With the holiday season upon us, it’s always fun to reflect on what makes this time of year special. We asked the Children’s Institute staff what were their favorite holiday traditions growing up, and as an adult what do they look forward to. There are a few clear themes, the stuff we always think about at Christmas, yummy treats and presents. It’s also clear that as we get older, but even as children, we appreciate this time of year for the chance we get to see our loved ones and enjoy spending time with each other.
“My mother is Pennsylvania Dutch. Her ancestors were Mennonites (slightly more liberal than the Amish). Although money was always tight in our house at Christmastime my mother baked about 15 different kinds of cookies, dozens and dozens of batches. There were some that I’ve never encountered elsewhere, like the paper-thin sand tarts and molasses krimpets. She would make up cookie tins to give as gifts to anyone who visited over the holidays. My father’s in his 90’s now and my mother’s in her late 80’s. They still bake Christmas cookies but not quite as many. And now they have gluten-free cookies for my brother who has Celiac disease, so times do change. The cookie-baking gene was not inherited by me although my brother (the one with Celiac) is an excellent baker!” – Marji, Senior Project Coordinator
“My favorite tradition at the holidays was lighting (and blowing out!) the advent candles at dinner every night.” – Linda, Project Coordinator
“My favorite tradition was getting up and finding a small present by my bedroom door because it meant Santa had brought our tree during the night. It was great to go downstairs and find it all lit up and decorated. We continued this tradition with our son and I believe he will carry it on also.” – Kim, Early Care and Education Specialist
“When I was a child, the youngest of 5, each year for the holidays my parents gave us pajamas, socks, a toothbrush, and a book. As my husband and I raised our 4, we repeated the tradition of giving pjs and socks. Now that our children are adults, we still give them socks, and for the grandbabies, pjs, socks, and a book. In reflecting on this tradition, the socks are a huge hit; our kids and grandkids expect them, and we enjoy seeing them covering feet all year long. Also, we enjoy searching out fun, warm, comfy socks that we give during the holidays—and now, our kids give us socks!” - Ellen, Social, Emotional and Behavioral Consultant
“As a child, I counted and gloated over the number of holiday presents I received. Now, I am humbled by the number of contributions we can make to the education of girls around the world.” – Anonymous
“My favorite tradition was and still is the variety of cookies. For my family, cookies are a holiday-only treat, especially decorated cut-out cookies. These aren’t relegated only to Christmas (we make Halloween, Easter, and even Labor Day decorated cut-out cookies) but Christmas time did always have the greatest variety of different types of cookies. My grandmother always spent hours and hours baking, decorating and packaging these treats. She has gotten to the point where she can’t really take on all that work anymore, so I have started baking all these different cookies for our various households – and even extending them to my friends’ homes as well. I’ve realized it isn’t just about a treat at a holiday, but a tasty and pretty way to show love and affection throughout special days of the year.” – Caitlin, Project Coordinator
“Coming together with the larger family each year at the same place, with the same foods, routines and traditions. As family members move away from the nest and some have left this world, it has become more difficult to replicate this. Instead we try to accomplish this at a much smaller scale and reflect on the memories we’ve shared over the year.” – Anonymous
“Sauerbraten for Christmas Eve dinner – same today” – Anonymous
“We had lots of traditions at our house but one was an all-day event baking and decorating cut-out cookies with my mom and sister plus some of our neighborhood friends – what a sugar high!” - Cindy H., Senior Development Manager
"Reading the Night Before Christmas on Christmas Eve was always so special to me. It felt like such a warm and cozy part of the evening and I remember feeling so excited. Today, we have a stack of our favorite Christmas books, including the Grinch and the Night Before Christmas that we take out at the beginning of December. We read them through the month even as out kids have gotten older. But we always save the Night Before Christmas until Christmas Eve and read that as a family before we hang our stockings and go to bed." - Elizabeth, Director of SEL Center / Research Associate
From all of us at Children’s Institute, Happy Holidays!