The holidays mean different things to different people.
For me, the holidays are about family, food, and tradition. The smells, tastes, and decorations bring memories flooding back. The things I once did as a child and now do with my son are what keep tradition alive.
Our Thanksgiving menu always consists of the same items: turkey, glazed ham with pineapple and cherries, sausage stuffing, sweet potato casserole, apple-cheddar biscuits, cranberry mold and string bean casserole. Click here for some of these delicious recipes.
That was the menu when I was a kid and it still is now, with a few minor adjustments. Once we welcomed my husband into the family, we added canned cranberry sauce and fresh rolls to the spread – he makes a turkey sandwich at the dinner table.
For dessert, pumpkin and blueberry pie are a must. Any other additions are welcome but not necessary. I always watched the Thanksgiving Day Parade in my pajamas with my mom. Now my son and I cuddle up to do the same.
Dinner is always at 3:00 – allowing time for digestion, naps and second helpings.
Thanksgiving day isn’t complete without a pumpkin spice candle burning. I remember smelling it when I woke on Thanksgiving morning – pumpkin spice mixed with fumes from the wood burning stove and old-fashioned cinnamon rolls baking in the oven. Mom’s recipe is a twist on this classic one.
My brother and I used to fight over the bun with the most icing. I usually won.
Christmas comes with its own set of traditions, smells, and feelings.
My house is filled with my mother’s decorations – the ones I cherished as a kid. A felt Santa face with yarn for a beard and black button eyes hangs on my front door. A ceramic Christmas tree with colored lights and white painted snow sits in my front window – made by my great-aunt.
My bedroom doorstop is a snowman made from a sock and some rice. It was a gift from my grandmother’s line dancing partner.
Christmas Eve is the main event in our household. This tradition was brought by my husband, but my childhood still peeks through. We don’t make a Christmas Eve dinner, but instead, a never-ending snack session!
The menu changes but some basic items that make Christmas Eve what it is, include a spinach dip bread bowl, stromboli, fresh mozzarella and tomato and chili dip. If you’re dying to try the chili dip, click here!
The kids use the “Tracking Santa” app to see what part of the world he’s in and when he’s expected to arrive in our neck of the woods. Their wonder and excitement are contagious.
One of my favorite parts of Christmas Eve is spreading the reindeer food outside. A mix of oats and glitter – oats are the reindeer’s food, but the glitter is what gives the food its magic. Click here if you want to start the tradition with your family.
My mom tells the story that the reindeer can see the glitter from the sky. She explains that when Santa is inside taking care of business, the reindeer eat the oats and the glitter gives them the energy to fly.
The kids love the story and they feverishly spread the mixture all across the lawn. We all bundle up and head outside for the event. Sometimes, we get lucky and a few flurries will fall.
We were always allowed to open one gift on Christmas Eve, so we continue that tradition as well. Each child chooses one gift from under the tree and opens them at the same time. I love to watch their excitement as they tear through the wrapping paper.
Christmas morning is special for my family. My mom makes a french toast casserole with Italian bread, cinnamon, sugar, and eggs. It soaks overnight and bakes up crispy in the morning.
My mom has never missed a single one of my son’s Christmas morning moments. My parents only live 3 miles from my home so every Christmas morning around 6:00 a.m. they bundle-up and head over. Both the yule log and coffee are on when they arrive.
We wait and relish in the moment my son rounds the corner and his face lights up when he sets eyes on the tree.
Christmas Day means pajamas, assembling gifts and watching 24 hours of a Christmas Story. We have dinner at my brother’s house. My sister-in-law is an amazing cook. She always has the most delicious appetizers – stuffed artichokes, cheese and nut dip and deviled eggs. Here’s my favorite deviled egg recipe!
Dinner is usually pot roast, mashed potatoes, and glazed carrots. Her cupcakes and homemade icing are my favorites, only second to her strawberry cheesecake fat bombs – I suggest you learn more about those!
The evening ends with peppermint tea and a gathering in the living room where we all share our favorite gifts.
I love how smells, tastes, and traditions make each holiday complete. I anticipate the wonder of my son, the coziness of snow days and the warmth of the oven and my family’s love.
Bring on the holiday season – I’m ready!