It’s the holiday season, and joy is in the air! In honor of The Joyful Book by Todd Parr, we here at LBYR decided to take a moment and share what brings us joy during the holidays! No matter what or how you celebrate, we hope you have a wonderful holiday season. And we hope you get the chance to think about what brings you joy this year!
I just adopted a kitten a couple months ago, so introducing him to holiday traditions is bring me a lot of joy this December. You never know how a cat is going to react to new things, but we’ve quickly figured out Penny just wants to be in the middle of
everything! We can only keep the candles on the menorah lit for a couple minutes because he’s so fascinated (and so likely to swat at them). One memorable event so far is Penny trying to climb my leg so he could eat a latke out of the pan—
It’s nothing unique or special, but I cherish the tradition of acquiring and passing down holiday ornaments, and pulling them out each year. It’s like opening a treasure chest of memories, and reconnecting to family and friends who either passed down
the trinket, who gifted it, or who was there when we purchased (or made) it. In years when we are apart, it’s even more meaningful. There’s the guitar-playing angel who has been our tree topper every year since I can remember, handled countless times many decades ago by my now-deceased parents; and the little orange dwarf twins I imagined to life as a little girl; the porcelain baby rattle from my aunt who passed away this month; the endearing but poorly-glittered pine cone my daughtermade who-knows-when; the gold-painted horseshoe crab from Martha’s Vineyard where we vacationed with my sister’s family for years; our most recent acquisition from Salisbury Cathedral, reminding me of our UK family and Christmases when we could travel abroad; and many more. The tree represents the richness of our lives and everything we have to be grateful for.
Latkes, Chex Mix, caramel corn! I take such joy from those foods you only make once a year that just the thought of them calls to mind December in all its holiday-filled glory. And now I get to make those yummies (and consume them!) alongside small humans, passing along the traditions passed along to me. Nothing more joyful than that.
This may not be my favorite part of the season (that would be getting to spend time with my family) but one of the things that always brings me joy at the holidays is panettone. Panettone is an Italian sweetbread, a bit like fruitcake but so much yummier! We get one every year to enjoy for Christmas breakfast. Some of my fondest memories are sitting around the table, joking with my family, and eating a slice of panettone warmed in the oven.
Being Jewish, I’ve always had major Christmas envy. Every year my parents would pick an evening for us all to hop in the car in our pjs with cocoa and candy canes to drive around and look at our neighbor’s beautiful Christmas lights. As a lover of all things sparkly, I would subsequently beg to decorate our house with lights as well. So one December evening when I was 10—when my mom was at a friend’s for book club—my dad ran to the store and picked up a string of flashing blue and white lights. My dad, sister, and I had a blast decorating a shrub in front of our house… Until my mom got home and then all three of us were in trouble. When asked what in the heck we were thinking putting up Christmas lights, my dad responded, “No, no, no—that is our Hanukkah Bush! We were allowed to leave it up for a week before my mom, shaking her head in disapproval, removed it. (I’ll admit, it looked absolutely ridiculous.) Now the “Hanukkah Bush” has become an annual family joke.
Last year I spent Hanukkah in Israel, which was pretty magical. The Hanukkah story is all about miracles and achieving things that, at first, seemed absolutely impossible. I’ve always considered myself to be, physically, pretty wimpy, so the fact that while I was in Israel I climbed three mountains, felt like my own personal Hanukkah miracle. Also, there were lots of delicious sufganyot (jelly-filled doughnuts eaten during Hanukkah) I eagerly gobbled up.
Since David, my youngest brother, was born we started a tradition of decorating gingerbread houses and we make into a
friendly competition between the cousins, tías, and tíos. For the last sixteen year, chaos and laughter usually follow as we race
to put together and decorate our gingerbread houses. We let my abuelita be the judge which usually means EVERYONE wins, but the girls aren’t fooled—we take home the gold 😊
December itself brings me such joy! I adore cold weather and snow and growing up, my house was always decorated from top to bottom—as in we even changed all the towels to Christmas-themed ones. We really kicked off the Christmas season with my mom’s birthday, which also happens to fall on St. Lucia Day. My grandmother is Swedish so we would always have a St. Lucia Day/birthday breakfast combo. There are so many little traditions we have that bring me joy, but there’s one silly one that I just love. Every year on Christmas Eve we go to church and then come home to eat too much homemade Chex Mix, play games, and cook a big dinner. When we sit down to eat, we all put on Santa hats and take a super corny, amazingly cheesy photo. We have a huge box of them that we’ve collected over the years and I don’t know how it started but it makes us laugh every time. Everyone embraces the tradition and no one cares if they look silly or it’s their “bad side” because it’s just a fun, little thing we always do and I LOVE it!
Also, because I’m incapable of picking one favorite tradition: my dad’s side of the family is really big and my grandmother made stockings for all the grandkids. She started for the great-grandchildren as well but we think her mantle might fall down! Even if we can’t all be together, I have photos from previous years that remind me how lucky we’ve been and how great it’ll be to be reunited in the future! Happy Holidays!
Our current joy is taking chilly walks along the beach with Leo (who like to dip his toes in the water even when it’s freezing cold!) and cuddling with Otis the dachshund.