- Cape May NJ Travel Guide and Vacation Planner Blog

Month: December 2001

Vintage Holiday Postcards

Borrowed from the collection of Pat and Don Pocher,
Cape May and the “Sign of the Mermaid Antiques”

Most of the postcards are printed on Germany; many have “raised images”
or embossing to give them a more finished elegant appearance. The majority are
also from the “Golden Age” of post cards which ran from about 1903 to 1913.
Click on the postcards to see a larger image.

Holiday Traditions in Cape May

Traditions2As Americans are pulling together, the idea of tradition is becoming important once again.

Whether it is putting out cookies and milk for Santa on Christmas Eve or preparing the “we just can’t have Christmas dinner without …” recipe, almost every family has a type of holiday tradition. Though certain traditions can be dreadful for some, most are happily anticipated.

Two traditions

Joe's creation

Joe's creation

My family has two traditions and both take place on Christmas Eve. One is an open house. Once just a get-together, it is now a major event considered “almost famous” by many family members and friends. I can’t say for sure when the tradition evolved, but I do know that I have been a part of it for 27 years, one year even via pay phone… from Ireland… in the middle of a hurricane. My family laughs that if we all were to miss the event, friends would still arrive at the door, ready for a party, because it has become that much of a tradition.

After our mother’s death, we decided not to end the open house and now my sister and her “significant other” host the event. The evening is full of food, family and friends. Our other tradition is my favorite — on Christmas Eve we all get to open one present. As children, we would always get excited that maybe this was the year Santa would bring something different. Not a chance. Every year it was the same thing — pajamas. It wasn’t until we got out of grade school that we really appreciated the new warm, cozy, and sometimes, footed pajamas. The pajama tradition has been carried over by all the children. My sister’s children now receive their “jammies”; my brother’s wife makes sure he gets his; and I am sure their new baby will get his own new pair of pajamas this year on Christmas Eve. I have introduced this tradition to my significant other and now he too looks forward to opening what he knows will be fresh new pajamas for Christmas.

I was curious about other family traditions here in Cape May. Perhaps it’s my inherent “nosiness” or maybe I just needed an extra nudge to get into the holiday spirit.

Two more traditions

The first person I sought out was Sue Lotozo, a friend, mother of two and the owner of The Flying Fish Studio. Susan told me her family has two special holiday traditions. The first (which I may just have to miss my own party for) is a Christmas Eve “Seafood Extravaganza.” Joe, Sue’s husband and Executive Chef at the Mansion House Seafood Restaurant, annually prepares a large seafood dinner for his family on Christmas Eve. Though there is no specific recipe — Joe prepares something different every year — Sue said past dishes include paella and bouillabaisse. After the dinner is prepared, it is placed in the middle of the dining room table surrounded by plates for all encouraging everyone to help themselves.
And I’m sure not one person misses their chance to get a helping of Joe’s superb cooking — except maybe daughters Izabela and Eliza, who prefer Christmas cakes and cookies.

The Lotozos have a second tradition carried over form Sue’s childhood. Her mother always wanted to be sure little Sue believed in Santa. When she awoke on Christmas morning, Sue would find proof that Santa came down her chimney.

Big, black, cindered footprints on the carpet would lead from the fireplace to the Christmas tree where Santa had left presents. Proof-positive for wide-eyed little Sue. Now Izabela and Eliza awake every Christmas morning to that same bit of evidence that Santa Claus had indeed been there.

Speaking with Sue certainly put me into the Christmas spirit and prompted me to wonder about other traditions here in Cape May, the island’s long history dating back to Mayflower days, and its current collection of so many diverse and eclectic cultures. And I wondered about those households Santa doesn’t visit? I have never known a Christmas without Santa Claus and his elves.

More to it all than Santa

Dorit and Danny

Dorit and Danny

I spoke with Mindy Silver-Cohen who celebrates Chanukah with her husband Danny and their daughter, Dorit. We discussed the lighting of the menorah, one of the most prominent pieces of the Jewish holiday. The Cohens have collected menorahs over the years and now have more than 12 in their beautiful collection — having so many allows each Cohen to light their own.
The lighting of the menorah is traditionally done at sunset. The Cohens use a Shamash candle to light the other candles. The Shamash is only to be used to light the other candles. The Shamash is the candle that remains in the middle and is slightly higher than the others. All candles are burned for at least one-half hour after nightfall and the menorah is placed in a window for all to see.

After the lighting of the menorah, the Cohens open gifts. When Mindy was a child, her mother used to hide her Chanukah gifts and play a game of “Hot and Cold” — you know, the proverbial “you’re getting warmer …” game. Mindy has carried over this childhood tradition. Actually, it was little Dorit herself who carried on the tradition because she enjoyed the game so much, she insisted her parents join in. Now, Mindy and Danny include each other’s gifts in the hunt as well.

The Cohens love to share their holiday traditions with others. When friends stop
by while they are lighting their menorahs, they are offered a menorah of their own
to light. Mindy and Danny throw an annual party during Chanukah. The night is
full of traditional foods like latkes (potato pancakes) served with sour cream and applesauce and Chanukah games for the children. Mindy and Danny also explain Chanukah to their guests and all who attend leave with a better understanding of Chanukah and how much it means to the Cohens.

Jul is Yule

For years around Christmas time, my Grandma has given me fragile paper cut decorations. I never really knew what they were and never displayed them for fear they would be ruined. As I got older and Grandma still gave me the paper cut decorations, I finally asked about them and was told they were Danish Christmas decorations, and that my Grandfather was Danish and admonished that I should learn about my heritage. I replied that I didn’t know any Danish people, and didn’t know where to look for them.

But I wanted to make my Grandma proud, so I decided to do a bit of research.

Danish_heartTraditionally, Christmas or Jul, an old Nordic word for “feast,” is celebrated on December 23, known as “Little Christmas Eve” in Denmark. On that night, parents decorate the Christmas tree with candles and handmade Christmas hearts made from red and white paper representing the colors in the Danish flag. Paper and candles, and a bucket of water kept nearby.

On the morning of the 24th, presents are left by Julemanden (Santa) followed by a day of celebration and food. Christmas night comes and children wait patiently through dinner to open their presents afterward — dinner consisting of a feast of either duck, pork roast or goose, served with potatoes, gravy, and cooked red cabbage.

Danish_flagFor dessert there is “ris a’la mande,” a type of rice pudding. Hidden in the desserts is a whole almond and whoever finds the almond gets a present which is traditionally a marzipan pig. Ris a’la mande is also sometimes placed in the attic in the earlier part of December to keep “pixies happy” and not bother the family. After dessert, everyone dances around the Christmas tree and sing carols. Then everyone opens presents. Afterwards, families like to talk about the presents, the night, and eat some more. The following day, the 25th, brings a smorgasbord — a brunch for the extended family.

Carry on…

I can honestly say I am now in the spirit of Christmas and plan to carry on my family’s traditions. I will think about the faces of little Eliza and Izabela when they awake to find that Santa has come. I now have a better understanding of Chanukah and perhaps I will go shopping for a menorah to add to little Dorit’s collection. Most of all, I will happily hang the Danish paper cut decorations from my grandmother. I may even go buy some Danish flags to display on my own tree this year.

Your Holiday Stories

My husband and I were married in Cape May at a bed and breakfast on December 10, 1993. So Christmas in Cape May is a very special time for me. I also met my best girlfriend at the bed and breakfast we were married at, she acted as one of our witnesses. My husband and I had come to Cape May to get married by ourselves on a weekend, so we did not know anyone in Cape May at the time. Not only did I gain a husband but a wonderful, wonderful friend.

Story shared by: Janis Reith
Petersburg, Virginia

My memory is a funny one for my husband and I. We went down last year for the Candlelight Tour of homes with some good friends. The town was beautiful, like a sparkling jewel. I was the Cape May Tour guide since I have been going there since I was a small child. We received our paper with all the houses and set off on the tour. I had no problem with the streets or homes since I was the Cape May expert.

As we were touring a home, we noticed that the innkeeper set out drinks and snacks for the tour guests. Three ladies sitting on a couch and many more people were headed upstairs. My husband just commented to me that this house was a lot different then the rest of the homes we had been in, when the door opened and a very upset innkeeper told us we were in the wrong home. We were all very upset. The innkeeper most of all.

From then on my friends kept stopping at every house and asking if we could go in that one, too. Boy, was this Cape May guide embarrassed. This year I’m letting my husband direct the tour!
Happy Holidays!

Story shared by: Constance Pandolfo
Hatfield, Pennsylvania

I have not yet officially spent a Christmas in Cape May, however my parents have recently moved there and our family is looking forward to many beautiful Christmases in Cape May in the years to come. This year will be pretty special, for we recently had another addition to our already big family. Lauren Grace Vandenbraak arrived on 11/10/01, and she has brought nothing but joy to us all … thank you Sheri and Rob for bringing her into this world, she truly is a PRINCESS!!

Happy Holidays.

Story shared by: Wendy Saunderlin

My Cape May memories are countless! I worked in Cape May several summers on the mall and at the historic Christian Admiral Hotel when I was a teenager. I was always so sad to leave when summer was over. My husband and I honeymooned there and have since taken our 2 children to vacation there. Cape May is my favorite place to daydream of. It is so beautiful there, it is like no other beach town and I now live in coastal Florida!

Story shared by: Amy Taylor

My husband, Richard, and I along with our 4 children were most eager each summer to spend at least a weekend in Cape May. We would all be so excited when that would happen. My daughter and I would sun on the beach while the 3 boys and their father would fish off the jetty and also try to get in some crabbing.

Well, a wonderful thing has now happened. We have purchased a house in Cape May and all the “children” along with their spouses and our grandchildren are now able to spend all the time that they can in beautiful Cape May.

Story shared by: Norma Nelson

My best Christmas memory occurred when I was about eight years old.  Like most 8 year-olds, I was teetering on the “Is Santa Real?” fence.

Days before this particular Christmas, my older siblings talked up the Santa routine pretty much and I would sit there and look at them somewhat stone faced. At least that’s how my mother remembered it.
So on this particular late 1950’s Christmas morning, it was nice to see that snow had fallen pretty well during the night.  My father, mother, grandfather and all my older brothers and sisters continued to comment on “how beautiful our front lawn looked” with much emphasis. This fact was repeated again and again, until finally I relented to their obvious desire for me to go and look out the big window.

I could not hide my astonishment as I looked out onto the front lawn, graced with a blanket of fresh snow – snow that appeared dotted with sporadic, yet interrupted patterns in it.  I quickly turned and got on my coat and boots, running outside to closely investigate the markings I had seen.

Starting from about 15 feet from our house, there were two straight lines, side by side, going the full length of the side yard coming to an abrupt end three feet before our driveway. I had concluded without a doubt these were sleigh rung marks, as the hoof prints running along in between the lines confirmed it.

I hurriedly ran into my house, yelling “HE IS REAL – HIS SLEIGH MARKS AND THE HOOF MARKS ARE THERE! SANTA DOES EXIST – GO SEE!!”, I loudly proclaimed to my older siblings, who with one or two exceptions went out to view for themselves this miraculous evidence.

I then ran to the phone and called my friends to come down and see the sleigh marks and the hoof marks. “It’s there,” I said, “right outside my house.”  Some came, some didn’t.  It didn’t matter. What matters is: to this day, I don’t know which parent or sibling arranged for such a display.  No one ever offered.  There was never a need. For I, out of all my immediate family, was the one who most wanted to dispel my natural cynicism and believe in the good, the preposterous, the wonderfulness of humankind.

Heck, I was the one who would always cry while watching Lassie for goodness sakes!

Story shared by: Sarah Carey
Sheltin, Connecticut

Holiday Craft Ideas

Stick Stars

This is a fun and easy project that can be enjoyed by the whole family. The first step is to go out and collect sticks. They are do not have to be from the same tree. The size will be up to you as to how large you want your stars. I chose sticks from 7 inches long to 3 inches long. Each stick star will require 5 sticks.

Supplies need:
Gold or silver wire or hot glue to hold the sections together.
2 bottles of craft paint. I used white but you can use any color you choose.
Paint brushes and sponge brushes
A container of glitter that will match your paint color
A container of white glitter
Containers for your paint, glitter and glue
Ribbon of your choice

Before beginning your stick stars, decide whether or not you want the wire to show when your craft is finished. If you do, paint your sticks first. If you do not want your wire to show, bind the sticks first.
Lay your sticks out on the table and form your star. Play with the sticks before gluing or binding to make sure they will fit together properly. You may have to break up some of the sticks to make them fit. When forming the star the sections will be over lapping each other at the ends, that is where you will connect.

Once the design has been decided begin gluing or binding your sticks. Start with the base sticks the ones that will form the top tip. After the base is formed you can then piece the rest together.
Once all the pieces are formed, painted and dry, apply a light coating of glue with the sponge brush for your glitter. When I applied the glue I only did it in certain areas to make a glistening affect. When applying the white glitter, I built it up in sections to make it look like snow had collected on the areas. The fun part about this craft is that you can really make it look any way you like. After you stick stars are all glittered and dry tie a ribbon around the top into a bow and your all done.

Craft shared by Lynn Desman
Cape May, New Jersey

Chocolate Trees and Bells

Small Tree
Glue two mini peanut butter cups together with the big ends facing each other.  Glue a chocolate kiss on the top and it will look like a little tree!

Glue a chocolate mint bell on top of a peppermint patty and it will look like a bell on a base.

Larger Tree
Cover a sugar cone with aluminum foil.  Glue silver-paper chocolate kisses to the cone, starting at the bottom and working your way up to the top.  Glue 6-8 different colored kisses to the tree as decorations (with the tips in between the silver ones).  It also looks cute with all green foil ones as the base and the other colors as decorations.

These make quick gifts or stocking stuffers!

Craft shared by Susan Chilton
Gardiner, Maine

Reindeer Pins

You will need the following:
old fashion clothes pins
jewelry pin backs
wiggle eyes
red pompoms (small)

1.  turn the clothes pin so that it is upside down and the pin favors deer antlers
2.  glue the wiggle eyes on
3.  glue the pompom on for the nose
4.  glue the pin back onto the back of the reindeer.
5.  give to all your friends

Craft shared by: A friend in Crab Orchard, Kentucky

Holiday Recipes


Perhaps the most impressive and traditional of all Christmas meals is the Prime Rib of Beef. It may also be the most difficult to get just right — beautifully dark and crusty on the outside, pink and juicy on the in. Letting the meat rest inside the oven after roasting is the secret to perfect prime rib. The seasoning ingredients can be adjusted to suit individual taste — the cooking method remains the same.

1 standing rib roast, approximately 7 1/2 lbs. (brought to room temperature)

2 Tbs. dried oregano
2 Tbs. powdered garlic (not garlic salt)
1 Tbs. dried thyme leaves
1 Tb. paprika
2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. salt (preferably Kosher)

Accompanying sauce:
1/4 cup grated horseradish
3 Tbs. mustard (preferably coarse ground)
2 Tbs. honey
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
dash of salt
2 red peppers as garnish, if desired

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Mix the seasonings ingredients together and pat onto top and sides of roast. Place in large roasting pan and roast for 30 minutes. Baste with accumulated pan juices, reduce heat to 375 and roast for an hour. Turn oven off and let roast rest in pan for 45 minutes. Remove from oven, baste again with pan juices and keep warm, tented with foil until carving. Cut the meat into 1/4 to 1/2 inch segments and place one slice per person on warmed plates. Cut red pepper into rounded segments to serve as bowls for sauce. Combine horseradish, mustard, honey, salt and pepper and spoon into red pepper containers. Spoon 1 tablespoon pan juice over meat before serving. Serves 8 to 10.

Recipe shared by Jennifer Brownstone Kopp
Cape May, New Jersey


When my grandmother, born in England, came to America with her husband she brought this recipe along.  It was given to her by her mother, who in turn gave it to my mother and she in turn passed it along to me.  It has been a family favorite and we never have roast beef without this accompanying Yorkshire pudding.

2 cups of flour
2 cups of milk
3 eggs
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 cup of hot beef drippings

Sift the flour and salt.  Beat the eggs, add milk to the eggs and mix with the flour – a little at a time until the mixture is smooth.  Pour into a shallow pan, into which you’ve placed the beef drippings.  Bake in a moderate oven 30 – 40 minutes, when it is golden brown and crisp.

Cut into squares and place around the platter of beef.  Serve immediately with good beef gravy.  I use a pan about an inch deep, 14″ long and 9″ wide.  This recipe serves 6 to 8.

Be aware, most people tend to make Yorkshire pudding too soggy and heavy — a most indigestible mass.

Recipe shared by Frances Haas
Abington, Pennsylvania


Holiday gift giving can be even more fulfilling to the gift giver as well as the recipient when created in the kitchen. These garlicky peppers — red and green — presented in decorative jars are best when accompanied with a loaf of good French bread and a bottle of wine. They can be served as an appetizer or as a salad.

4 medium green peppers
4 medium red peppers
1/2 cup olive oil
8 flat anchovies, mashed
3 tbs. chopped basil
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Roast peppers under the oven broiler until skin is dark brown and blistered. Place peppers in a large paper bag and set aside for approximately 10 minutes. Peel peppers (see note), cut in half or quarters and remove seeds and pith. Pat dry with paper towels and cut into strips. In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, anchovies, basil, garlic, salt and peppers. Add peppers, cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight. Serve at room temperature. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

NOTE: Letting the peppers rest for about 10 minutes in a paper bag after roasting them under the oven broiler makes for easier peeling. Rinsing under cold water helps remove seeds and skin residue. Make sure peppers are patted dry before proceeding.

Recipe shared by Jennifer Brownstone Kopp
Cape May, New Jersey


1 lb. of semi-sweet chocolate (chopped)
10 Tbs. butter, unsalted
5 eggs, separated

Melt chocolate and butter in a double-boiler.  Stir until smooth, pour into large bowl and cool slightly.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Generously butter a 9″ springform pan.  Beat yolks to blend into the chocolate mix.  Beat whites until stiff peaks form.  Fold 1/4 of the egg whites into mixture to loosen.  Fold in remaining whites.  Pour batter into prepared pan.  Bake for 12 minutes. DO NOT OVER BAKE.

3 cups of whipping cream
2 Tbs. sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Beat whipped cream until soft peaks form. Whip in sugar and vanilla.  Serve very cold over chocolate cake.

Recipe shared by Janis Reith
Petersburg, Virginia


1 lb. elbow macaroni
12 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
12 oz. mild cheddar cheese, shredded
12 oz. mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 can condensed milk mixed with 1 can water
salt/pepper to taste
1 tb. butter

Boil macaroni until al dente – approximately 10 minutes. Drain water. Coat macaroni with butter, add salt and pepper to taste.
Stir in all three cheeses thoroughly and add milk and water mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 1 hour — water and milk should be absorbed and casserole slightly browned on top.

Recipe shared by Patrick Murray


2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted, softened butter
3 cups confectioner’s sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup finely chopped pecans, or walnuts (2 1/2 ounces)
3/4 tsp. of salt

1. First, beat softened butter and about 1/2 cup of the confectioner’s sugar in a large bowl until the mixture is pale and fluffy (about four minutes with electric mixer). Beat in vanilla, then add flour, nuts and salt and mix at low speed until just combined. Cover and chill dough for at least 6 hours.
2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Let dough stand at room temperature for about 15 minutes to soften. Roll level teaspoons of dough into 3/4 inch balls and place about 2 inches apart on lightly buttered large baking sheet.
3. Bake  in middle of oven until bottoms are pale golden, about 8 to 10 minutes.
4. While baking, sift remaining 2 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar into large shallow bowl.
5. Immediately transfer hot cookies to confectioner’s sugar, gently rolling to coat well, and transfer to rack to cool completely. Roll cookies in confectioner’s sugar again when cooled.

Recipe shared by Gary Chasen
Harvey Cedars, New Jersey