Elena: Nutcracker! Definitely!
Growing up in the Soviet Union, the gift giving was… well… not a big part of our lives. Except for the one special gift I got from my father every single year – tickets to see the ballet at the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow. A lot of times it would be their production of the Nutcracker. This is what made this the most magical and most anticipated time of the year for me. Years later, even in my all-boy environment, I have kept this tradition alive and my men gladly join me whenever we manage to get the tickets in time. This year will be even more special – Moscow ballet is touring and I will be once again swept away by the Snowflake dance. Watch the Snowflake dance here.
Felicity: Mince Pie
My favorite holiday tradition is making mince pies. You can find my favorite recipe here, although I roll out the pastry rather than using the method described. I’ve also discovered you can buy mincemeat and lots of international holiday food at World Market.
Marlies: Oliebollen and Appelflappen
Ah, “tis the season”! Growing up in The Netherlands, we would usually celebrate Christmas Eve, with the unwrapping of the presents. As a child, I always wanted to wait till 12am…of course everyone was half asleep by then, and dad was getting frustrated, but in the end it was a lot of fun. Christmas Day was usually celebrated at my grandparents’ house during the day and in the evening we had a big dinner. Second Christmas (or Tweede Kerstdag, Boxing day in Canada) in the Netherlands was the so-called “uitbuik dag”. We would be so full with goodies from the day before that this day was for eating leftoovers and watching movies or going for a long walk.
Two of my favorite things to eat as part of the New Year’s tradition are “oliebollen” (dough balls, similar to doughnuts) and “appelflappen” (apple slices dipped in sweet batter and deep fried), wherever you would go there would be a bowl of oliebollen with or without raisins and appelflappen. We would also watch a comedy show by a famous Dutch comedian and when the clock hit midnight… people in the neighborhood would go outside to wish everyone a Happy New Year, kiss, and some people would have fireworks as well. There is a link to the oliebollen recipe here.
Fijne feestdagen everyone!
Carol: Christmas Cantata
We attend a local concert featuring the Christmas cantata by Frederick Handel, “The Messiah”, which ends with the famous Hallelujah Chorus. It’s very festive and reminds us of the true meaning of Christmas at a time of year when we can get so distracted with other things.
Roopa: T’was the Night Before Christmas
We have a couple of traditions! One is for the four of us to sit by the Christmas tree and read “Twas the Night Before Christmas” together on Christmas Eve. We take turns with reading the lines! It’s a carryover from our kids’ much younger days, but they still like it! A nice hot chocolate helps.
Another tradition is to attend a Christmas Day Catholic Mass at the beautiful Stanford Memorial Church with some of our oldest friends here, and then have lunch together.
Norman: White elephant gift exchange
Our family has a “white elephant” gift exchange. Everyone brings a gift, not designed for anyone in particular. We set a very low price limit of $20, or just something from home. It doesn’t have to be of any use at all. Along with the gift, each person writes a poem that kind of explains the gift. Lots are cast, and people choose gifts from the pile and read the poems. A catch is that if you like a gift someone else has opened, you may take that gift instead of opening a new one. This tradition makes for a lot of fun for the whole family, it’s cheap and gets us away from the commercialization of this time of year.
Desiree: Advent candles and calendars
We have several holiday traditions, but here are our four favorite ones:
- The kids putting out very well cleaned shoes/boots the night before St. Niclas day (Dec. 6th). Hopefully, if they have been good, St. Niclas will fill their footwear with candy and chocolates. Amazingly, St. Niclas has been coming every year so far…
- We light a candle on an advent wreath every Sunday before Christmas
- The kids have an advent “calendar”, which has 24 little wrapped presents, knotted to a garland and put around the door frames of their rooms. A bit of work for mom, collecting 72 items throughout the year and wrapping them all up in a frenzy, usually on November 30th, but worth it!
- We host a “Decorate a Ginger House”- party every year. This creates a lot of fun, a great photo opportunity and a super sticky floor afterwards!
Felicia: Baking Lussekatter with my kids
My favorite tradition is to bake Lussekatter with my kids. Lussekatter are saffron buns made in S- shapes (traditionally, but not necessarily) of various kinds. I love the way it makes the house smell of melted butter and saffron, I love working the dough with my kids, and seeing what shapes they are going to make. I love how we have some time to chat while baking and how we put on random Christmas songs to get us in the holiday spirit. It takes a few hours from start to finish to make these buns, and it is a little bit messy. However, it is very much worth the work and the time — not only do they smell and look good; they are also delicious. Here is a recipe for Lussekatter.