Memories of Christmas card tradition live on

WESTFIELD-A tradition that spanned more than eight decades in the Liptak and Wingate families began in 1933 with a simple Christmas card.

Jeanette Liptak Halloran, born and raised in the city, recently said her father, the late Adam Liptak Sr., had been browsing in the lobby of the old Professional Building on Elm Street in 1933 when he discovered a unique box of Christmas cards.

“My father and my uncle, Bill Wingate, were not the type to go shopping and years ago men didn’t go shopping, so I think the fact that my dad took the time to look for this card and when he saw it, it struck him the card fit my uncle to a tee,” she said, noting that Wingate had married Liptak’s sister Margaret.

Of all the cards in the box, Liptak settled on a verse that was geared to the Scottish penurious philosophy.

The verse reads: 

I couldna’ let this Season pass

Wi’oot a thocht o’ you,

Sae here’s a little messenger

Wi’ Greetin’s guid an’ true

These car-r-rds are verra costly,

Sae next Christmas will ye be

Sae guid tae tear awa’ a “tab”

An’ send it back tae me?

Since the country was in the midst of the Great Depression, the card spoke to Liptak, of Slovak descent, about frugality as well as knowing Wingate’s Scottish ancestry.

“The card is treasured and so precious to me,” said Liptak Halloran, adding that the story of the family tradition was originally featured in the Westfield Evening News in December of 1981. “They carried on this tradition each year until my dad passed in 1988.”

While Liptak had sent the card to Bill Wingate until he passed in 1968, Liptak then sent the card to his sister Margaret Wingate.

Since the extended families enjoyed the Christmas custom of the card being resent with a new tear on a corner for all of those years – Liptak Halloran decided to continue sending the card – first to her aunt, Margaret Wingate, until her passing in 2002. 

The card was then exchanged each year by Liptak Halloran and Bill and Margaret Wingate’s daughter, Margaret Wingate Harper, until her passing in 2015.

“The card passing stopped in 2014,” said Liptak Halloran, adding, “The card is now in the Liptak archives.”

Those archives include memorabilia from the days when the Liptak family owned Liptak’s Pure Milk on City View Road.

“I worked for my dad in the office and even my mom drove a truck and delivered milk,” said Liptak Halloran. “I did everything just to help my dad, which also included driving the milk truck and delivering milk after my kids went off to school.”

While the dairy business closed in March 1978, Liptak Halloran said she could see the handwriting on the wall long before the decision was made.

“Big companies were coming in and I told my dad – ‘While we are still ahead let’s get out of the business’,” she said.

What remains of the days of Liptak’s Pure Milk are some of the slip books, inventory pads, milk caps, milk bottles and milk cans in the “Liptak archives.”

“Our families traditionally gather for a Christmas supper with blessed wafers that we exchange with each other and wish each other a merry Christmas,” said Liptak Halloran, noting those gatherings have included close to 35 relatives. “Because of COVID it will be a sad year of not getting together but we will make the most of it not being able to gather together with everyone.”

The great-grandchildren of the late Alice and Adam Liptak Sr. of Westfield, seen during a Christmas gathering in 2019. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)

While many family gatherings will be on hold this year due to the pandemic, cherished memories live on – including one simple Christmas card that has stood the test of time – minus many “tears” on its corners – from a simple message that provided joy and laughter among so many extended family members for more than 80 years.

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