This year, we’ve shared our stories as moms, dads, grandmas, and [adult] children . Just like you, we have families at home that provide us with love and laughs, especially during the holidays. This time of year is cheerful and a time to create beautiful memories that will last a lifetime. As this year comes to a close, we’d like to share with you our fondest memories of the holidays from our different traditions to our silliest stories.
We’re Moms Too: Tena’s Christmas Story
Growing up, my maternal grandparents lived next door and my paternal grandparents lived about one mile away. We would wait to open Christmas gifts until both sets of grandmas and g randpas arrived. The wait was agonizing! After opening gifts, we’d indulge in some left over cookies that Santa didn’t have room for in his belly. From there, we’d go over to my gog and pop’s house (maternal grandparents and neighbors) for Christmas breakfast, come home and nap, and then head over to my other grandparent’s house for Christmas dinner.
Tena at age 2
Our son is 2½ and this will be the first Christmas he is healthy enough for us to spend it with our family. We feel so blessed this year to be able to hang out with our family for the holiday. My parents live 45 minutes away and my hubby’s live a few hours away. Instead of waking up and waiting for them like I had to do as a child, we intend on setting the computer up the night before so we can Skype them in to enable them to be a part of the Christmas morning magic. Later in the morning, we’ll head to my parents house to carry on the Christmas morning breakfast tradition. We’ve lost most of my grandparent’s in the last ten years with the exception of my paternal grandma and we will still go to her house for Christmas dinner.
Tena’s son with the Chrismas tree
It is amazing how technology has enabled us to keep some traditions alive regardless of distance, health or inclement weather. Though our living situations are different, many of our holiday celebrations will be carried on. One more tradition that my gog did with me that I intend on continuing with my son is to sing, “Happy Birthday” to the Baby Jesus in the nativity scene. Though I consider myself more spiritual than religious, this tradition is an important reminder that the day is not just about food and gifts, but about love and family.
We’re Kids Too: Nicole’s Hanukkah Story
When I was a little girl, my favorite time of the year was Hanukkah. I loved the aroma of the latkes as they would fry on the stove top, the boiling of the matza ball and the brisket cooking in the slow cooker. My mom and I always celebrated the first night of Hanukkah at my bubbie and poppy’s (grandmother and grandfather) house. My family would recite the prayers, light the candles on the menorah, eat our delicious meal and finish with the delicious Polish dessert called mandel brate. The following seven nights we would recite the prayers to light the candles. After we were done lighting the candles, I would open one present. Nothing was more exciting than being given presents for eight straight days!
Nicole at age 2 (on the left) and age 6 (on the right)
My grandparents passed away when I was in my teens and not a holiday season goes by that I do not miss our traditional Hanukkah celebration. However, over the years my mom and I have put our own twist on the traditional holiday festivities.
Over the years we have included my friends at our holiday feast and decorated a beautiful tree with Jewish stars and lights that we call our Hanukkah bush. For the past two years, we have made some more changes to our tradition by spending Hanukkah with my boyfriend’s family. We still eat the same food and perform the same rituals on the first night of Hanukkah, just like we did when I was a little girl.
It makes me happy to know that in many ways we still carry on the traditions that my Bubbie and Poppy once celebrated, putting our own spin on this holiday which will allow us to pass on our new customs to my children someday. I know my grandparents would be proud of how we observe Hanukkah because we celebrate this holiday with a wonderful family that is just like ours. One tradition that has remained, and always will, is the raising of our glasses to say, “l’chaim,” which means “to life” in Hebrew. So, l’chaim, to a life of love, peace and joy to you and your family not only during the holidays but also every day of the year!
We’re Kids Too: Michael’s Christmas Story
I remember that when I young, Christmas Day was the greatest holiday of the year. My parents would always go to great lengths to convince us that Santa had landed on the roof the previous night, bombarding our family room with the gifts we had wished for all year. Sometimes this got a little ridiculous. One example that comes to my mind is the year my sister secretly climbed onto the roof on Christmas eve (NOT advisable for any seven- year-old to do) and placed all the green apples from our kitchen in different locations above the drainage spout on the far side of our house. During lunch, she cheerfully revealed what she had done, absolutely horrifying my mom.
Michael at 4 months old
The next morning on Christmas Day, my sister woke us all up at 8am sharp, exuberantly shouting that Comet, her favorite reindeer, had landed on the roof and ate her apples! To this day I don’t know how my dad managed to get onto our roof without us or the neighbors hearing him and calling the police. I can imagine him sitting up there in the freezing cold, in the middle of night, taking large bites out of each individual apple. He risked his safety simply to convince my sister that Santa’s reindeer were grateful for her gift and watching over her fondly during this magical holiday. To this day, it still boggles my mind.
Michael (age 6) and his sister (age 4)
We’re Moms Too: Ashley’s Holiday Story
My mother saves everything, and I’m lucky that’s so. My dad suddenly passed away 4 Christmases ago and it’s been difficult celebrating the holidays these past few years. Last year was the most joyous since his passing, as we celebrated my daughter’s first Christmas. While over at my mom’s house a few months before Christmas 2012, I was in the basement in search of my old toys to give to my daughter (some still in their original boxes!). While searching, I found the black patent leather purse my dad gave me for my first Christmas in 1985.
Ashley at 4 months old (on the left) and her daughter at 4 months old (on the right)
Tears instantly welled in my eyes. I knew at that moment that my dad was smiling down on me and giving my daughter that very same purse. On Christmas Eve, my husband and I gave it to my daughter. It now sits on my daughter’s bookshelf as a reminder that Grandpa is there watching over her. Every time I pass by it, I smile. I hope that one day my daughter will pass it down yet again on another first Christmas.
We’re Moms Too: Meghan, Irish by Day, Slovenian by Holiday
I grew up with an Irish identity. I’m sure the McConville name had something to do with it, along with the fact that my dad came from a family of 4 boys, all of whom had 6 kids (except my family) and although scattered throughout New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio—when you put us all in a room together we look like the cast of Angela’s Ashes.
My mom, who I am said to resemble exactly except for the red hair and freckles, is 100% Slovenian. That means that our holidays, especially Thanksgiving and Christmas, had nothing to do with being Irish and everything to do with being Slovenian. To us, that meant particular hearty food—including a stuffed dumpling called Žlikrofi, a nutty bread called potica and a special noodle soup that kicks off the Thanksgiving meal. The most memorable thing about our Thanksgiving meal was that we had it twice. That’s right – Thanksgiving started at noon and ended at midnight. All the Slovenian cousins, aunts and uncles packed together in someone’s dining room or basement to eat this sacred meal, served on china. You’d wonder how you could possibly eat a hearty meal at 2:00pm and then be anxious for seconds at 9:00pm, but I oddly enough, we always were. The leftovers would go back in the oven, the china would come back out and we sat together once again.
During the in-between time of the two dinners, we would play cards, tell stories, sometimes argue, and always play the accordion. My grandfather, Louis, his brother in-law (also named Louis) and his son, Little Louie played the accordion while my great Aunt Mary played the base.
Meghan’s Grandpa Louis playing the accordion in the corner
It was truly a wonderful way to spend 12 hours. I always hated to go home. We’d explore every corner and closet of my aunt’s home, looking through old photo albums and digging in boxes of treasures in the attic. Often my brother and I would fall asleep curled up someplace and my parents would carry us to the car, well fed and well loved by all the Slovenian relatives.
Meghan’s Great Uncle Louie and son Louis on the accordions with Great Aunt Mary (Mitzi) on the washer drum
Most of the older generations of aunts and uncles aren’t around anymore and both my grandparents have passed away in recent years. However, my Mom keeps the tradition alive and hosts all 30 of the new crop of diluted Slovenians at her house. The accordions have been replaced by a guitar that my cousin Matt pulls out, on occasion. Also, the kids put on a play, romp in the snow and get lost in the house, creating memories just like I did.
As for me, I hope I can carry on the tradition that my aunts and uncles, and now Mom embrace with a great meal and lots of togetherness. I want my girls to eat in the memories of a Thanksgiving Day that doesn’t end until the next day. For a kid, there is nothing better.
Meghan’s daughters with her cousin (from the Slovenian clan), at her Christmas Eve party
Happy Holidays from our families to yours!
About the authors:
Tena and her best friend (and hubby) had their first child in July, 2011. Their little guy has a congenital heart defect and he is one tough little cookie; don’t ever think about calling him sick though – “his plumbing is just different.” Tena is an animal loving vegetarian and is excited to teach her son about compassion and the importance of volunteer work. She secretly hopes her son will be left handed like his momma. She is the Online Marketing Director for Step2.
Nicole is a DIY advocate (thanks to Pinterest) and amateur chef (also thanks to Pinterest). Still taking life one step at a time after graduating almost a year ago, she loves receiving advice about life from her mother, who is her best friend. She is a lover of all things Cleveland and loves going to the new restaurants and attractions around town. Nicole is the Internet Marketing Specialist at Step2.
Michael is a fun-loving recent graduate of Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling the world, keeping active, the internet, and keeping in touch with family and friends. Michael is a seasonal customer service rep for Step2 Direct.
Ashley is a self-proclaimed fashionista, social media maven, and proud new mama. Together with her husband, they welcomed their first child last August. They also have a fur-baby named Peak, an 80-lb. yellow lab whom they adopted during a ski trip in Denver. She is the Social Media Manager at Step2 and you may have recently communicated with her if you’ve chatted with Step2 on Facebook or Twitter.
Meghan is the Communication and Licensing Director at Step2. Meghan is a mom to three little girls, all under the age of 5, who are best friends and worst enemies at the same time. Meghan, married to her husband of 8 years, loves to travel, try new foods, and has recently become a big fan of Downtown Abby. It’s a real treat when she and husband get a babysitter and over-order at their favorite sushi restaurant.