Holiday Traditions

Holiday Traditions

Here at &NEST, we love holiday traditions.  Whether it is helping your father hang lights, baking cookies with a family member, or opening a stocking full of stuffers on Christmas morning, it is a comforting feeling to have something to look forward to during this season, year after year.  It is also fun to start new traditions, as we build families of our own.  We were specifically curious about how traditions may vary across the United States, and thought you may be too.  We spoke with three mothers who live in New Jersey, but were born and raised around the country. Here is what they had to say about their childhood traditions including those that they have carried to adulthood, as well as new traditions that they have started with their own children.

Mandy P., Florida

When my parents were first married they didn’t have a lot of money or holiday ornaments to hang on their tree.  They lived on Pensacola beach and would take walks to collect beautiful sand dollars.  They attached a string and hook and their first few trees were covered in these pretty white sand dollars.  Every year we had a couple on my childhood tree, and now I have one on mine. As a child, my family would sit by the Christmas tree and read the night before Christmas and the Bible passage of Jesus birth.  We do that with the kids now and it’s nice to see them enjoy it as much as I did. A new tradition for us is curling up on a cold winter evening watching Christmas classics with our sons.

Photo by

Tenica P., Southern California

As a child, every year my family drove by a street named St. Albans, where these giant trees are lit up in lights.  It’s one of the most beautiful streets in town.  My mother also liked for us to see a Christmas show at the community theatre. Now, living in New Jersey, we like to go into the city at Christmas to see the Rockefeller center tree once during the holiday season, which is sort of like my family’s St. Albans tradition. Now my parents actually come to New Jersey since it’s hard to travel with our three girls, and they take part in our traditions.  They help move the elf at night, and they go sledding with the girls.  

Photo by Andres Kudacki / AP

Heather Bennington, Washington State
The childhood holiday tradition that sticks out most to me, is going into downtown Seattle each December with my parents, brothers, and sister to look at the holiday lights and decorations.  Sometimes the weather wasn’t great (rainy!) but we always had a fun time. I also loved baking and decorating various Christmas cookies with my family, which I now do every year with my mother-in-law. Although I wasn’t raised to believe in Santa, my husband and I are raising our son to believe.  The popular “Elf on the Shelf” game is a tradition that we are starting this year with our soon-to-be two year-old.

Photo via Pinterest

We hope that whatever traditions you are carrying on bring you much joy this holiday season! If you’re looking to build new traditions, here are some ideas we’ve gathered for those local to New Jersey/NYC.

Holiday Light Spectacular, Turtle Back Zoo {West Orange, NJ}

A family friendly outdoor lights event is on display from 5:00-9:00pm through January 1st.  Admission is free, with food and clothing donations appreciated.

Holiday Train Show, New York Botanical Gardens {Bronx, NY}

Model trains travel through a display of 150 landmarks, each re-created with bark, leaves, and other natural materials. This year’s exhibition features Midtown Manhattan’s skyscrapers and other architectural works.

The Polar Express Train Ride {Whippany, NJ}

Take a one-hour train trip to the North Pole to meet Santa! Each guest is given hot chocolate, a cookie, and the first gift of Christmas - a silver sleigh bell.

The Rockefeller Center Tree {New York, NY}

For over 75 years, an enormous tree has been decorated with twinkling lights, and overlooks the ice rink at Rockefeller Center. It is a spectacular sight to be seen!

The Bryant Park Winter Village {New York, NY}

The Winter Village features a 17,000 square-foot ice-skating rink and more than 150 shopping kiosks and artisanal food vendors.  Admission is free at the Rink and you may bring your own skates or rent for $20.  It is truly Manhattan's winter wonderland.

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