Text by Sheila D. Nelson
Photos by Always and Forever Photography


Dixon and Julie Williams, having lived in Pulaski County since 1982, built their “empty nester home” near Pulaski Country Club in 2003 after their youngest daughter went to college. With their three daughters and their families (including seven grandchildren, newborn to 9) plus Dixon’s parents all living in the New River Valley, their empty nest fills up quite well during holiday meals and celebrations.
Christmas festivities are family-centered. The dinner table is beautifully set with holiday dishes and linens in anticipation of the special Christmas dinner. The atmosphere is easy and relaxed. Julie and Dixon used to be the main cooks for everything, but now everyone contributes to the meal, ensuring that they all get their favorite foods, and the work load is more evenly divided. “Our favorite main course for Christmas dinner is Moravian Chicken Pie, taking us back to our family’s Winston-Salem roots,” Julie notes.
The family spends much of their holiday time near and around a large, real Christmas tree selected from a local tree farm. There are numerous strings of multi-colored lights and many homemade decorations and souvenirs from travels. More recently, they have started to hang Christmas cards that include pictures of family and friends on the tree so they can be enjoyed throughout the season. Although they possess a large collection of store-bought ornaments, all the decorations are becoming more kid-friendly with so many little ones. The grandchildren especially love the kid-friendly nativity scene which has temporarily replaced a more fragile porcelain one.
When their daughters were very young, Dixon and Julie started a tradition of a gift to each family member of Christmas pajamas to be opened on Christmas Eve. Since the daughters are now grown with families of their own, Dixon and Julie thought it might be time to discontinue this practice. The custom was, however, quickly reinstated when the daughters expressed how much they missed it. Now they not only get their Christmas pajamas but also they give a pair to each of their own children.
The daughters started another tradition last year where each grandchild selects a toy, book or special possession of their own to gift to a cousin. This has many goals: It gives each child a role in selecting gifts for their cousins, teaches them to repurpose items, saves money and cleans out the toy closets. Now one of the highlights of the holiday is seeing how proudly each child presents his or her gift to the cousins. The Williams family is keeping time-honored, holiday traditions and making many lovely memories that will last for generations.

Sheila Nelson is a proud Pulaski County native who contributes often to New River Valley Magazine. You can learn more about her on the back page of this issue.