Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Not Holiday Time WIthout It

It's the holiday season..yes, indeed it is! And today, we've invited The Girlfriends to visit. Always lovely to have some new pals in the neighborhood--and I'm delighted to introduce you to a whole raft of new (and new-to-you) authors... many from the romance and women's fiction world. (Some are on a blog called Girlfriends Book Club with Lucy and me--check it out!) But now some of them have come together to create a book of holiday short stories called Sleigh Ride..and that got me thinking.

About holiday traditions. I remember growing up--we always always had a Droste's chocolate apple in our stockings. (You know the kind you whap to break into pieces?) We were absolutely not allowed to open presents on Christmas Eve, no matter how much we whined and high-pressured.

And Christmas dinner was always standing rib roast and champagne. (We never whined about that, and the fragrance of Lawry's and roasting roast (?) always makes me think of home for the holidays. Yes, we're Jewish, but that's another blog. (We always battled over the Chanukah presents...my mother tried to get away with giving us bubble gum for the last night's present, and we...well, I guess we whined. Mom didn't always have it easy..)

In later years, my parents had a house in Acapulco, so it was a command performance for the family to go there for the holidays. After so many winters in the tundra of Indiana, it was hilarious to celebrate the holidays hearing Feliz Navidad and floating in the pool surrounded by hibiscus.

So girlfriends, welcome! What was your favorite holiday tradition?

Jenny Peterson: A real tree! As in the kind you have to go cut down yourself. (Edit per my husband: The kind I point out to him and make him cut down.) I grew up in Michigan, home to snow and ice skating and all things winter and my husband and I recently moved from Oklahoma City to Denver. Growing up, I loved heading out into snow -- my cheeks so cold it hurt to smile -- and helping to pick out our family Christmas tree. Today, I continue that tradition with a real tree.

They're always unique -- maybe a little stumpy and crooked, with a bare patch that you hide in the back -- and I love them.

I put on Christmas music (traditional, save for my eternal love of "All I Want for Christmas is You" and the Barenaked Ladies' version of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen"), string the lights, then hang the ornaments by the glow of the tree. It's perfect.

Dani Stone: On Christmas Eve, I give my husband and two children new festive pajamas. We watch the movie A Christmas Story while taking care of last minute details for the next day. We never forget to leave a thank you note and plate of cookies on the fireplace for Santa, and carrots for the reindeer.

Megan Barlog: I have a big family, so on Christmas morning, we have this rule where no one is allowed to go downstairs until everyone is awake. One by one, we gather in my parents’ room and sit on their bed while our dog, hearing our voices and realizing we’re not coming down to greet her, whines from the base of the stairs. Once we’re all up (either by choice or by “gentle” encouragement from our youngest brother), we head downstairs and race for the living room to dig into our piles of gifts.

After the usual pictures and excited unwrapping of gifts, my mom makes our favorite holiday breakfast: Monkey Bread. My mom’s mom, Grammy, used to make it for her kids, and now my mom makes it for us. It gets its name because you have to eat it like monkeys. It’s basically a giant mound of round bread pieces covered in cinnamon sugar with walnuts mixed in, and its sweet, sticky deliciousness.

Malena Lott: Family Christmas shows! My husband and I have three kids (now 6, 11, 14), but you’re never too old for traditional Christmas cartoons, TV specials and classic holiday flicks like Home Alone 1 & 2, Christmas Vacation, and, of course Elf. My husband and I re-watch Love, Actually after the kids have gone to bed. Must be watched with Christmas cookies, popcorn and M&Ms, too. I also adore watching the kids make reindeer food and sprinkle it outside on Christmas Eve. Even my teenager loves to do it.

So what are your favorite holiday traditions?

And--are you ready this year?

About the book: Sleigh Ride: A Winter Anthology features seven stories by seven award-winning writers and each story contains a very different sleigh ride. Chick Lit Central called it "well-written" and "so moving" and Booking Mama said, "you'd have to be a grinch not to have these stories warm your heart a little." Written by Megan Barlog, Samantha Wilde, Maria Geraci, Maggie Marr, Jenny Peterson, Malena Lott, Dani Stone

Kindle Store http://ht.ly/7VY8Z
NOOK Book (eBook) http://ht.ly/7VYeB

Jenny: https://webmail.whdh.com/owa/redir.aspx?C=11360838f0fc45498897c427b6aa0d53&URL=http%3a%2f%2fwww.jennycoonpeterson.com
Dani: https://webmail.whdh.com/owa/redir.aspx?C=11360838f0fc45498897c427b6aa0d53&URL=http%3a%2f%2fwww.ihearlaughtracks.com
Malena: https://webmail.whdh.com/owa/redir.aspx?C=11360838f0fc45498897c427b6aa0d53&URL=http%3a%2f%2fwww.malenalott.com

Available in trade paperback and ebook.


  1. Welcome girlfriends, so nice to have you visiting!

    Our biggest tradition was probably the Christmas stocking--for kids and adults alike. Everyone pitches in and they bulge like mad. One year they were so heavy, they pulled my brother's mantel right off the wall. His wife was not amused...

  2. I'm finding Christmas traditions stick even as my kids grow up--my college daughter still wants to make a gingerbread house, I just found out yesterday (and here I thought I'd dodged that one LOL). We have lots and lots of traditions but now that my kids are off on their own I'm happy just to have them under the roof for a few days...

  3. My mother liked to have a lot of presents under the tree she'd wrap everything separately including batteries and once, our breakfasts. (Yes. It was a little messy.)

    Also she made these boxes and strung them on the wall as a sort of advent calendar. Each box contained a small trinket.

  4. This whole post just makes me smile. I love the traditions I've carried through from my own childhood (an orange in the toe of every stocking, standing rib roast, opening presents Xmas morning, cut-out cookies frosted and decorated, etc.), and the ones I created for my sons who even now that they are living on in their own and aged 24 and 25 still expect when they come home--homemade chex mix, one specific egg casserole for Xmas morning breakfast, snickerdoodles, etc.).

    Hmmm, seems like all our traditions involve food. That explains so much.

  5. Still doing stockings -- everyone has to participate! And we all find & wrap little gifts for each other like soaps, lip balm, candy, etc. However, when my mom bought a new house [we were all over 25], she vetoed stocking hanging from the mantel, so we do it at the table. Before you head off to bed on Christmas Eve, you have to place all your stuffers for everyone where they sat for annual dinner of Kentucky Burgoo and dill bread.

  6. Hello girlfriends!

    The best thing I ever did was make sticky buns (maple syrup and pecans) the day before, let them rise overnight, and then bake them Xmas morning. Maybe I'll do it again this year.

  7. I'm smiling and crying at the same time re-living Christmas traditions. We started one when I was older--maybe 12 or so--of hjaving a birthday cake for the Baby Jesus and singing Happy Birthday to him. I carry that on. My Mom was the one who always wanted to open presents Christmas Eve--we, however, wanted to stretch the anticipation out until Christmas morning. Thanks so much for the memories!!!

  8. I have three families (mine, mine, and his), so our tradition has to do with our schedule of spending Christmas Eve with my mother (dinner and gifts), Christmas morning with my father and step-family (eating cookies during gift-opening all morning before a hearty brunch),and Christmas afternoon with my in-laws (gifts and big dinner).

    My favorite tradition, however, is over-saturation of my favorite Christmas album, the Rat Pack Christmas. Come to think of it, maybe I'm not yet in the mood this year because I haven't listened to it enough! Off I go....

  9. Hank and Jungle Red writers - Thanks so much for hosting us today! I love reading all of your comments on your traditions, too. LOL on the gingerbread house, Jenny. The two times I tried they were such disasters but the pictures are hilarious! My lil guy (6) is really worried I won't get anything in my stocking (since I never stock it) so Santa might have to stick some Dove chocolate in there for me!

    Karin - my grandmother always wrapped our clothes separately, but since mine have a crest-fallen look on their face if they only get clothes, I usually toss a gift card or some small item on top of it. :)

  10. Girlygirl, what is Burgoo? (I do know what snickerdoodles are..:-) )

    What has successfully made a gingerbread house? I've heard it's impossible..that glue is--what? Egg whites?

  11. Oh, Tammy! Fabulous. Songs on "Rat Pack Christmas" are:

    1. Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow - Dean Martin
    2. Mistletoe And Holly - Frank Sinatra
    3. Christmas Time All Over The World - Sammy Davis, Jr.
    4. The First Noel - Frank Sinatra
    5. Baby, It's Cold Outside - Dean Martin
    6. I Believe - Frank Sinatra
    7. Silver Bells - Dean Martin
    8. The Christmas Song - Sammy Davis, Jr.
    9. Hark! The Herald Angels Sing - Frank Sinatra
    10. Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer - Dean Martin
    11. The Christmas Waltz - Frank Sinatra
    12. I've Got My Love To Keep Me Warm - Dean Martin)
    13. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas - Frank Sinatra)
    14. Peace On Earth/Silent Night - Dean Martin
    15. Jingle Bells - Sammy Davis, Jr.
    16. White Christmas (Reprise) - Dean Martin
    17. It Came Upon A Midnight Clear - Frank Sinatra
    18. Winter Wonderland - Dean Martin
    19. I'll Be Home for Christmas - Frank Sinatra
    20. Marshmallow World - Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin

    I always forget how good Dean Martin was...

  12. That "rat pack" Christmas album sounds great! I'll have to look that one up.

    Karin - I love that cool advent calendar idea! We always had the chocolate calendar (I still track them down every year) and a wreath with candles for each Sunday.

  13. Hank, my family had a house outside Guadalajara for quite a few years and we spent Christmases there in my late teens and early twenties. The house had a little indoor garden (atrium?) so we would wrap Christmas lights around one of the plants, then up the little stair rail to the next level, and that was our Christmas tree. But as much as I loved Mexico I always missed Christmas at home with all the family and traditions.

    Girlfriends, thanks for joining us today!

  14. How nice to have the Girlfriends visiting!

    My traditions growing up were very different from our traditions now. My husband's Jewish, so we usually have a blended Christmas/Chanukah/Solstice celebration. Youngest son carried that on when away for grad school, hosting Chanukah and Christmas parties for his friends. I used to do it all up very big when he was at home.

    Now, I make pumpkin pie, snickerdoodles, and cranberry-orange salad to take on Christmas Day to my sister's in a town 2 1/2 hours away. Where she's done it up big!

    On Christmas Eve at home, we watch Love, Actually, and starting Christmas night when we're back home, we begin a marathon of A&E's Pride and Prejudice as a family.

    One thing that remains always the same is Christmas stockings. Many years ago, I designed and made unique Christmas stockings for each member of my family and my sister's, incorporating interests they had and their style. So my oldest nephew who's into trendy retro has one crocheted in 70s colors. My sister has one knit in red velvet with white angora and handknit lace trimmings. My youngest has a Fair Isle with Mario Bros. and Final Fantasy figures knit in. Etc. Etc.

  15. Deb, that's so funny!And it is weird, isn't it, spending the holidays in the sun and with MArgaritas and mariachis playing the holiday music.

    Linda, that's a great stocking story. My stocking was needlepoint, all elaborate--but by the time my little brother chip was born, mom had given up being the perfect homemaker--and we all hung tube socks.

    Oh! My captcha word is stchoc. I always knew there was something saintly about chocolate!

  16. Hank, that's hilarious! We need a little dark chocolate statue of St. Choc for each of us.

    I did say the stockings were made a long time ago, didn't I? Alas, today my knitting bags sulk untouched upstairs and the floor loom in my living room has become a bookshelf and cat gym.

    And my Captcha is "promot," which I resent. It's enough to have my publisher and all the advice blogs nagging me to "promote, promote." Et tu, Captcha?

  17. Welcome girlfriends,

    Dani, I don't think I could get either my husband or my son to go along with the jammie tradition, so I am jealous!!

    At our house, the four of us go out to mass and then out to dinner somewhere Asian. In the morning my husband makes us coffee and no one can open a present until the coffee is ready!

  18. What a fun post!! Waving to everyone at Jungle Red and to the Sleigh Ride ladies ;).

    Most of my favorite holiday traditions involve either food, music or both, LOL. I really love the frosted sugar cookies (I try not to think about how much butter there is in them...) and I LOVE the carols, too. (I'm going to have to get that Rat Pack Christmas CD now, Hank!) Making cookies with my mom during the holidays with the Christmas carols playing in the background is always a happy memory for me...

    Happy Holidays, all!!!

  19. I love holiday traditions! Every year I get my kids a new pair of pajamas and a Christmas ornament. Even though they are all quite grown up now (youngest two are in college) they still love it and come to expect it. One day, when they are all married or have families of their own, I plan to (gulp!) give them their ornaments for their own trees.

  20. I am just loving the jammies idea. LOVING. Never too late to start a tradition, right?

    Maybe I'll start snickerdoodles, too.

    Or how about--new shoes??

  21. I'm here!! *waves and puffs--completely out of breath* My favorite tradition is baking cookies!! Which I've been doing nearly ever night for the last 7 nights--snowballs--got'em! Santas, Stars, Reindeers, Trees, Stockings, Snowflakes--Woohoo! This year I am also doing the Peanut Butter Blossoms -- the peanut butter cookie with a chocolate Kiss in the center--ADDICTIVE!
    Happy Holidays!!

  22. Maggie, Maggie..send cookies. I am DROOLING at the peanut butter and kiss cookie. You know me--I don't really care about such things really, I don't, but somehow that's--fantastic..

    Couldn't we do a whole blog on favorite cookies??

    Store-bought: Lorna Doone.
    Homemade: Choco chip.

  23. We always had an orange in our stocking. We had a small burlap bag that someone got a belt in one year. Since that Christmas (maybe 40 years ago), whoever got a gift in the burlap bag had to reuse it the next year. It still makes an appearance in one of my brothers' home.

  24. Nancy Jo, that's lovely. Those funny little family things, that just seem to stick. Who could ever predict..

    And oh, MAria, that's quite a rite of passage, huh? When the kids--grow up and have a Christmas of their own?

  25. I love stockings. We always had an orange, an apple, a banana, whole nuts, and that hard ribbon candy--anyone remember that? I still do the apples and oranges and some candy. For years I filled my own stocking so my daughter wouldn't think Santa forgot me:-)