How We Celebrate the Holidays
In my stocking that year was a small wooden box. In it was a note that read "Look for the shiniest ornament on the tree and that will be the best gift of all." After what seemed like an eternal hunt on the tree, I finally figured out exactly what he meant. On the paper-mâché flying Santa ornament that my sister had given me years ago, he had slipped on a beautiful engagement ring. It was a touching and romantic way to start our new life together and has since become one of our new holiday traditions!
Now when we decorate our Christmas tree, we always leave two ornaments until the end, the Chicago Bears candy cane ornaments that my husband likes to put up after everything else is on the tree and the cherished flying Santa. The Santa ornament is always placed on the tree last, and we always put it up together. It gives us a chance to reflect on the joy of starting our lives together and the many new memories we've been blessed to share ever since.
What romantic holiday tradition do you have with the one you love?
Here is a peek at some of our fun times coming up this year (this is all top secret of course!):
December 1: New Christmas books
December 2: New matching pajamas
December 10: Go to Macy's; write a letter to Santa
December 11: Make a gingerbread tree
December 13: Santa Lucia Celebration at church
December 17: Drive around to see the lights
December 18: Make Christmas cookies
December 19: Visit Longwood Gardens
December 20: Go to see The Nutcracker
December 21: Take gifts to neighbors
I am so thankful that my co-workers shared such a wonderful idea with me before my children were born. I love family traditions and think they are the cornerstones of many happy family moments. I will always remember these times with my children and husband. I hope someday they will do something similar with their loved ones.
What holiday tradition do you enjoy with your children?
Does your family do anything special when putting up your holiday decorations?
During the last 10 years or so of my father's teaching career, he started taking the gift to school for the students to examine. Hundreds of children have gently shaken it and asked, "When are you going to open it?" Last year just before Christmas, the local CBS affiliate in Cape Girardeau, Missouri (KFVS12) received a letter from a student's mother telling of the influence the present had on her child. The station sent a reporter to do a story on the present, which ended up airing on CBS and CNN. A teacher in Florida was so touched by the story that she contacted my father and together they have authored a book called The Unopened Gift: A Christmas Story. My grandmother passed away four years ago, but her present to my father keeps her alive in our hearts. I think it is an inspiring story of love, patience and hope; the kind of story people need during these trying times.
Do you have an extraordinary tradition? Tell us!
But the food item that has become a not-to-be-missed family tradition is the pie. We average 15 different kinds of pie every year. Aunt Yvette spends days preparing the pies and homemade crusts to make sure that everyone gets their favorite. There are pies for the picky (cherry, but only with canned cherries and boxed pie crust), pies for the traditional (mincemeat...look it up!) and pies for those with a major sweet tooth (cheesecake pie, pecan oatmeal pie or my personal favorite, buttermilk pecan pie). Friends know to stop by our house on Thanksgiving night for the best and widest selection of pie in town. It just wouldn't be the holidays without it!
Do you bake something special during the holiday season?
We all gather round the table, heat up the legs and typically have a salad and bread (although we all call those "fillers" since all we really want to eat is the crab!). It's tastes so wonderful and is such a departure from the traditional holiday meals that people have, so it definitely makes us feel special. And if ever he stopped sending the crab (God forbid!), we all agreed we'd pitch in to keep the tradition going. It makes us feel close to his uncle at the holidays and feel like he's celebrating with us. Word has gotten out around my family and our friends, and everyone is always jealous of our Christmas Eve feast. I can't wait for December 24!
Do you have a relative that makes your holiday unique? Share your story!
At the same time, we have watched our children grow with confidence into young, very talented adults. Our oldest son is now in college at Harvard, and he still participates when he comes home for the holidays! I have been working on a "highlights video" to show at our Christmas this year, and I'm trying to edit hours of videotape down to 30 minutes of the best moments. It's been an amazing trip down memory lane and one that we can always cherish. I know we will never stop holding the pageants as long as we can still get up and wow each other with our many talents!
What holiday does your family celebrate and how do you make it special? Share with us!
The run stretches from the Fayette County Courthouse in Lexington, Kentucky, to the Bath County Courthouse. The event has raised more than $40,000 in its 20-year history. Along the way, other runners join Bailey and embark on the trek. Having runners join in tends to bring a breath of fresh air and helps to complete the task.
Do you traditionally participate in any philanthropic events during the holiday season?
What special meal does your family prepare for the holidays?
What holiday tradition does your family enjoy?
What holiday does your family celebrate and how? Tell us!
I was born on my dad's birthday, December 27, so Christmastime has always meant sharing a weeklong celebration with family and friends...and two cakes. It's hard growing up as a Christmas baby not to feel slighted when only a handful of friends are in town, let alone can trudge through the snow to your party, but I quickly learned there's a difference between quantity and quality and to be thankful for those who were able to celebrate with me. As family has grown up and out, juggling the festivities has become more of a carefully orchestrated dance between departure time and bar time (this year, my challenge is to make it from my nephew's christening in Toledo to my party in Chicago in under five hours), but the Capricorn in me wouldn't miss the food and family bonding for the world.
On Christmas Eve, my family does a crazy late-night buffet of everyone's favorite finger foods. The smorgasbord including shrimp cocktail, herring (for the brave of heart like my Grandma Stella), spicy pizza squares (Velveeta and spicy Italian sausage baked on cocktail rye bread), cheese fondue (my specialty that I perfected in college), Russian tea balls rolled in powdered sugar, wreathe cookies (the ones with cornflakes, marshmallows and Red Hots) and apricot-filled Horns (a family tradition my little sister and I have spent years in the kitchen learning from Grandma Edith and Mom, yet I still can only make under supervision). There are veggies and dip, too, for the health conscious. Then, once the plates are cleared away, we each get to open one present—a bribe my parents made when we were little to get us to go to bed so they could wrap the gifts from "Santa" that we've never let go.
On Christmas morning, we all pile into the living room, and if you're lucky enough to be chosen as an "elf," you get to wear a special hat while you pass out everyone's gifts. The tricky part is making sure the littlest elves leave a few presents under the tree for me to open with my birthday cake.
What holiday tradition will you celebrate this year?
In Japan, New Year's Day is one of the most important days of the year because it's when you wish for good health and good fortune in the coming year. In my family, we celebrate with a family gathering that lasts a few days, if you include the preparations of the meal.
The day starts with a vegetable soup that has a rice cake in it (ozoni), which is in hopes of having good health and prosperity in the coming year. The other traditional foods that are served are dried fish for good health, herring roe for fertility, black beans for health/success, kelp roll for joy, lima beans for wealth, a fish cake for patriotism/honesty, herring to honor your parents and sake for good luck.
We also include a lot of other foods that are nontraditional, as you can see in the photo. Ultimately, the best part of the holidays is being able to spend time with my family.
What's your favorite holiday memory?
We gather first to cut all the fruit, which takes quite a long time. Then, we mix it up, line the pans and carefully/artfully to make the design on top of each—it is quite a process. And we always pick a different Christmas song each year. Each person has to submit her favorite version of that song, and we all vote after the fruitcakes are done (which is sometimes 2 or 3 o'clock in the morning because we've had so much fun during the process. And, no, there is no liquor in our fruitcakes!) Our mother's favorite saying was "nutty as a fruitcake"—now we know why! It is the best! We laugh and eat and sometimes even sing karaoke while the fruitcakes are in the oven! We usually exchange gifts at some point during the evening too because we can't all be together on Christmas Day. This is by far our most anticipated tradition. Who would think fruitcake could bring such joy, but it does.
Do you bake anything special for the holidays? Let us know!
When Lauren got engaged in 2006, she decided to plan a special Girls' Night Out dinner for some of the women in our family and her friends that were in her wedding party. We got dressed up and had cocktails and a lavish dinner in a private room at a restaurant in downtown Chicago just days before Christmas.
Although my sister's wedding has come and gone, my gram decided to keep the tradition alive by hosting a Girls' Night In every year during Christmastime at her condo. Although it's a little tight to fit my gram, her three daughters, seven granddaughters and two great-grandchildren (this year will be three!), we enjoy an evening of Polish food (my gram and mom are second- and third-generation Polish), games and photo-taking.
Who would have thought an evening out would stem such a wonderful tradition?
Share your holiday tradition with us!
What traditions do you enjoy during the holiday season?
What food traditions does your culture have? Share with us!
What holiday traditions do your friends enjoy?
The morning of, all the cooks usually blast music and the fun begins. We live about a mile from each other, so some of the kids in the family (ages 19 to 26) get to transport tables, food and chairs or whatever is needed. Then the time arrives and we all drive to the designated house and the food setup begins. We usually set up buffet style with about 15 to 20 different foods. We pray over the food and then the grub is on. For Thanksgiving, the kids usually go to the movies after and the adults clean up and read the Black Friday sale sheets and talk, laugh and reminisce. For Christmas, we do Secret Santa for all the adults, and all the adults get the kids presents. We hand out the gifts, and the girls all get socks and they take pictures in their socks. One of my nieces has a birthday the next day, so we usually clean up and get ready for her birthday party too.
Our tradition is being with family. We try to make sure the cousins grow up with each other so they can start their own traditions when they have their own families. I love my in-laws, and we have so much fun together. I wish I could invite the whole world to experience it the way I do. I love the holidays.
What does your family do that's unique for the holidays?
What holiday tradition does your family enjoy?
Last year, I was finally able to take my granddaughter Cassidy when she turned 3 years old. It's silly and fun and something that always puts me in the right mood for Christmas. I also enjoy sharing my love of live theater with my friends and family. We've had as many as 20 people attend. I think traditions are important in families, even small events. So this is one thing my grandchildren will be expected to attend and celebrate with their grandmother!
Share your favorite traditions here!
We greet her with love, hope and joy for another holiday season without her earthly presence. We tell her how much we miss her and love her. We sit for a moment on the bench her father picked out for her plot so her grandfather could have a place to sit while he was there. It is one of the most peaceful places I have ever encountered. While we are there, we breathe in the fresh, crisp air and feel the peace only God can give. We take a moment to celebrate not only life, but death, too, for it is only in death that we can fully experience life.
We take this moment and silence ourselves before our God and thank him for Stephanie and all the others who have gone before us. We thank him for the birth of his son and for the peace and the hope he continues to give us to live this life as joyfully as we can. It is then we are ready to begin the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, which we fully enjoy. We decorate the house, bake cookies, shop, attend parties, give to others, go to church and celebrate with family and friends. We enjoy our two other children, Jacob and Kelsey, spoiling them and loving them, knowing too well that these moments are fleeting. We create memories full of love and hope for them that they will be able to pass down to their children. We love them, as we are taught, with unconditional love. We give them the hope we have been given so that they too may experience the joy of celebrating life even in the midst of sorrow and death.
How do you remember those you've lost during the holiday season?
Without grandpa's inspiration—a former marine, one of the first on Guadalcanal—I would never have been able to undertake this project and perfect this art for almost 20 years. His continual gift of believing in me and helping me to achieve my goals is what has enable me to continue to give this gift of music every year. He is proud of me, and I am even more proud of him and his investment in my life—that is the true Christmas gift, investing in another's life.
What holiday traditions does your family enjoy?
I have only been married to my husband, Christian, for four years and have had the experience of seeing the beauty within their performances. I have seen everyone from little old ladies to teenagers, frolicking toddlers to bodybuilding men, brought to tears at the sound of their voices. They have fans that will come back dozens of times throughout the season when they are at the mall, just to sit there for hours to hear them sing. They truly have a blessing!
How do you celebrate your favorite holiday traditions?
More Ways to Celebrate the Holidays