Staff Picks: Holiday Traditions

“Every year around my sister and brother-in-law’s anniversary, we invite my niece and nephew over for a Holiday sleepover. We spend the afternoon building gingerbread houses, decorating our tree and then driving through the Girl Scouts Holiday Light Show. Christmas music plays all day long and it’s a really magical way to spend the day. The next morning, my husband and I whip up pancakes and bacon for the kids and let them decorate their meal with fresh whipped cream, maple syrup and ahem, any leftover candies from their gingerbread houses!” — Denine Anderson-Regan image: nautilus_shell_studios
"We are Christmas enthusiasts; it’s really embarrassing to be honest. I already have two trees up, four if you count the two small ones in our kids’ rooms. They have been up since Nov. 1. We also have an extensive Christmas village, love cookie baking and are die-hard present wrappers, it goes on and on. But above all, now that we have kids, a very important visitor is our elf, Buddy, from Elf on the Shelf. It’s a pretty popular thing among parents these days. You can look the tradition up but in case you are not as familiar here is the gist: Each family has an elf who flies from the North Pole weeks before Christmas and ends up on a shelf (or somewhere else in your home). Once the child spots the elf, you must name your elf (Buddy in our house). Each night Buddy moves to a new spot, when the children wake, they have to find him. All day long Buddy watches them and at night he reports back to Santa letting him know if you were good or bad that day." —Lilien Perito image: yuri snegur
“Each year, in search of the perfect Frasier Fir, we head out to the North Fork to cut down our Christmas tree. We then all take turns cutting the trunk as we play “Rocking Around the Christmas Tree.” After an hour and a half of cutting the tree down and picture taking the tree is wrapped up and on the roof of the car. Then it's pictures with Santa and a cup of hot chocolate.” — Scott Furrer image: leeannewhite
“My family is from Greece and I carry these traditions today, including Little Christmas and throwing a pomegranate.” — Paul Bozikis image: oxyzay
“We rent a bus because there are 40 of us. Last year we went from house to house. We had apps at one house, salad at the next, entrée at the third house and dessert and presents at the last. Last year, the bus was stocked and a blast, Christmas carols, kids playing their school instruments. Fun!” — Gina Thornton image: ad_doward
“serbian people have their own version of the “saint nicholas” myth. we call him “sveti nikola” (pronounced “sv-eh-ti nikola”). this is celebrated on december 19, the day he is said to be born (some say it’s the 17th or 18th, but so what?). the custom is that on the evening of the 18th, children shine their shoes and place them near a door or window. in the morning, they’ll find either coal or money and gifts, depending on how good or bad they were during the year. the event has nothing to do with Christmas, which is celebrated on january 7 in accordance with the julian calendar, which serbian people follow. sveti nikola is also the patron saint of my father’s family. thus, for three days we celebrated by holding a feast called a “slava” (pronounced “blah-va”). during this time, the home is open to friends and family—it is an honor to be invited to someone’s slava. special meals are served, including “žito” (pronounced something like “schzz—eee—to”). this is a sweet-cooked oats concoction that makes me very happy. other religious and cultural traditions are also a part of the feasts, like a special bread, prayers and, of course, “rakija,” (pronounced “rrrak-ee-ya”). the latter is a plum brandy that doubles as rocket fuel. it too makes me very happy.” — nada marjanovich image: dragi52
“Our Jamaican Christmas tradition includes drinking Sorrel. It’s made primarily with dried sorrel (a meadow plant), ginger, sugar and Jamaican overproof white rum. We also make a Jamaican-style Christmas cake (called black cake) made with fruit soaked in rum for months before Christmas. Traditional Christmas Day breakfast includes ackee (Jamaica's national fruit) and saltfish served with traditional side dishes like breadfruit, fried plantains, fried dumplings and boiled bananas. Traditional Christmas dinner usually includes dishes like fried fish, curry chicken, curry goat, oxtail and served with rice and peas.” — Navia Watson
“First off, we have elf on a shelf. His name is Francisco. I want to add that all of my siblings are 18 and older, but think this Christmas toy is hysterical. Second, we cut down a Christmas tree. We have never had a fake Christmas tree in the house and never will. Third, we watch the log burning on TV on Christmas morning because we don’t have an actual fireplace. This may seem corny, but I can’t imagine Christmas morning any other way.” — Meaghan McKeever image: berezko
“I’m fortunate to have a big family, but we’re all not in one place. For years my wife and I have celebrated Christmas six times over the course of a week. Eventually, we decided to have a nice, relaxing Christmas Day brunch at our house after gifts are opened first thing in the morning and we attend Mass. Everyone’s invited to nestle in and watch movies over a nontraditional meal of pancakes, eggs, bacon, sausage and other goodies. Later on, Italian desserts come into the mix.” —Carl Corry image: ezhukov
“The holidays are always filled with visits with family and friends, delicious food and LOTS of wine. But my major tradition is that every year we go to our local fire station house on the weekend after Thanksgiving. We spend a good hour looking at trees until we find the perfect one then off to home we go. The decorations (and more wine) come out and our Christmas journey begins.” —Jessica Suarino image: lisa yhornberg
“For the past few years I’ve spent Christmas Day traveling to The Netherlands, so eating Christmas dinner at JFK is almost becoming my own strange tradition. But, in Holland they actually celebrate Christmas Day on the 25th and the 26th, so I get to spend Christmas morning with my mom’s side of the family and then second Christmas Day with my dad’s side, which is a pretty cool thing. Christmas is really important to us so, in a sense, we celebrate it all month. My family and I have a Christmas box and everyday someone gets a little gift. It’s almost like an Advent calendar, but then with lotto tickets and knick-knacks instead of chocolates. We also celebrate Sinterklaas on Dec. 5, so everyone leaves their shoe out by the fireplace and then the next day they’re filled with candies and gifts. The whole month is basically a celebration.” — Elsie Boskamp image: sara winter
“Nothing says Christmas to this second generation Italian like lots of wine, Frank Sinatra and my Nona’s cookies that my mother now makes each year. After dinner on every Christmas Eve, my family sits around the dining room table laughing, drinking and over indulging on sweets as we reminisce about holidays past. Even though we’ve all heard the stories a million times or more, we each listen intently and laugh just as hard.” — Melissa Carfero image: haveseen
“Christmas Eve is always celebrated with a meal of the Seven Fishes. It varies from year to year but has included seafood salad, stuffed clams oreganata, steamed lobster, pasta con fruitti di mare, fillet of sole, shrimp cocktail, crab cakes homemade pizza from scratch! Really the best! After eating for seemingly endless hours, the ladies would clean up the kitchen and start making preparations for Christmas dinner while the men played cards all night and told some very bad jokes. The kids would all get put to bed with the notion that Santa would not come until they were fast asleep. Once the kids were tucked away, the soup and the lasagna would get made, the turkey would get prepped and the presents would be placed under the tree. As dawn would break, the men would go to the bakery and pick up fresh made bread and pastries for Christmas dinner and bagels for breakfast. The kids would awaken screaming with joy and anticipation at all the gifts under the tree. Presents would be handed out as parents had their morning espresso and chaos reigned around the tree. Aunts, uncles and cousins would start arriving around 3:00. There were 37 of us in all! We would sit down to dinner around 4:00 and finish around 8:00. When I think of all they would serve, I wonder how we didn’t all end up in a carb-laden coma! First there was homemade chicken soup, followed by lasagna, followed by a roast with vegetables of all sorts and salad and bread. Then came the pastries the men bought in the morning! We truly could not breathe! After dinner, we would all go upstairs to the living room and sing Christmas carols around the piano while we waited for Santa to stop by on his way back to the North Pole. There would be a knock on the front door and there he would be, Santa and his helper with a bag full of presents for everyone. Each year, Santa had a different helper; Christmas Mouse, Rudolph, Frosty, Raggedy Ann and Andy, Miss Piggy…. you get the idea. When they would leave, cars would stop, people would shout Merry Christmas and pictures would be taken that in years gone by, those onlookers would wonder who were those crazy people dressed up for Christmas! It was always a much anticipated holiday in our family.” — Maryanne Napoli image: thesomegirl
“Every year, my family and I travel to Baiting Hollow to cut down our Christmas tree. There’s something magical about the thrill of the hunt, the chill in the air and the memories that last forever. We end the night with pizza (Sicilian slices) and hot chocolate by the fireplace. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.” — Mary DeMaio image: oksix
“My family celebrates Hanukkah. Traditionally, we spend the first night lighting candles, spinning dreidels, trading presents, and indulging in potato latkes and chocolate gelt (coins).” — Rachel Kalina image: carly hennigan
“As kids, my two brothers and I would always beg our parents to open presents before Christmas. Eventually they gave in and allowed us to open the presents that we had gotten each other on Christmas Eve, meaning we each got two early gifts to hold us over. Now that my brothers and I are full grown adults with the assumed patience to wait until Christmas morning you might think that this tradition has ended…you’d be wrong.” — Brittni Gorman image: pavelIvanov
“We celebrate Hanukkah in my house by lighting the candles, singing songs, watching holiday feel-good films on repeat, all the while gorging on my mom’s homemade matzo ball soup (enough to last all eight nights).” — Chelsea D’Ambrosio image: lauri patterson
“I take my dog to take a picture of Santa, where she never fails to make me feel like the worst mom ever. I make it up to her on Christmas by showering her with presents.” — Beth Ann

The Cleveland Cavaliers won the NBA championship, the Cubs are World Series champs and a businessman-turned-reality-TV-star will be sworn in as President of the United States in less than a month. It’s been a year full of surprises, but that Christmas pickle will still be waiting for you on the tree like it has been for decades. And your cheater of a brother is totally going to throw an elbow trying to beat you to it. In the spirit of the holidays, Pulse staffers and writers shared their favorite holiday traditions. Share yours on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or in the comments below.

beth ann clyde

beth ann clyde

Beth Ann Clyde is a social strategist of Long Island Pulse. Have a story idea or just want to say hello? Email bethann@lipulse.com or reach out on Twitter @BAClyde.