I love the holidays because to me it means precious time with family and friends. Not just a few hours, but days of togetherness. Throughout the year, our lives can get so cluttered with obligations that we forget to reach out and keep in touch with those we love the most. The plethora of celebrations during the winter remind us to slow down and reconnect. While we look forward to the bonding that comes over breaking bread together, the important thing is the treasured memories that are made and the traditions we’ve created deeper relationships.
When I married and had my own family, I looked around for ideas to begin new traditions that would give my children special memories of home during the holidays. For years as a family we decorated gingerbread houses, decorated cookies and hosted holiday meals. Now they’re older, I’ve scaled back but hope to bring them back should any grandchildren be in my future.
I asked our Lanterns to share with us their favorite family traditions.
One of Ana Brazil’s favorite family traditions is their outside holiday lights.
My husband’s from New York and grew up enjoying outrageously elaborate Christmas decorations (think National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation house). Once we landed in the Oakland hills, we agreed to keep our holiday decorations to a tasteful display of illuminated deer and garlands. Oh, and Santa and his sleigh.
Everyone in our neighborhood looks forward to our annual “deer on the downslopes”. And so do we.
Kathryn Pritchett tells me that Christmas Eve is her favorite night of the year.
After all the holiday buildup, we settle in for a quiet family dinner followed by an enactment of the Nativity (complete with costumes scavenged from the kids’ old costume box) and carol-singing. As grandkids have joined us, it’s been sweet to add the newest baby to the cast—in the starring role, of course.
I decided years ago that the meal would be a simple one. I settled on cracked crab, corn pudding, salad and a store-bought “fancy” dessert. I’m a big baker, so by that time in the season it’s a real treat to have someone else do the baking.
When Linda Ulleseit first got married and later had children, her goal was to maintain holiday traditions from her youth and create traditions of her own.
“We always had milkshakes on the first and last day of school each year, from my kindergarten year through my son’s master degree and my retirement as a teacher. We always had ham at Easter, turkey at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Vacations for a week during the summer included camping and the beach. With my own family, it was Disneyland. But my favorite family tradition of all is the actual gathering. Now that my sons are living on their own, and we were unable to get together last year, it’s even more important. Recently my happiest moments have been times like my son’s graduation from Physician Assistant school last August. All five of us were together for an entire weekend. That doesn’t happen often. This Christmas, there will be six of us. My older son will meet his baby nephew for the first time. My father-in-law, nephew, and niece will also be there with us. We will celebrate the holiday, each other, and Franklin’s first Christmas. I’m looking forward to including him in traditions!”
Rebecca D’Harlingue tells us how her mom always made Christmas ornaments with her and her sister.
“When I got married, I continued the tradition with my kids. One year I overestimated their ability, and planned an ornament where you blew up a balloon, dipped string in glue, and covered the balloon with it. When the string dried, you popped and removed the balloon. You can imagine the mess with two preschoolers! I can still remember my sweet husband, helping me finish the ornaments, even after he had just worked thirty-six hours straight at the hospital.
For a few years we fell out of the habit of making ornaments, so I was delighted when my college-aged daughter asked to revive it. Now we do it with the grandkids and my sister. We’ve made snowmen from buttons and houses from old Christmas cards. We painted magnolia seedpods. We covered a styrofoam ball with cutouts from Christmas napkins, then slopped mod podge all over it. We even coated the inside of a glass ball with floor wax and sprinkled in glitter. Our creations are never perfect, and that’s as it should be. How else would you know they’re homemade? Finally, here’s the secret we discovered a few years ago. We no longer try to make the ornaments in that hectic period before Christmas. Sometime in the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, we get together, take our time, and stretch out Christmas a little bit more.”
Edie Cay loves putting up a Christmas tree on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.
“I love the look of it, the ornaments, watching Christmas movies while I decorate. The last few years have been a little harder because my little dude was more in a destruction phase, but I think this year will be the first he can help and take pride in it.”
C.V. Lee has many things she tries try to keep as holiday traditions.
?I’m not able to keep all of them up every year. But the one tradition I don’t let slip is our Christmas Letter. I have a large family and friends scattered across the country. So although we all have busy lives and aren’t good at keeping in touch throughout the year, the Christmas letter is our way to reconnect and catch up with the news from the past year.”
We’d love to know what your time honored traditions are.
C.V. Lee writes historical biographical fiction featuring forgotten heroes and heroines of the past. She is a member of the Historical Novel Society, Alli, and a founding member of Paper Lantern Writers. You can find her on Facebook @cvlee.histficwriter and on Instagram @cvleewriter.