Every year as our families grow or shrink in size, and we reflect on the changes that came with the year behind us, we lean on our traditions. The arrival or departure of friends, additions of family members, relocations, moves or deployments, additions through births, adoptions, marriages and differences in a holiday due to illnesses or aging, losses or separations, may lead us to seek out new ways to celebrate. Finding a way to add or create meaning through traditions is how we share love, and how we survive hard times. This is why we wanted to share our own traditions, from staff here at the Williston Observer and the community. “Your family is special, no matter what kind it is,” writes Todd Parr in one of my 3-year-old daughter’s favorite books, and that’s never more important to remember than at the end of the year. Happy Holidays, Williston.
— Jess Wisloski, Observer editor
Dress up for dog show
In the Beaulac family we enjoy Thanksgiving by doing the following: First, wear costumes. Second, start a winner-take-all pool for The National Dog Show. In our family, we pick a theme for the costume party. We went with movie characters this year, so had “A League of Their Own” players, Luke and C3PO from “Star Wars,” and Tippi Hedren of “The Birds,” among others — all passing the turkey and stuffing while Grandma rocked her Julia Childs getup and admired her own culinary skills. The Dog Show betting pool’s great for competitive families looking for an alternative to football. Turn those cute pups into funds for your next set of winter tires — and win bragging rights! Each family member kicks in $20 to the pool; breeds are randomly picked out of a hat and divided equally across the number of players. The winning breed from each of the seven groups moves on to the finals, and the Best in Show winner takes home the whole pool. It may not be what the pilgrims envisioned, but it sure is fun!
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Postal drop, then pizza
We are a blended family and have two children who are both in elementary school. We have them write their letters to Santa independently, and put them in addressed envelopes that simply read “Santa Claus, North Pole.” Together, the four of us make a trip to Macy’s in the Burlington Square Mall, where they have a big red mailbox just for “Santa mail,” and the kids drop their letters in! Then we all go and get pizza and hot chocolate on Church Street and play hide-and- go-seek up at the giant Christmas tree. We have done this every year since we were first together as a family, when our littles were bitty! We all love it, and it’s their favorite thing about the holidays.
Gifting like a little kid
For the last couple of years, our group of friends has done Secret Santa, with a twist. We draw names, but instead of getting the recipient the usual token gift, we buy a toy that reminds us of the recipient, the funnier the better, of course. So, for instance, the gift for the avid fisherman might be a game of “Go Fish.” All the gifts are wrapped and labeled and at our holiday party we exchange the gifts to much teasing and laughter. Then we donate all of the toys to Toys for Kids. It’s a win-win: we have fun, we don’t have to bring home “useless” gifts and we get to donate to a good cause!
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Looking back with laughs
Years ago, the Walters of Williston told us about their Memory Jar tradition. We loved the idea and have made it a part of our family’s Christmas Eve ever since. Here’s how it works: you select a jar large enough to hold multiple note cards or pieces of paper and designate a place for this Memory Jar in your home. Throughout the year, when someone says or does something really funny, or you just want to record a special family moment, you make a note of it and put the note in the jar. On Christmas Eve, everyone gathers together to read all the notes aloud. It is a great way to relive all the fun and memorable things that happened during the year, and based on how funny your family is, it is also a hilarious way to celebrate, too! We sometimes laugh so loudly that you might just hear us from all over town!
in the night
In our community on Lefebvre Lane, there is a tradition that has been handed down from neighbor to neighbor over the years: We line the inside of our circular community drive with candle luminaries, which generally burn well into the night of Christmas Eve. There always seems to be neighborhood children of all ages ready to help. Occasionally, the weather doesn’t cooperate (windy and/or rainy conditions make lighting the candles difficult at best) but it makes for a special feeling in our neighborhood, where houses are adorned with generally pretty traditional decorations.
Our family Christmas celebration generally follows the traditions of my wife when she was on the family farm in northeast Vermont. After the evening chores were done and a meal was shared, presents were opened on the night before Christmas. On Christmas morning the kids got to sleep in while chores were done, and stockings were opened after breakfast.
Free and clear on the hill
Since moving to Vermont over two decades ago, I have started a wonderful tradition on December 25. While most people think of the day as Christmas, I prefer to call it National Jewish Ski Day. In the morning, with most of the state gathered around their respective trees and opening presents, the lift lines at Smugglers’ Notch are virtually non-existent.
Easy in four
We simplify the holidays by giving four gifts: Something you want, something you need, something to do and something to read (we do “watch or read”). It makes things much easier.
Jennie Williams Lutton,
Sort-of scavenger hunt
With a surge of kids born at the same time — they’re now 3, 5, and 6 — my brother’s family and I like to get the cousins together when they’re not distracted by gifts. For a few years, we’ve had a special Christmas Eve together: we drink a little boilo (a Pa. coal-mining region mulled whisky served warm), and then one of the kids gets to “hide the pickle” — basically, tuck a perfectly good gherkin someplace amid the ornaments and branches of the Christmas tree. Only my brother, a very straight-laced guy, has ever been the finder, and he hams it up on this occasion, but the game could go on and on… it’s hard to spot a pickle in a pine tree!
Jess Wisloski, Observer editor
Silly family swap
When our daughter was married 25 years ago, she invited us to her new home that Christmas. Everyone brought a wrapped gift for a “Yankee Swap.” Each person picked a number and when their number was called they chose a gift from under the tree. They can keep it, or take someone else’s. The last person to open a gift can pick their favorite one of them all.
That year our daughter had decided they’d be re-gifting a few wedding gifts. A salad spinner, for instance, was one. Now, my husband’s family meets early in December, as it’s become a yearly tradition in our own family, too. This year we had 39 of us! A popular gift passed around this year was a Potty Light that would be placed on the toilet seat (when raised, a light comes on to “show the way.”) Another was an insulated bag with sausage, hot dogs and bacon.