‘Tis the Season for Tradition: Celebrating the Family Customs that Define the Holidays


I don’t recall a time when I wasn’t completely captivated by the magic of the holiday season. Each year ceremoniously earlier than the last, I’d convince my family to decorate the house for Christmas, fueled entirely by the first of many batches of shortbread cookies to leave our kitchen. We’d decorate the tree while listening to Bruce Springsteen’s rendition of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”—a song we would inevitably play 100 times before Christmas Eve arrived. The same ritual continues today, even in adulthood.

The truth is, I never paid much thought to holiday traditions (nor did I consider my zest for decorating to be considered as such). But it’s these personal touches that ultimately make Christmas feel like Christmas.

The holidays have been steeped in tradition for centuries, from the story of Santa Claus and his eight reindeer, to the lighting of the menorah. But family traditions are what help us establish a personal relationship with the holidays and form a connection from one generation to another. For example, some choose to open one present on Christmas Eve in anticipation of the morning’s haul, whereas others opt for matching pajamas for the entire family. Other traditions are more food oriented—like freshly baked cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning, or a traditional seafood meal before midnight mass on Christmas Eve.

Whether you’re in search of a new holiday tradition to start with your family, or you hope to evolve yours further, here are some festive ideas from your fellow community members:
Yearly Christmas Tree Ornaments: Here’s a beautiful idea for those with growing families—each year, buy a new tree ornament for your child and mark the year on the back. Not only will you enjoy reminiscing over each ornament as you decorate the tree, your kids will eventually have a tree full of childhood memories to cherish.

Ice Skating and Hot Chocolate at Riverwalk Commons: Every year, Newmarket’s Riverwalk Commons is lit up with a beautiful light display, complete with an ice lounge and outdoor skating rink. Many families have made it tradition to spend winter nights skating and drinking hot chocolate from one of the many cafes on Main Street.

The Lucky Christmas Pickle: This strange tradition is kind of a big “dill” for those of German descent. Tradition would have it that you hide a pickle within the branches of your Christmas tree. The person who finds it is not only rewarded with a special present, but is said to be gifted with good luck for the rest of the year. Nowadays, most people who practice this tradition buy an artificial gherkin—but we’ll leave the details to your discretion.

Enjoy a Moonlit Santa Claus Parade: The holiday season isn’t complete without attending a Santa Claus Parade. But Aurora’s magical “Santa Under the Stars Parade” is not to be missed. This nighttime parade is made all the more magical with light-up floats and a twinkling visit from the jolly man-in-red himself. (Sat. Nov. 24th, 6—8 p.m.)

Cut Your Own Christmas Tree: For those who still love the smell of a fresh tree, the act of going out and cutting down your own tree is a beloved family tradition for many. Luckily, there are a number of tree farms around the Newmarket/Aurora area to choose from.

Welcome a Visit from Someone Other Than Santa: A bit of a variation on the traditional Christmas stocking, some families leave their shoes outside their doors on the eve of St. Nicholas Day (Dec. 6th) for him to fill with treats. According to Italian tradition, kids must wait for La Befana—commonly depicted as an ugly old woman wearing a witch’s hat and riding a broom—to come fill their stockings on January 6th.

No matter how you choose to celebrate the holidays this year, take the time to cherish the things that make the holidays truly feel like home.

by Nicole Bogart


Local Links

Riverwalk Commons.

Santa Under the Stars Parade, Aurora


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