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Tradition takes in and gives back to whole community

"Tradition," sings Tevya, in the musical "Fiddler on the Roof." Many of us identify with his sentiment as we see family traditions going by the wayside with a younger generation either too busy or too apathetic to carry them on.

Not so with the tradition Hans and Carol Friedrichsen started more than 50 years ago. Not only do their grandchildren continue to cherish their tradition, but over the years friends and even strangers have become a part of it.

The first year they were married, Hans cut out Christmas tree shapes with his jigsaw and Carol painted them to look like Santa. She personalized each one and used them as gift tags, which the recipients recycled (long before that was even a word) into ornaments. As the newlyweds' family and circle of friends grew, they were soon making nearly 40 ornaments each Christmas.

These labors of love started out as two-dimensional projects made of wood or fabric. Then Carol ventured into the third dimension, with creations like sleighs made from Popsicle sticks. The year they went to Alaska, she made polar bears holding ski poles made from drink stirrers from the Princess Cruise Lines.

Before they knew it, Hans and Carol had neighbors and acquaintances asking to be a part of their tradition. "Grandmothers buy them for their grandchildren and a nurse who runs a gynecology office buys 18 of them each year for her staff," Carol said.

For a few years, Carol broke tradition in a way by making repeats of her mouse sleeping in a walnut shell. The Friedrichsens spend their summers in New York and Carol used to create the ornaments in the car.

"I called it the Interstate Commerce Traveling Mouse Factory," she said.

Hans and Carol are back to making only one style of ornament per year, but by popular demand they have expanded it into a charity. Ten years ago, Carol's friend, Jean Cutright at Christ the King Lutheran Church, asked if she would make some to sell at their church festival. The Friedrichsens obliged, and ever since the church has been making hundreds of dollars in profits.

Recently they started making the ornaments for the Fall Festival at All Saints Lutheran Church. They pay for all the materials themselves, and 100 percent of the proceeds go to local charities. Keeping with tradition, Carol is always on site to personalize each ornament.

If you'd like to buy in to this tradition and help your community, Carol will be at All Saints Lutheran Church, 722 Rockbridge Road, Lilburn, on Oct. 18. Proceeds go the Lilburn Co-op and Southeast Gwinnett Co-op (Info: aslc.org).

She will be at Christ the King Lutheran Church, 5575 Peachtree Parkway, Norcross, on Nov. 1, where proceeds will benefit the Norcross Co-op and other charities (Info: ctklutheran.org).

Susan Larson is a Lilburn resident. E-mail her at susanlarson4@yahoo.com.