Author shares her journey of a Christmas past

WESTFIELD-An “assembly of thoughts” during the Christmas season of 1980 led local writer Judith P. Foard-Giucastro to share that journey with readers in her latest book, “Journey to Christmas: A Personal Reflection.”

She first penned the book in 1981 and based the work on daily entries she made of life in Westfield from the first Sunday of Advent and ending with Epiphany.

Westfield writer Judith P. Foard-Giucastro shares thoughts about the deeper spiritual meanings she found in the celebration of Christmas during December 1980.

“I was cleaning my basement this summer and I found the original papers, some of the notes in a little notebook, but mostly written on legal pads,” she said.

Judith P. Foard-Giucastro’s latest book is “Journey to Christmas,” based on a journal she kept during the 1980 Christmas season. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)

Foard-Giucastro, a retired teacher and social worker, said her aim with the book “was to look for what meanings, if any, in the traditions that my family celebrated, but most of all, I tried to find in the birth of Jesus a deeper meaning.”

In her author’s note, she writes that some of the references may seem a bit dated in light of the technological advances we now enjoy. Her overall hope is that the reflections she shares of her young family in 1980 will remain relevant and inspirational to readers.

Foard-Giucastro chose the title “Journey to Christmas” since she views the holiday season as a journey we each take that leads to Christmas.

“At the first of December, I look at the whole month and regard it as a journey to that special day,” she said.

While over the years she tried to sell her manuscript, the timing never seemed right. As time marched on, she mainly edited what she had originally wrote.

“I was also busy working on projects with my second husband, Giuseppe Giucastro,” she said, noting they had worked with Small Batch Books in Amherst to publish “Another Face of God” in 2017. 

“About a year after his death, when I decided that I would try to get the book published, I worked further on editing, in some cases eliminating material,” she said.

Foard-Giucastro said she ultimately chose Small Batch Books to publish “Journey to Christmas” since she enjoyed the working relationship she had experienced with the owners.

“Trisha Thompson is very accessible, and I especially liked the ideas she had about the design of the book,” said Foard-Giucastro.

The book had been released late last year and with the COVID-19 pandemic that followed, she was unable to schedule book signings and lectures for this year.

“There will be both good and bad things about Christmas this year,” she said. “The bad part will be families not being able to get together in large groups, no concerts to attend, a fear of shopping, not much money to spend on gifts, but most of all, it will be the grief that will affect so many people who have lost someone.”

Foard-Giucastro said despite all of the craziness that everyone has experienced in 2020, she also sees a “good side.”

“A positive is that perhaps we will slow down and have time to really find a deeper meaning in Christmas,” she said. “Perhaps we will enjoy a quieter time with those family members we are safe to be around.”

The author recaptures Christmas in Westfield in 1980 in her latest book, “Journey to Christmas: A Personal Reflection.” (JUDITH P. FOARD-GIUCASTRO PHOTO)

As one reads Foard-Giucastro’s insights into family life in 1980, one can easily picture the family’s drive to the downtown tree lighting on the green, or enjoying a holiday tradition – eating oyster stew.

“I grew up in Missouri so we didn’t have seafood,” said Foard-Giucastro, adding, “but we did have oyster stew on Christmas Eve.”

While Foard-Giucastro said she now wishes she had asked her parents all those years ago where they bought the oysters, she said making it became a family tradition in her home.

“I still make the oyster stew and when I taste it I am reminded of Christmas Eve growing up,” she said, noting that it may be served at her home for her family on Christmas Eve or during lunch on Christmas Day.

Her reflections and recollections are vivid and take the reader on a journey throughout the holiday season – from attending church services and decorating the Christmas tree, to visiting local tree farms in search of the perfect tree.

In the Epilogue, Foard-Giucastro connects the book to her present day life.

“That is when I discovered something that for me partially answered questions I had raised in the book about how one reconciles joy and grief in the holiday season,” she said.

The author shares one of her family’s annual traditions – visiting tree farms during the holiday season – in her latest book, “Journey to Christmas: A Personal Reflection.” (JUDITH P. FOARD-GIUCASTRO PHOTO)

In the last decade, Foard-Giucastro lost two husbands during or very close to the Christmas season.

“When I lost my last husband just days before Christmas, I was surprised to find that observing Christmas as best I could with family and my church helped to alleviate the pain I felt,” she said. “I came to see that the deeper meaning of Christmas, the meaning of Jesus’s birth, was something more powerful than the tragedy I had suffered, and that power could help me heal.”

“Journey to Christmas,” priced at $15, can be ordered online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble websites. Additionally, for local residents wishing to buy directly from Foard-Giucastro, she can be reached by calling (413) 562-2642 and arrangements can be made to purchase them. She is also the author of “Senior Year” and has written meditations for the devotional magazine These Days.

“My greatest joy was seeing a book that I had written many years ago finally in print,” said Foard-Giucastro. “I so much wanted to share this story with others, and I am glad that I did not give up on my dream to have it published.”

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