Does your family have special holiday traditons? We asked a few local writers and musicans, as well as our readers, and this is what they told us their traditions are during the holiday season. Please leave a comment and add yours as well, we'd love to hear all the wonderful things New Jersey families are doing this time of year!
1. Anna Prokos, author of The Lucky Cake, celebrates Vasilopita:
"Greek families around the world have an age-old tradition, Vasilopita, when they serve The Lucky Cake on New Year's Day. This special desert cake is served to family members and friends, and the pieces are cut in order from oldest to youngest, and each person hopes to receive the secret coin hidden inside the cake. The lucky recipient of the coin is said to have a very fortunate and amazing new year!" To learn more about this Greek tradition, visit The Lucky Cake website.
2. Doni Zasloff Thomas, a.k.a. Mama Doni, is all about the Chanukah latkes:
“In my family, we LOVE Chanukah . . . and we really love eating latkes! We like to get creative with our latkes . . . we take them to the next level! We make things like broccolatkes, carrot-latkes, banana-latkes, even chocolate chip latkes (we call those choco-latkes!)” You can hear Mama Doni talking more about "Makin' Lotsa Latkes" at MamaDoni.com.
3. Meredith LeVande of Monkey Monkey Music gives back by spreading joy with music:
“Every year during the holidays, I go to Bergen Regional Medical Center, where my mom lives in a long-term residential care unit. I bring the patients healthy cookies and treats on the holidays, and sometimes I bring my guitar and sing to them. Just a simple act of giving and kindness fills the residents with joy.” (You can watch Monkey Monkey Music videos, which are also shown daily on NJTV public television, at MonkeyMonkeyMusic.com.)
From our readers (thank you for sharing your family traditions!)
4. Evelyn: "Before opening the presents on Christmas morning, we have to tell a story about something special the person we are giving the gift to did that year that made us feel good."
5. Trina: "For the first time this year, we have been counting down with a new Christmas-themed book all month. It has been so much fun." You can read more at Countdown to Christmas with Books.
6. Tina: "We love to bake and decorate Christmas cookies!"
7. Traci: "My kids' favorite Christmas tradition is decorating the tree and then stringing popcorn and cranberries for it."
8. Karen: "My daughter loves building a gingerbread house every year!"
9. Denise: "We love doing the Advent Tree. It is a wooden tree with 25 ornaments. You place one ornament per day on the tree until Christmas."
10. Liberty Project: "We purchase our live Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving and decorate it that Sunday. While decorating the tree, we have our favorite music on, and at night, we watch a Christmas movie."
11. Pamela: "Our holiday tradition is "Pierogi Sunday." Our whole family—grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins—get together right before Christmas to make pierogis for our Christmas Eve dinner. This is a 23-year-old tradition and a true treasure!"
12. Terry: "We take a holiday picture with everyone at our house on Christmas day and everyone wears a Santa hat or antlers or some Christmas hat."
13. Virginia: "We go to a tree farm in upstate New York, and cut down our Christmas tree. After we cut the tree, we go tube riding until we're all wet. Then we change into dry clothes, have hot chocolate, and head home."
14. Marianne: "The kids and I decorate the Christmas tree while listening to Christmas music. We talk about where each ornament came from and why it is special or our favorite."
15. GSB: "The kids have their own "kid tree," so they can decorate it anyway they want . . . They use ornaments, homemade drawings, etc. It's very cute."
16. Stefanie: "My child loves to make Mom and Dad breakfast in bed."
17. Older & Wiser: "My kids' favorite holiday tradition is baking a birthday cake for Baby Jesus . . . then we use as many candles as we need to, placing one candle on the cake for each person or group of people we want to send blessings to . . . we light the candles, sing happy birthday, and have the cake as dessert for our Christmas dinner. "
18. Christa: "We love to take drives and see the houses lit up. We always leave out our magic key and cookies for Santa too!"
19. Jennifer: "My kids love to make homemade gingerbread houses."
20. Lauri: "My boys both love watching Christmas movies every night before bed. The favorites are A Year Without a Santa, The Grinch, and Frosty the Snowman."
21. Donna: "We like to drive around and see everyone's Christmas decorations."
For more holiday inspiration, check out our 12 Days of Scrumptious Holiday Cookies, 8 Tasty Hanukkah Treats, and 5 Holiday Attractions You Don't Want to Miss, as well as our Events Calendar for Holiday Happenings.