Holiday Traditions

Holiday Traditions

As we enter the holiday season: Thanksgiving, Hanukkah (which falls on Thanksgiving Day this year!), Christmas, New Year’s and so on through to Epiphany, many people make it a point to spend time with their family and friends. And quite a few of those people do the same thing year after year – commonly referred to as traditions, and many other people do something new each year, eschewing anything that they have done for the holidays before.

So I ask you: Do you and your family have any holiday traditions?

In my family we have Wigilia. My ancestors came to the United States from Poland (or close to it depending on the European borders that week). Wigilia comes from the Latin term vigilare which means “to await”. This is the Polish name for Christmas Eve.

The Polish center describes the tradition of Wigilia very well.

For my family, my grandparents (paternal) always had Christmas Eve dinner. This was a no-excuse dinner. You went. Period. If you lived far enough away, you might be able to receive a dispensation, but disappointment was quietly noted.

We passed the oplatek (only one was blessed, we kids would grab a pack or two and stuff it in our faces without regard to religious connotations, so my grandmother only had one blessed), ate our pierogi, cabbage and other meatless entrees (Christmas Eve is meatless for the Italians and Poles) and then opened gifts. Sometimes people trotted across the street for midnight mass (my grandparents lived (and my grandfather still does) across the street from a church), other times it was bundle the kids up for the ride home so they can dream of Santa’s arrival.

Over the years many things have changed in our family, but the main change that impacts Christmas is almost none of us are religious. That would seem to infer that Wigilia should have gone by the wayside in our family, yet it hasn’t. When my grandmother passed away 14 years ago, we continued to have Christmas Eve at my grandparent’s house. My sister, niece and I would go in, decorate and then cook the food at our houses and bring it over to grandpa’s to be heated for dinner, and we would clean up afterward. This went on for some time until it became evident that it really was too much work for us, and it tired my grandfather out to have so many in his house at one time.

So, 7-8 years ago, I insisted we move the production over to our house. Now, Hubby and I have Christmas Eve dinner for my family. We still do many of the same things – oplatek (only blessed if my mother provides it), pierogi and meatless entrees, it is just at a different location than my grandparent’s house. When my grandparents had Christmas Eve dinner, no one outside the family was invited unless you were engaged to them! At our house, Christmas Eve dinner is still a sit-down meal, but as long as I know how many are attending, we are pretty open to who comes. We can fit up to 30 people at the same table. We’ve had in-laws, exchange students, friends, room-mates, etc attend Christmas Eve dinner at our house. ‘Tis the season is our motto!

While we have had a number of changes to our holiday traditions over the years, definitely the biggest shift has been the move from the religious aspects of my youth, to the family gathering traditions of my middle years. And, I am very comfortable with that change. To me the holidays are a time for loved ones and friends. A time to reflect on days past, and to look forward to the future. While some may scoff at the idea of the holidays, I do not: I appreciate the time I have with my family, recognizing that we all age, and those that we hold near and dear may not be with us much longer. The holidays are a time for all of us to gather together – something we don’t do often enough with our busy schedules and lives.

Do you have any holiday traditions? What are they?

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10 Tips For Hosting A Sit Down Dinner

10 Tips For Hosting A Sit Down Dinner. Tips for dealing with time management for a large dinner. These suggestions will help take some of the stress out of your next big social function.

10 Tips For Hosting A Sit Down Dinner

As the holidays approach, many people decide to host a sit down dinner for family and friends. A “traditional” sit down dinner can be quite a bit of work, but with a little advance planning your dinner party can be made to look effortless on your part. Here are 10 tips for hosting a sit down dinner that will help you with the big day’s time management.

Lists – who, what, when, where and how! Who is coming, what are you serving, when is the dinner, where is the dinner and how will it all come together!? Make a list for everything and cross the accomplishment off the list as you’ve completed the task.

Confirm how many people will be attending your sit down dinner. Once you have a definite number, you can make definite menu and table setting plans.

A week or two before the event, make a list of what you plan to serve. Check the larder to see which ingredients you have, and what you need to buy. Having all ingredients on hand prevents last minute trips to the store. And don’t forget the wine and liquor cabinet!

Do not be afraid to hire a caterer, order flowers from the florist or buy desserts from the bakery instead of doing it yourself. Delegating and hiring out help make hosting a sit down dinner a lot easier.

Where can you fit all the people you invited? If your dining room only has enough room for 10 people, and you have 20 guests coming, where can you set up a table and chairs for your dinner party? It may be the family room and that may require furniture rearrangements and extra folding tables being purchased or borrowed. And while you are at it, count the chairs! Do you have enough to seat everyone? If not, rent, borrow or buy some folding chairs.

Clean your house a few days before your dinner party, or better yet, have a cleaning service do it!

When choosing your desserts, make choices that can be made the day before if you haven’t ordered from the bakery. If you have bakery ordered, pick up (or send a the spouse) the morning of your dinner party.

Assemble your main dishes a day ahead of time (the day before when possible), and then refrigerate without cooking or baking.

Set your table the day before. Flip the glasses upside down to keep out dust.

The morning of the dinner, note all the times that your dinner items need to go into the oven, and set a timer to remind you when to start cooking!

10 Tips For Hosting A Sit Down Dinner. Here are 10 tips for hosting a sit down dinner that will help you with the big day's time management.

What tips do you have for hosting a sit down dinner?

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7 Inexpensive Holiday Decorating Ideas

7 Inexpensive Holiday Decorating Ideas

The holiday season can be a financial challenge for even the most savvy saver. Here are some inexpensive holiday decorating ideas and tips to save a few dollars on your holiday decor:

7 Inexpensive Holiday Decorating Ideas

• Use natural items found in your backyard – from holly to evergreens, natural or spray-painted with glitter paint, outdoor sprays brought inside can grace everything from tabletops to fireplace mantels.

• Use fresh oranges with cloves for a quick, fragrant decoration tabletop decoration.

• Ornaments inside a glass bowl or, on top of a wooden platter, make for a quick, festive, inexpensive decoration.

• Put a mirror under it! A mirror under sparkle and sparkle – be it paint, crystal, or an ornament – adds reflections and makes everything look festive!

• Wrap empty boxes in traditional holiday wrapping paper for a cute entryway piece. Add a basket of pine cones, and the scent of cinnamon for a warm and inviting holiday entrance.

• Bring three cinnamon sticks, a few whole cloves and a splash of nutmeg along with three quarts of water to a simmer on the stove for a great whole-house holiday fragrance.

• Remember to search stores such as Target, Pier 1 and Kohl’s after Christmas holiday sales for deeply discounted decorations. Store for next year!

What are some of your favorite Inexpensive Holiday Decorating Ideas and Tips?

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