By Brandy Black
It has been another incredible year at The Next Family for which we have much to be grateful. It is astounding to stand back and marvel at the many changes from this year alone, and how rapidly modern parents and families of all kinds are being embraced. I have the best job in the world: helping to bring people together through sharing their stories, celebrating the exciting news from SCOTUS, and getting to know some of our readers and featured families. It has been inspirational to watch each time a new commercial, video, or print ad is released that represents all types of families, a war I have not-so-quietly waged for quite some time. This video from Tylenol inspired us to share the ways in which some of our TNF writers and contributors will spend their holidays.
Happy Holidays from all of us:
Joey Uva, husband and daughter
“We will celebrate our 5th consecutive year of donating a Christmas tree to the LGBT Youth Center.”
Rob Watson and his sons
“I will be spending Christmas with my sons and parents who will be celebrating their 65th anniversary.”
Halina Newberry,husband and daughter
I kind of reject most traditions as stale. Anything that falls under the category of “things we do because we’ve always done them” somehow feels empty and hollow to me. So while I wholeheartedly embrace the spirit of the holiday season with its lights, music (I turn on Christmas Carols the day after Thanksgiving and listen to them nonstop the rest of the year), magic, and decorations, the other things I’m still figuring out. I have a toddler who is only this year really cognizant of the holiday, so while I want to make it really special, I need to decide what exactly “special” means without getting caught up in the trappings of materialism and consumerism. So far, all I know is we are getting a tree, decorating it with ornaments new and old, and we will leave a note and cookies for Santa and carrots for his reindeer on Christmas Eve. The rest I am allowing to be spontaneous and to evolve over the years, as we evolve and grow. The most important things will keep us rooted during the holidays and the year ahead: love, harmony, gratitude, and compassion. I look forward to finding ways to demonstrate these ideals at the end of every year as a benchmark for how we can live daily in the new year!
Amber Leventry, partner and kids
My partner, Amy, is Jewish and I am a non-denominational believer of a higher being. I don’t know what or who that is, but I find comfort in knowing that something bigger than me is in control. We are not religious, but we are believers in tradition and history. We come from very different backgrounds, so we have blended our childhood holidays into a new version of family celebrations. Each year, we celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas. I learned the Hebrew prayer and the meaning of the candles, and she learned to live with a tree in the house for a whole month. Since having kids we are excited to have them join us in lighting the menorah, playing dreidel, partaking in our yearly Christmas scavenger hunt, and baking cookies with recipes passed down from our own mothers. Family-friendly arguments while searching for the perfect Christmas tree to cut down are becoming part of our tradition too.
Shannon Ralph, wife and kids
My family is bucking tradition a little bit this year. Ruanita and I will be hosting my family for dinner on Christmas Eve. Rather than going the route of the traditional turkey or ham with all the fixins’, we will be preparing two big pots of soup with crusty breads andcheeses and desserts. We will also be serving crockpot cocoa for kids and adults (with mix-ins available)—something to warm our Minnesotan bellies. We’ll exchange gifts and play games and generally revel in not killing one another. Christmas Day will be spent quietly (or not so quietly?) at home with just my wife, my children, my dog, and our new toys. Our fingers are crossed for new-fallen snow.
Brad and Justin
For us the holiday season revolves around our family and traditions. Justin has always had a live Christmas tree and it is one of his favorite things about Christmas. Every year we spend the evening together to decorate the tree. With Christmas carols playing in the background, Brad makes cookies while Justin puts the lights on the tree. Our very first ornament always goes on the tree first, at the very top, followed by the rest. It’s an evening of laughter and memories as we decorate, finding ornaments that bring back stories of the past. For Christmas Eve and Day we will travel to Maryland to be with family. Christmas Eve dinner is always the same: Grandmother’s spaghetti along with her special cheese dip, all topped off with endless laughter from our “Dirty Santa” gift exchange. The holiday season is one we look forward to every year and we cannot wait to continue our traditions with a little one soon! Merry Christmas from Brad and Justin!
Tanya Ward Goodman, husband and kids
To the extreme delight of my son and daughter, we are staying home for the holidays this year. They’ve turned homebody. Who can blame them? They’ve spent the last four months racing to keep up with sixth and eighth grade. All homework and hormones and hullaballoo. Truthfully, we all could use a rest. We will bake the traditional cookies: Mrs. Gilbert’s Thumbprints and Brandy Balls in honor of my mother-in-law and Biscochitos, the anise-scented memories of my New Mexico childhood. I will make a pot of posole and try to get the kids to help make potato print holiday cards. They won’t want to at first, but from experience, I can tell you that once we start, they won’t want to stop. We will continue to light the Menorah we inherited from my husband’s parents. We will sing the prayer using his father’s typed page as a guide. When the tree comes in, we’ll root out decorations that tell the story of the whole of our lives. We’ll marvel at the weirdness of The Santa Potato, extol the virtues of the forty-year-old peanut man, and look in shock and love upon the baby faces of the kids who now reach our shoulders, who know their own minds, who have their own thoughts. We will share stories and drink eggnog. There will probably be an argument or two. I will push for a hike and the kids will ask for waffles. My daughter will tell us she doesn’t believe in Santa, but she will sleep on the couch to wait for him anyway. We will be home for the holidays.
My Christmas involves decorating three trees –two of which are sports trees– with my mother. Christmas means baking cookies and a family recipe of spicy Chex mix called Texas Trash. It’s helping my dad dress up as Santa so we can visit my disabled sister and her fellow residents at a workshop and see their joy as they receive Christmas presents from Santa.
It’s going to my mom’s family’s and my dad’s family’s Christmases and playing Dirty Santa. Christmas is driving around with the entire family and our hot chocolate on Christmas Eve to look at lights and visit the Fantasy of Lights, our city’s prized Christmas decorations. It’s waking up on Christmas morning before everyone else, going to the tree to see what “Santa” left us and falling back to sleep. It’s finally waking everyone up to open presents. It’s waiting for Dad to set up the video camera which always fails.
Christmas is making a big southern breakfast with homemade gravy, playing with new gadgets, and visiting with my grandfathers when they each come by for a plate. It’s trying on our new clothes, chilling with my sister, having a home cooked dinner, and catching an afternoon movie.
These are our traditions and this is my family.
Tosha Woronov, husband and son
Our Christmas depends on which side of the family we celebrate with – mine or my husband’s. Christmas with my in-laws means our small house is full for a week with loving people bickering over shower time and unwashed breakfast dishes. My mother-in-law and I will co-host a semi-dressy cocktail party for about 20 family members, a party which I start planning sometime around Halloween, imagining a festive table and finding fun new recipes. It’s hectic and stressful but I love it. Especially the night of the party, with everyone dressed up and sparkly, glasses of wine in hand; amped-up cousins reconnecting as they screech through the kitchen; the dog weaving his way through the crowd, looking for dropped goodies. When we celebrate with my family –as we will this year – it’s a bit toned down, but just as special. I won’t have to worry about my wardrobe or place settings. My family is all about cooking, eating, and keeping it low-key. My dad makes a smoked ham – “Papa Ham” – that is so good we each obsess about it for the entire year. We will decorate a gingerbread house, which will hold interest only for my sister and me, who will stay up late into the night, trying to out-create the other, raiding the kitchen for the perfect graham cracker window panes or Chex roof shingles. There will be some baking for sure – pecan pie and my dad’s famous chocolate chip walnut cookies which he insists have to be cooled on newspaper(!!), no matter how much my mom protests. We will take our time opening presents and always, with my family, the stockings are the best part. We won’t change out of our pajamas until late in the afternoon, and dinner will be casual, and delicious, and we will be overwhelmingly fat and full from good food and the love of family. More than anything I try very hard to remember to see it all – these wholly different celebrations – through my son’s eyes, and hope that a little bit of each one is sticking with him.
Henry Amador-Batten, husband and son
Lisa Keating, husband and daughter
We surprised our daughter and took her to Leavenworth for the weekend.
Brandy Black, wife and kids
My wife is Jewish and I am not so we celebrate Christmakah! We light the menorah and, admittedly, we sometimes forget. We play dreidel, eat chocolate coins, and sing 8 days of Hanukkah, but to the tune of Twelve Days of Christmas. I am a sucker for traditions! We go ice skating, gather with friends, sing Christmas carols, and go where there’s snow. The last few years we have been going to Mammoth to ski with the children. It is about good food, laughter, games, holiday classics that we re-watch year after year, homemade hot cocoa, fighting over lack of batteries for new toys, and telling stories by the fire. There is always chaos and frankly, I love it.
Share your traditions and family with us. Happy Holidays from our families to yours.