60 Comments
author

This is very tiny but we have Nutella Fridays. I don’t remember how it started—maybe I just wanted to put some structure around our Nutella usage. But it’s like morning happy hour, a way of saying it’s the freakin’ weekend, baby.

Expand full comment

We do The Heaving of the Gourds every Thanksgiving. It’s where we collect all our decorative gourds outside from Halloween and heave them into the woods behind our house to decompose. The little kids do the tiny ones and we do the big ones. Cathartic for everyone, can be performed drunk or sober.

Expand full comment
Dec 14, 2021Liked by Claire Zulkey

I found another family who are willing to be as ridiculous as I am around the holidays, and we have doubled down. Last year, we started "Christmas Camp." We got a place in the mountains (hot tub required) and we do all the things I always wanted to do, but never seemed to have time in the "before times." Gingerbread houses, handmade tree decorations, puzzles, watching every single bad xmas movie, etc. Last year, we tie dyed sweatshirts and had a kitchen dance party to pre-approved holiday pop jams. This year, we are going snow tubing. Next year, we are thinking of doing Christmas Camp in NYC. My kids LOVE this, but that's just a bonus, because it's really for me.

Expand full comment
Dec 14, 2021Liked by Claire Zulkey

I got a nativity set from my Grandma, but we're not religious and the cats kept knocking the figures down. A couple of years ago we got a Marvel figurine advent calendar and started putting the figurines in the empty manger as they came out. We'd take turns setting up a scene with the figures and change it up all the time. Then we added a Christmas tree and Santa brought an ornament for the Marvel characters for Christmas that year. Now we do it every year. It's our version of elf on the shelf, but way less creepy and more interactive as the kids can set up scenes too. And we just put the figures randomly back in the advent calendar for next year.

Expand full comment
Dec 14, 2021Liked by Claire Zulkey

With no one believing in Santa any more, this year we started "shop for your sibling's stocking" and it is the freaking best. I take them, and they actually show some compassion and thought and love toward their sibling (which doesn't happen in real life for us). I think I bought more for their stockings than normal, but it was so fun to do it all secretive.

Also we do Cereal for Dinner or Waffles or Dutch Baby Pancakes. All 3 are easy (obviously cereal is the easiest), but it just is so nice to have one night where I am not begging my daughter to eat.

Expand full comment

My son gets to stay home from school and play video games all day in his underwear on his birthday

Expand full comment
Dec 14, 2021Liked by Claire Zulkey

My husband's job (firefighter) has an atypical schedule, so his days off around Christmas vary each year. My side of the family, five hours away, has embraced "Joemas" which basically takes the closest weekend to Christmas and turns it into our celebration. It allows everyone to do Christmas proper on their own terms in their house, and by the time we travel down for Joemas, it's purely fun and games. I'm very grateful for a family, specifically a mother, who isn't clutching her pearls because we're not there for church on the 24th and a ham dinner on the 25th.

Expand full comment
Dec 14, 2021Liked by Claire Zulkey

We get doughnuts on New Year's day, to balance out all the folks starting new Year's resolutions about not eating doughnuts. Tough to keep going when we were living in a doughnut desert (actually had to make them ourselves once or twice) but we're back in a quality doughnut zone this year

Expand full comment
Dec 14, 2021Liked by Claire Zulkey

I realized that Thanksgiving is my favourite holiday, but I don't like to spend it with my family. So I host a Friendsgiving dinner where I joyfully cook all of the food, take time off work to bake, and invite my friends to just show up. It's usually the day after their family meals, with no expectation of making anything or dressing up. it's always low key and relaxing and it makes me feel so loved. It's my way of thanking my friends for being my chosen family. Last year's COVID edition meal was outdoors across three tables and we broke a patio heater from overuse and still, it was perfect!

Expand full comment

Pizza picnics! This started when my husband had to start travelling for work again; on Friday nights when he was away, I'd order a pizza at like 5 pm on the dot, and my toddler and I would sit on the living room floor and have our pizza picnic while watching a film of his choice (Cars 3 for the five billionth time, usually). Now we have pizza picnics about once a month, with all three of us sharing in the fun (while watching Cars 3... again).

Expand full comment
Dec 14, 2021Liked by Claire Zulkey

We have birthday cereal... the kid gets to pick any box of cereal they want. It started when my daughter was little and *needed* some sugar bomb cereal while at the store. I told her she could have it for her birthday (six months later). Now, each kid gets their box and I decorate it (even if it's just a stick-on bow) and it makes everyone happy.

Expand full comment
Dec 14, 2021Liked by Claire Zulkey

We started a family tradition of breakfast in bed on your birthday, starting as young as 2yo. Our kids look forward to this all year: they get a breakfast tray with a soft boiled egg, pastry, fruit salad, hot chocolate, and of course a muffin with a candle in it, brought straight to their bed with the rest of the family singing happy birthday in chorus. Starts the birthday celebrations off on the right foot!

Expand full comment
Dec 14, 2021Liked by Claire Zulkey

We do something called Choose Your Own Adventure Dinner - we'll all ransack the freezer/fridge, or if we're feeling REALLY kicky, go to the grocery store, and everyone picks out a frozen/prepared dish they want. You can share, you can keep it all for yourself, you can eat pizza for the 400th time - YOUR adventure!

Expand full comment
Dec 14, 2021Liked by Claire Zulkey

We inherited these somewhat creepy baseball-sized, fabric, disembodied heads of Santa and Mrs. Claus out of my parents decoration stash, and my partner and I take turns hiding it for the other to find. It makes us laugh super hard and is our low budget version of adult elf on the shelf, but without magic/lies or expectations if the other doesn’t find it for a few days.

Expand full comment
Dec 14, 2021Liked by Claire Zulkey

I invented Christmas Christmas, on December 26 each year. When my parents got divorced it became impossible to fit all of Christmas in on the 25th. And that’s even more true now with in-laws and kids… so on the 26th we sing “We wish you a merry Christmas Christmas” and basically stay joyful but also remove all the burdens and expectations from Christmas Day. See people you love, open more presents, eat whatever, relax. It’s Christmas Christmas!

Expand full comment
Dec 14, 2021Liked by Claire Zulkey

My kid wanted to open a present on xmas eve (beyond the traditional pyjamas, which is what I grew up with). He begged to be allowed to at least open "the smallest gift." Now it's a tradition that I get him something stupid but small! Mini magic 8 ball, moustache wax, you name it...

Expand full comment
Dec 14, 2021Liked by Claire Zulkey

Also, my husband will sometimes institute cocktail hour on Friday nights. Our 10 year-old loves it; his dad makes him a "special drink," we get out some snacks and drink while making dinner. It's primarily a summer activity, but it makes a good winter pick-me-up, too.

Expand full comment
Dec 14, 2021Liked by Claire Zulkey

When I was a kid, my mom started celebrating the first day of December. It was her way of bringing a little joy into a bleak time (with both of her parents gone, the holidays always made her sad). Gifts are exchanged for Merry December, but nothing big -- just something to kick off the season. When I was a kid, I would have a friend spend the night and she would give us matching nightgowns. In college, she sent Christmas lights for my dorm room and the *NSYNC Christmas CD (still my fave). This year she got me a fat little bird in winter clothing from Target to go with all my other fat little birds in clothing from Target. My gift to her was all of us going out to see Christmas lights. This year, I extended the tradition to about 15 women I dearly love, some best friends, other whom I'm just getting to know. I gave them all some locally made candles and a little note. Making those deliveries is going to be my happiest memory from this year.

Expand full comment
Dec 15, 2021Liked by Claire Zulkey

We celebrate the feast of St Nicholas (6 December) with big slow-roast pork dinner. I started this (with my catholic roots) because I wanted to explain to my kids that 'santa' is based on a real person who did nice things (I'm not anti-santa per say, just not super pro this holiday tradition foisted upon parents). It's evolved over the years, and for me is more of the Christmas I want than actual Christmas day because: no gift giving, no family members you don't want to have to see, no kids crying from high expectations, no burn out from too much build-up-to-christmas. Just good food served on fancy plates.

Expand full comment
Dec 15, 2021Liked by Claire Zulkey

We have a traditional Japanese Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve, by which I mean KFC. I’m serious. Somehow some wires got crossed during the occupation of Japan and the Japanese thought chicken and not turkey was the traditional American Christmas meal, and then in the 1970s Colonel Sanders took it and ran with it there, so even though only like 2% of Japanese are Christians, they celebrate Christmas in a big, bizarre way and they all get KFC. We found this out while there on our honeymoon Christmas 2014, decided “when in Rome,” and WERE GIVEN A STANDING OVATION AND SHOUTS OF “AMERICANS! MERRY CHRISTMAS!” from extremely chipper Kyoto KFC employees dressed like elves. We were also pointed at and wished “MERRY CHRISTMAS!” by many people as we carried our bucket of chicken back through the thousands of people in Kyoto Station (we were the only non-Japanese in the crowd).

“You realize we are enforcing an entirely incorrect stereotype of Americans, right?” my amused husband asked.

Yes, but it’s a charming one, so we went with it. And decided then and there to do it every year, even while back in the States (we returned to Japan for Christmas 2019).

KFC of course isn’t open here on Christmas Day, which is why we do it on Christmas Eve when we’re here.

Expand full comment
Dec 14, 2021Liked by Claire Zulkey

Years ago, friends were in town for NYE and the next day we realized we had not at all planned for the fact that most/all restaurants would be closed on New Year's Day. So I started a tradition of having a crockpot full of chili and fixings for grilled cheese ready by lunch and available for kind of all-day grazing. I don't leave the house and stay in pajamas all day. (It should be noted that after the year that instigated this tradition, I don't think we've ever had friends in town the day after NYE!) And I know it's supposed to be black-eyed peas, but we prefer chili!

Expand full comment
Dec 14, 2021Liked by Claire Zulkey

My kids are very small so I'm in the process of stealing all the traditions I can get. A favorite new one is from my friend Kathleen, who saves all the christmas cards they receive and folds and cuts them into hearts to make Valentines Day decorations. The kids can help, its easy, its a nice re-use, and at Valentines Day you get to look at all your friends' families faces again. And then you pitch it all and you don't feel guilty or weird!

Expand full comment