Whether it’s decorating sugar cookies or celebrating the Winter Solstice, we all have our favorite winter traditions—many of which stem from our own childhood and family histories. To celebrate this magical time of year, we asked families about their most treasured traditions and memories from childhood, as well as ones they continue with their own children and grandchildren.
• “My favorite winter traditions have to do with snow! I am on the constant lookout for opportunities to find and play in snow. Of course, it’s never certain here in the Eugene area, but I am ever vigilant and now I can share my love of snow with grandkids! My favorite thing is waking up and having everything hushed and sparkling with new snow and going out to make snow angels.” – Lynne Mender, Executive Director, Parenting Now!
• “My parents used to host a Christmas Eve potluck for our family and friends. It doesn’t feel like Christmas without a party on December 24th! The kids would hold a huge hide-and seek-game and afterwards, each one could open one present – usually one from grandma.” – Kim Ruscher, MD, Parenting Now! Board member
• “Kwanzaa is really a way of life I aspire to. During the holiday, I sometimes throw a karamu (feast) for family and friends and light candles to recognize the principles. We honor our ancestors, pour them libations and call them by name to honor our connections. I named my daughter after the last day of Kwanzaa, Imani, the principle of believing in each other and the righteous struggle that black lives matter. Naming her that helps her embrace her heritage.” – Dr. Claudia Owens Shields, Psychologist
• “Even starting in childhood, my family incorporated donation gifts into our holiday traditions. It has always been meaningful to me to both give and receive a gift of making a donation to a good cause in honor of the gift recipient.” – Emily Little, WellMama
• “Growing up, Christmas just wasn’t Christmas without going out, cutting down a tree, and putting up lots of decorations as a family. Now, my husband and I do the exact same things with our girls. As they are getting older, it is becoming more and more fun. We let them pick out the tree we cut down, help decorate it, and pick out the places to put all of our decorations. In the evenings, we love making peppermint hot cocoa and showing them the Christmas shows we watched as kids. There is nothing better than enjoying the holidays through your kids’ eyes.” – Annie Mills, Baby Boot Camp-Eugene
• “Our family celebrates the Winter Solstice, the shortest and darkest day of the year. This is a day that has been celebrated by many cultures around the world and in many different ways. We share a meal, give gifts, and focus on our precious and beautiful planet as she journeys around our sun. This has become even more important to us as we face the realities of how we as humans have forgotten to love and protect her, what we each must do to bring her back to health.” – Mika Singer, Managing Director, Parenting Now!
• “If it snows, we always make snow cones. My 5-year old makes sure we have syrup every winter so we are prepared!” – Shae Donnelly, Keller Willams
• “I would have to say my favorite winter tradition as a child was an evening out tobogganing with friends and family. Cold, crisp nights with hard packed snow and a well-waxed toboggan made us feel like we were flying through space on a cold, dark night lit only by the stars and faraway moon. Then, home to warm up with hot chocolate and flannel pajamas.” – Bev Smith, KIDSPORTS
• “My favorite holiday tradition growing up was our Advent Calendar. The really beautiful thing about this calendar was that it wasn’t about getting trinkets or toys or gifts but, instead, was geared toward experiences we could share as a family. We went to see the Nutcracker together, walked to see the lights downtown, read holiday stories, and sang carols. However, the most memorable and special notes were the ones that involved giving something to someone else. We made pumpkin bread for friends, neighbors, and family members and drove to their houses to deliver it. Because those experiences have stuck with me over the years and have had such a strong impact on who I became as an adult, this is still my favorite tradition with my own children. Our Advent Calendar doubles as a Kindness Calendar. We fill it up all winter long with simple acts of service paired with fun holiday activities.” – Ashley Bohanan, Little Hands Can
• “From the time our first grandchild was born 13 years ago, we grandparents, the parents, and our now four grandchildren spend a Chanukah weekend together in a house at the coast. We spin dreidels, make potato latkes and other treats, play games, laugh a lot, and light our menorahs by the window in the evenings. Everyone has their own special menorah and as the candles glow, we sing the blessings and create warm and lasting memories of these special weekends together.” – Minalee Saks, Founder of Birth To Three
• “My favorite holiday tradition is my two sons—Michael and Jack—and wife, Megan, and I create a “12 Days of Christmas” home movie complete with costumes, props and “creative” changes to the lyrics [of the song]. It’s a fun tradition and we love looking at the old videos to see all the great places we have lived and how much we have changed through the years.” – Michael Wargo, Bob Keefer Center for Sports and Recreation
• “To celebrate Winter Solstice, our family does new PJ’s and a winter-themed book, usually accompanied by a fire. This year the book is Ollie’s Ski Trip by Elsa Beskow.” – Shannon McBride Sell, School Counselor
• “My early childhood was wonderfully idyllic with 40-acres of Montana wilderness in the Jocko Valley as my playground. I was the 5th of 7 kids (at the time) and I loved the annual scouting trips for the perfect Christmas tree. We’d start the search the day after Thanksgiving and make a choice by mid-December when Dad would join us and bring his axe so we could cut the tree and take it home to decorate. To this day, I still use live trees and the scent always takes me back to those warm memories of cold treks through the woods. – Mary Reilly, Liz & Reilly 94.5 Mix Fm
This article appeared in the December 30, 2019 edition of The Register-Guard.