their parents? After all, you don’t go to the Oleson Mercantile like on House on the Prairie and ask for 3 or 4 dozen oysters. It’s very romantic to think that the tradition was such a big deal that it had passed through many generations. Grandpa was an orphan at 13 years old. Later as an adult he did say “this is one of the happiest memories I have, let’s do it again.” And why would [grandpa’s father] Charles, in the back woods of the Adirondacks, want it unless it is a very fond tradition?
Since Charles was only two generations removed from Long Island, we wonder if perhaps the tradition came from Long Island? It’s probably a long shot.