Christmas with the Careys (w/video)
Kathleen and Tom Carey's Christmas night celebration is more than a family tradition after 39 years. It is a legacy.
"It's generational with children and grandchildren now," said Carey's daughter, Kathleen Carey Card. "If Grandma were alive, she would love it."
Every year, 60 to 100 friends and family wind down the holiday with the Careys at their ranch on Lower Mission Valley Road.
"Once you're invited, you're always invited," Kathleen Carey said. "Sometimes, I send invitations, and sometimes, I don't."
Jane Welder began the tradition in 1975 at her home on Main Street so that her daughter, Kathleen Carey, could connect with friends when she returned from Connecticut, where she lived with her husband.
Welder moved the celebration to Mission Valley about 1977 when the ranch house was renovated.
Welder and her longtime cook, Haywood Washington, prepared the fare for the party until Carey assumed the duties when she moved home to Victoria in 1992.
Carey's brother, John Welder, who owns Alimento Catering, has since taken over food preparation with his mobile chuckwagon.
Welder's savory offerings Wednesday night included grilled beef and pork tenderloins, smoked turkey, smoked elk sausage and fried chicken nuggets with ranch cream gravy.
Sweets served by Welder and his team of four included pecan sandies, cherry cheesecake tarts and Miles of Chocolate, a dense chocolate dessert bar made by Welder's friend from Austin.
"John cooks outside, which makes the cleanup easy," Kathleen Carey said. "I appreciate the people who work for him giving up their Christmas night for us."
Tim Jones has been tending bar Christmas night at the Careys' celebration for more than a decade. He and Carey have an understanding.
"Absolutely, I'll be there," Jones told Carey when they crossed paths just before Christmas at the Victoria Country Club, where he works.
Jones knows what the familiar guests drink, and he often has their beverages ready before they reach the bar.
"I would lose him if I didn't host the party one year," Carey said. "I'd have to pay him for the night to keep him for the future."
Carey tells her guests to bring all of their holiday visitors to her party.
"It's nice to see the children and grandchildren in town visiting," she said.
Kate Cliburn Crawford and her husband, Ben Crawford, of San Antonio, attended the party with their two children, Benjamin, 6, and Lela, 5, and her parents, Cheryl and Jay Cliburn.
"Growing up, I remember always coming to this party on Christmas night," Kate Cliburn Crawford said. "Now, my kids love to come and play upstairs with their cousins."
Every year is different, and the family compares notes at the end of each party.
"We discuss who we saw, if it was a quiet year or if it was a big crowd," Card said. "If we ever stop, people will probably still show up."