Making Spirits Bright

Edit: Shortly after I finished writing this post, we got word that we have to pivot our annual Christmas Eve party due to illness. Big bummer! But as we have sometimes had to do in years gone by, we’ll find another way to celebrate the season!

I love the holidays. Like really love them.

And I have always looked forward to the day when I would be able to carry on various traditions from my childhood with my own kids. When the kids were born, they were immediately a part of some of them of course, like our annual Christmas Eve party (I’ll get to that in a moment) but now that they are six and three, they are finally at ages where they can actively participate a bit more.

two kids in Christmas pajamas
Santa delivered Christmas pjs on Black Friday!

The season always kicks off the day after Thanksgiving, when the kids awake Friday morning to find that Santa paid them a pre-Christmas visit! Santa brings each of them a set of Christmas pajamas and usually includes a note, reminding them to keep up the good work and to be good listeners, etc. It’s a new tradition and one that allows them to get the most out of their seasonal jams, ha!

This year, shortly after Thanksgiving, we got our Christmas tree and as we strung up the lights, they dove into Christmas boxes with reckless abandon, pulling out their favorite ornaments to hang on the tree. They are (somewhat) interested in hearing the stories behind certain ornaments, like who made it, or why we have it.

The past few weekends, they have been very interested in holiday baking, thanks in large part to the Food Network Holiday Baking Championship. I think that if they ever ran into Duff Goldman, it might blow their little minds! It also gives us a chance to introduce (and reintroduce) family recipes; the latest holiday bake was “Nana’s Gingerbread” recipe, which is actually from their 3x great grandmother and plays a starring role in my husband’s recipe collection.

two kids in aprons beside a sheet of homemade cookies
My little bakers

They are also helping us create new traditions, which includes making Chewy Ginger Molasses Cookies from Gimme Some Oven. This is a super easy recipe, which makes it perfect for baking with kids. The result is a chewy, super-soft cookie with just the right amount of warm baking spices… it is honestly irresistible. I mean it. I even forgot to set the timer on one tray and had them bake two minutes longer than I would have preferred and they still came out delightfully crunchy. Highly recommend!

Then of course there are the Christmas festivities. For as long as I can remember, my parents have hosted Christmas Eve, where both sides of my large family descend upon my parents’ house and we enjoy a spread of appetizers and sweet treats like no other time of the year. My mom usually makes a ham, tortilla soup and meatballs, while everyone else in the family contributes an appetizer (savory or sweet) of their choice. We have deviled eggs, veggie trays, crackers and dips alongside platters of cookies and baked goods and it’s my favorite food holiday. Even more than Thanksgiving, if I’m being honest. I mean, snacks for dinner? That’s my jam. It’s not a seated affair; we all graze and visit the whole evening and I love the sound of the full house.

There were only a handful of years when they didn’t host, and an aunt or uncle would take the reins, but this year, the party is back on. It’s bound to be different, as my parents are in a new house, we’re all older now and have small kids. We likely won’t stay as late. But growing up, we’d each get to open one present on Christmas Eve. As more cousins were brought into the fold, that tradition eventually morphed to Santa Poppy, where my grandfather would don a red Santa hat and dole out gift cards to Starbucks or In-N-Out that “Santa” had generously left for the party.

As a teenager, my brothers and I would stay up until the last person left (usually around midnight), do a bit of clean up (that really only entailed putting away anything that needed refrigeration), and then we’d exchange gifts among the five of us in our family. We could handle gifts at one in the morning because we would all sleep in the next morning for Christmas Day. With two small kids who have already begun to wake up at 5:30am in anticipation for the Big Day (!!!), I don’t see that happening. I have a sneaky suspicion that we were likely revert to opening a pre-Christmas present at the party on Christmas Eve, to help ease the anticipation.

I love that it’s all coming full circle again and I’m feeling exceptionally grateful to carry on these traditions with the kids while settling into our own as well.

Here’s wishing everyone a magical holiday season and a healthy 2023!

2 comments on “Making Spirits Bright

  1. Colleen, It was a pleasure reading about your christmas traditions – Cannot believe the kids are already 6 and 3 years old – totally adorable!! My husband spoke with Marco last week which is always nice! We do not see Christine and Marco as much as we would like, but hopefully 2023 will see that improve (I may retire!) My son is leaving for Torino after the New Year to work remotely for a year. My daughter left Philly last year to move to Seattle – She absolutely loves it there and I think she has found her home! We visited over Thanksgiving and it is truly a remarkable place. So although I miss them terribly I am glad they are happy and healthy! Please give my best to David and the kids and maybe one day we can meet in New York!

    Merry Christmas,
    Laurie & Attilio Valdetara

    • Hi Laurie,

      Happy New Year to you all! Thank you for the kinds words on the post and I’m glad George got to speak with Marco recently. How exciting that your son will get to be working remotely for the next year! Dave and I miss living in Italy a lot and hope to visit more often– the kids already have some great memories from the summer. Seattle is also a great town so I can totally understand why your daughter loves it! Just think of all the amazing places you have to visit now 🙂

      We are hoping to come out to NY this summer, as soon as school gets out, and hopefully we can all get together and have dinner. I would just love to have the kids meet you guys and hear the men speak Italian (we are trying to teach them, but it leaves a little to be desired, ha!)

      Wishing you health and happiness in 2023 and hoping to see you in June!

Comments are closed.