Reflections by the Sea: The fruitcake

Published 3:47 pm Thursday, December 16, 2021

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By Betsy Ore Glass

Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. – Hebrews 13:1-2

It all started on Christmas Eve many, many years ago that a tradition was born. I wish to share the story of “The Fruitcake.” Our home was holiday clean, the gifts wrapped under the tree and candle lights were aglow in all the windows. Daddy was working late making deliveries as he had a fuel oil business. Every one waited ’til the last minute to fill their tanks with fuel oil to heat their homes and Christmas Eve was no exception. While waiting for Daddy to return, Mother decided to invite the neighbors on each side of us to come for coffee and fruitcake. The neighbors were elderly and had no family and they eagerly accepted our last minute invitation. The new transistor radio, sporting a red bow on the antennae, was playing Perry Como and Burl Ives atop the piano. A fire was crackling in the living room fireplace and the coffee and fruitcake served at the little round table in the dining room seemed to bring out joy and laughter in everyone present. As a child, I remembered having to take the neighbors’ hats and coats and lay them on my bed. The ladies came with sequined sweaters that had been packed in moth balls from the previous year. They wore broaches, one with a rhinestone reindeer and another with a crocheted wreath. The aroma of moth balls, “Midnight in Paris” perfume and our fresh balsam Christmas tree filled the air. Six people and the night was magic. The lights twinkled as our home came alive. I loved it then and I love it now. Each year afterwards the tradition of fruitcake and coffee continued . . . more people were invited, more food was added. Then as my parents retired and moved closer to the beach, my husband and I bought this special home to raise our family. And yes, the Christmas Eve tradition continued. More neighbors, friends and church family came. The last Christmas we spent in that precious home of memories was when we had over 100 guests to our Open House. Traffic had to be directed by the police department.

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I stand amazed that a little fruitcake and a desire to reach out to others could mushroom and expand into something so grand. Our home was a beacon of joy for many who didn’t have families or were widowed or had no place to go. We didn’t know how important our tradition was to so many. One teenager took me aside one year and said our home at Christmas was the only Christmas he had. His family didn’t celebrate or mark the occasion. It brought tears to my eyes. The next year he asked if he could bring his brothers and sisters. He wanted them to know the joy that he had felt. Again, more tears. We have always had the open door policy, not just at Christmas but anytime. I credit my dear Mother for having a heart so full and allowing God to use her in what seemed to be a simple way at first. We couldn’t possibly know that God would use us and our gifts of hospitality through the years to glorify Him. The memories flicker in my mind like twinkle lights from days gone by. The children from church sang hymns and Christmas songs, the old folks took the comfortable chairs and talked of old times. The widows gathered together to share their stories of challenge and hope. Children running around excited for what Christmas morning would bring. I can remember those times with great love. And yes, we continue to serve fruitcake at Christmas and yes, I have learned to love it! Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. – Hebrews 13:16  

Betsy Ore Glass has long-standing ties to the Outer Banks. From Virginia Beach, her family bought a vacation cottage in the 60s and her love of the area began. Later in the 90s, Betsy and her husband bought a weekend cottage and introduced the area to their children. Then Betsy’s parents retired to KDH where the family gathered often. Reach her at or read additional Reflections at