As you settle in for long winters naps, deck some halls or get out the ol’ Festivus pole, know that we Hallmarkers are also celebrating in so very many different ways. Here are a few of our holiday traditions; what are yours?
A New Year’s Day Party
I hated NYE—always anticlimactic and not fun for a young single person. So I planned a giant New Year’s Day open house. The first year, it snowed like 2 feet, so only my best friends came.
Now, 20-ish years later, it’s a big open house, with rules:
- No making stuff to bring. Guests can only empty their fridges and get rid of stuff they don’t want to keep in the house (half-eaten cakes, 4-packs of beer, open bottles of champagne, etc.)
- No dressing up. Anyone showing up with fancy clothes is sent home to change (for serious).
- Starts at noon, ends at 8 p.m.
- I make a bunch of casseroles
My friends are excellent craft brewers, and they make a keg especially for the party . Past beers: Ermaquerd (Quadrupel Ale) and All-Rye-All-Rye-All-Rye.
– Trish B. / Planner, Creative Marketing Studio
A Family Bowl-Off
Every year my entire family travels to Kansas City for Thanksgiving at my house. That’s 30 people for three days! To get us out of the house for a bit, I hatched the idea of The McLean Family Bowl-Off. We divide into teams and head to the non-intentionally-retro local bowling alley for the afternoon. Part of the fun is coming up with a name for your team. My favorite is The Feisty Badgers.
PS: This activity started as a touch football game. After my brother broke his nose on my husband’s ear in the second quarter of the first game, we decided we needed a non-contact sport.
– Marcia E. / Art Director, Gift Presentation
painting christmas ceramics
Ever since my first daughter was born (now she’s 4), we’ve been going to paint ceramics together at a local ceramics shop. They make great Christmas gifts. She’s now old enough to be really into it. The first year we did handprint keepsakes and plates. Now that she’s bigger, she can make her own gifts for family members. We just got ours back this week; it’s so exciting to see them finished!
– Melissa K. / Art Director, Gift Solutions
making crafty ornaments
When I was a kid, my mom had me make ornaments for my grandmas and aunts every year. Sometimes the ornaments would be made from kits, but the majority of the time they were craft ideas she found in magazines that would involve a bag of pinecones, those tiny wooden wreaths you buy in bulk from hobby stores, and 18 bags of hot glue…naturally.
I have a ton of family, so I was pretty much a Christmas sweatshop for the whole month of December. I’m 31 now, and in recent years I have had family members whip out a “Kim Smitka Christmas Craft, circa 1993” to show me that they’ve held onto them all these years, no matter how ugly they were! However, my 87-year-old grandmother called me last year and told me she had a box full of my childhood crafts that she wanted me to pick up because they didn’t match her “current Christmas décor.” She’s a cold, cruel woman. ; )
– Kim C. / Designer, Gift Solutions
Going nuts on 12/26
This is 12/26, the day after Christmas, when the glow is fading, and the wrapping paper is still sticking to our elbows. We wake up, groggy-eyed, seeking out some leftover ham for breakfast. As soon as our feet hit the cold kitchen floor, nuts (in their SHELLS) hit our tousled heads! Sometimes we don’t even have the luxury of waking up and instead receive the annual nut anointing where we sleep, on the couch or in the guest room.
My grandmother is the worst. She’ll hide behind the refrigerator, and when you emerge to the smell of frying bacon, she’ll lob a few extra prickly hazelnuts at you while cackling “Yassa St. Stephen!” After all, it’s her tradition. She is first-generation American, from Polish parents. Apparently, around Christmas time, St. Stephen was stoned to death. And that is all I know.
“Yassa St. Stephen!” means something like “Long Live St. Stephen.” I don’t know why he was a saint, why we want him to live long, or even why he was stoned to death. I do know that this is my husband’s least favorite holiday or tradition. While he has enjoyed marrying into the Hallmark life, he could do without this particular custom. He uses it as an example of our family’s competitive nature.
Before he became jaded and cynical, he tried to play along by rigging up a door-activated, nut-dropping mechanism to automatically dispense the shelled shrapnel onto our beans when we emerged in the morning. But we all complained that he was breaking the rules: He wasn’t tossing the nuts. He wasn’t even awake yet. He couldn’t mimic stoning with booby traps. I don’t know why he thinks that we are so competitive…
– Jennifer G. / Manager, Exploration & Discovery
cooking old family recipes
My mom is from Ireland. She lives in New York and spends part of the year in Ireland, too. We are very close with our family in Ireland; she was the only one of seven siblings who moved here. I am lucky to have traveled back and forth there my entire life, and it has been filled with great memories, traditions and recipes. A relative (or two or three) always comes here for Thanksgiving. It’s been a tradition for over 20 years—flights are cheap! My Aunt Marion, my mom’s sister, is coming this year, and we are all meeting up at my sister’s in North Carolina. We have a tradition of making Christmas pudding during this time. Usually when Aunt Marion comes—she has the ancient family recipe in her head—is when we make it…and that’s most years.
– Marcella R. / Designer, Packaging
I dig out the krumkake maker and rosette irons that were passed down to me from my Great Aunt Arlene and make her favorite Norwegian treats to share with our family. It’s my favorite way to keep her memory alive and have it feel like she’s with us for the holiday season. I’ll try to include a friend or family member who has never made them to be my helper, so I get to teach someone else her secrets, too.
We eat other amazing Scandinavian treats, too: creamed herring that we get from our local butcher, Charlie, back in my Minnesota hometown, and Mrs. Olson’s lefse. Trust me, my family has tasted every brand on the market, and this is the stuff! It’s best piled high with butter and brown sugar, then rolled up and heated in the microwave for 10 seconds.
– Alison M. / Marketer, Hallmark Home department
filling the calendar with fun
Each year we make a BIG, 25-day, countdown-to-Christmas calendar for our kitchen wall. We fill it with all kinds of activities that we will do during the 25 days, such as:
- Buy and decorate our tree
- Drive around at night and look at Christmas lights
- Make popcorn and watch a Christmas movie
- Drink hot cocoa and play a game as a family
- Eat dinner by candlelight and listen to Christmas music.
- Decorate a Christmas ornament for the tree
- Make cookies and deliver to neighbors
This year, we made little flat paper ornaments, on which we wrote our activities then stuck them on the different days. This way things could be moved around, if need be. This calendar is a highlight of the season for us; my daughter loves checking the calendar to see when our next fun thing is!
– Laura E. / Designer, Retail Giftbooks
What are your favorite holiday traditions? For more ideas, check out Hallmark.com Ideas.