Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Sara and Melissa talk about...Holiday Traditions

We've been running a column series to get more personal with our readers. This month we're talking about holiday traditions.

We're always open to topic suggestions, so please don't hesitate to share those in the comments. We'd also love to know if you can relate to anything we've said or hear your own thoughts on the topic. So don't be shy. :) We look forward to getting to know you as much as we're letting you get to know us. You can find our previous columns here, in case you missed them.

We enjoyed doing the columns this year and will be doing more in 2021!

Melissa Amster:

It is currently Hanukkah and while we still can't have guests over, we are doing our best to make the holiday happy and fun. We do the same things we normally do on Hanukkah...light the menorah, give presents to the kids, and eat latkes. Starting last year, we had the kids each buy each other a little something for one of the nights. This time around, I went to Five Below with each kid as they picked out something for one of their siblings. I also designate one of the nights to have the kids pick out something of theirs that they want to donate. 

My daughter took this picture

In the past couple of years, we went to my brother-in-law's house for a Hanukkah gathering. While it won't be happening this year, I hope we'll get to attend this gathering in the years ahead. Since my sister-in-law has four siblings and they all live somewhat nearby and have kids of their own, it's a full house. It's fun to watch all the kids play together. We're not as observant as my brother-in-law's immediate and extended family, but it doesn't matter on this one day. The kids have fun together and no one is being judged. My husband is usually the center of attention because he's the one making the delicious latkes that get consumed as soon as they are put on a plate!

Looking ahead, this is the first New Year's Eve in a long time that we won't be spending with my BFF. She usually visits us the last week of the year and we celebrate together, either with a party or just a quiet night watching movies. The past couple of years, her husband has joined us. I will definitely miss celebrating with them and hope we can at least do something virtually to keep up the tradition. (Although they're an hour behind us...) 

New Year's Eve two years ago

While I don't celebrate Christmas and normally get annoyed at all the earlier than normal store displays and radios playing non-stop holiday music, this year it feels different. This year, I don't mind getting into the Christmas spirit a bit. I enjoy seeing all the Christmas decoration pictures on Facebook and Instagram, almost as much as I enjoyed seeing the menorahs this past week. I'm even in the mood to listen to Christmas music in my car or watch Christmas movies. (I already saw Happiest Season.) I feel like we just need some festivity and light in this tumultuous year. Even if we can't be with family and friends right now, we can connect in other ways, just by seeing everyone celebrate the holidays on social media. 

Here's hoping for a more social holiday season next year!

Sara Steven:

One of the biggest priorities for my family for the holidays is to be as comfortable as we can be. There were many years during my own childhood where an expectation had been placed on making sure that everyone was dressed up and/or fancy, a tradition I didn’t want to carry through on when I had my own children. But aside from that, most of what we do now is what I remember from my youth, those special trips to my grandparents’ house, the precious time spent with family members who’d fly in from other states or drive in from nearby cities in order to celebrate together. The Christmas season is my absolute favorite season, hands down.

Christmas pic from when my teenager was little

My family spends Christmas Day in pajamas. In fact, it’s a requirement, and I let anyone who plans on spending the day with us know that I have a dress down policy. Our group is a small one, with the four of us—my two boys, my husband, me. My mother-in-law joins us, too, as does a good friend of mine from a neighboring city. My parents will drive in from Tucson every other year, but this year they’re driving out to see my extended family. And this year, more emphasis has been put on making sure we’re all safe and healthy during the pandemic, an added element to an already disheveled year.

We make cinnamon rolls for breakfast. Nothing over the top; Pillsbury is just fine. I also provide snacks to get us through before the big dinner mid-day, which is always a turkey with mashed potatoes, rolls, stuffing, deviled eggs, salad, and we all fight over the cranberry sauce. We have pumpkin pie and a chocolate silk pie, too, and if for some reason I start to feel hungry again later in the evening, that means it’s time for a cranberry turkey sandwich, with cream cheese. I discovered the sandwich when I briefly worked for a sandwich shop during my teen years, and I’ve been hooked on them ever since. I only eat one during turkey season.

From December 1st through Christmas Day, our car radios are set to the holiday station. And on the actual day, we listen to holiday music while opening presents, later enjoying the wrapping paper carnage that creates a play zone for our pets, particularly the cat, who loves to bat the bows around. In recent years we’ve discovered Jackbox, a bunch of online party games that all of us enjoy, the kids even more so, a new tradition that they’re already looking forward to.

Some of us might fall asleep on the couch. And I can recall a karaoke session in recent years, with dancing. But the biggest thing is that we’re all relaxed and happy, and that it’s an enjoyable day spent with loved ones.     

Tell us about your holiday traditions in the comments section.

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