My five happy holiday rituals

Giddy with anticipation, Halloween has become a great event our family looks forward to every year

It’s a giddy time at my house. With two young kids, Halloween equals happiness around here. My 2-year-old Spiderman loves showing off what he thinks the superhero does, namely front rolls and running down the hall. And my 5-year-old “Beautiful Bride” digs digging through my jewellery box for mommy-approved accessories to glam up her costume.

I’ve always loved this season—Thanksgiving to New Year— because it’s packed with family and friend gatherings and rituals, from the homemade-never-canned cranberry sauce to the champagne clinking. And since I became a parent almost six years ago, I find I’m ramping up the rituals that come with each season. When it was just my husband and I, we maybe set out a bowl of candy and some Jack o’Lantern lights to signify Oct. 31st. Now, I’ve got sparkly skeletons dangling awkwardly around my living room, cobwebs and caution tape wrapping my front porch, four Jack o’ Lanterns waiting patiently for trick or treaters and our newest addition, a one-storey Halloween blow up decoration waving on my front lawn. I first thought that it was just for the kids and seeing them jump up and down and scream wildly when the blow-up goes up is what made me smile. But it’s more than that—my kids have made me realize it’s only one special night of the year and now we as parents have to hold ourselves back from decorating the minute Thanksgiving is over because we’re so excited for the big night.

Same goes for Christmas, or our birthdays (all of which fall between now and mid-January) and even New Year’s Eve. I relish the rituals of each event, probably even more since becoming a parent because I know now that the what we create will become precious memories for my children.

So I thought I’d share five of our rituals we’ve gotten into practising over the years.  

1. Thanksgiving We’re traditional all the way with our meal. No Tandoori Turkeys here, a la Cam’s from Modern Family. Nope it’s a straight up roasted turkey, stuffing, homemade cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie. It’s as you’d expect. But what makes me laugh every year are two side dishes my husband insists on, two that he had at his dinner table growing up: white dinner rolls. (None of that wholegrain stuff welcome here.) And bread and butter pickles. Yum.

2. Halloween Everyone in our family gets their own Jack o’ Lantern. Dad’s on deck to carve all four of them (phew!), the kids do the gut removing and I’m in the kitchen roasting pumpkin seeds, despite the fact that nobody really eats them.   

3. Christmas Every year I buy a boxed calendar for my husband. In the past it’s been destinations to travel to before you die, New Yorker cartoon calendars, daily trivia calendars and more. I love looking over the year’s selection and wonder what will keep him entertained for the next 365 days.  

4. Christmas (part 2) The cookie baking! Shortbread, gingerbread, jam thumbprints and more…In fact I’ve already pulled out my recipes and will soon, along with my kids, pick the seven or eight types of cookies we’ll bake in bulk and freeze for the season. We may even make haystacks this year, although those notoriously barely make it into a cookie tin because they immediately get devoured.

5. New Year’s This is a tricky one for us. PK (pre-kids), it was easy—we’d throw a party (the best was the around the world cocktails party where we drank a cocktail for each new time zone we hit before midnight) or head out for dinner. Now, babysitters can be hard to score for this night. So instead we make a four-hour road trip to go see a handful of good friends with children and make it one big party. Kids all go to sleep in various rooms while parents nibble away and drink champagne at midnight.

So I have to ask, what holiday rituals make you happy?