Anyone that knows me well can tell you that I’m a sucker for traditions. What can I say? I like the routine, the nostalgia and the fuzzy feelings.
But in the past few years, I’ve realized that maintaining every single tradition while simultaneously adding new ones is not realistic. The FOMO of the holidays quickly turns into yuletide burnout, and it’s not fun. So last year I took a new approach: K.I.S.S. Keep it simple, stupid. It’s not the greatest mantra for the holidays, but I like it because it makes me think of this:
Anyways, keeping it simple last year turned out to be exactly what I needed. After running out of gas pretty early in the season, I let myself coast on the traditions that made me feel good while skipping out on others. It was a valuable lesson for me. I learned that focusing on a few things that made me really happy was infinitely more satisfying than maintaining every tradition at the expense of my semi-valuable free time and sanity. And I also learned that foregoing certain traditions to make room for new family is a good thing! And it gives you all sorts of new, positive feels.
In light of this K.I.S.S. revelation, I wanted to share with you a few traditions, both old and new, I’m happy to keep.
Since I’ve been in high school, I’ve had the tradition that I cannot wrap any presents until December 1. This, I realize, sounds like no big deal. But as someone that really enjoys wrapping and checking things of my list, it’s a big deal and exceptionally satisfying. And when I think of the holidays from that time until now, a lot has changed – living at home, living in dorms, college apartments, a commune (yes, really) – but wrapping gifts December 1 and onward has been a Christmas constant that makes me happy.
My mom makes the best Christmas cookies. Period. Since I’ve been a kid, she’s maintained a semi-regular lineup of cookies and candies – spritz, cream cheese pillows, raspberry meringue kisses, ting-a-lings and way more. Many of these recipes come from vintage Wisconsin Electric cookbooks and have been filling Kaminski and Michalek bellies for generations. Making (and eating) this regular roster of treats is a tradition I intend on keeping up with for life.
The holidays sort of kick my crafty spirit into high gear. The excitement of the season and the long cozy nights make me feel like sitting down and making something silly – not something useful or essential but just plain fun. It’s not often that you get to add extra glitter to everything, after all. Every year the level of craftiness and the number of projects change, but I always try to make time for a little something. Last year I spent an obscene amount of time on Etsy looking at vintage Christmas plastic canvas books. I never got around to making these little Christmas villages, but this year I’m going full boar into this weird, 80s craft. Plastic canvas is the next big thing, folks. You heard it here first!
Growing up, my family always had real trees. I fully anticipated myself having a real tree as an adult because I thought fake ones looked, well, fake. But then I realized there’s a big difference between a fake balsam fir and a fake white, iridescent unicorn tree. When I found mine, I pretty much fell in love with the kitschiness of it all (and the fact I can leave it out until February). Since moving into our home, Michael and I put up the tree the Saturday after Thanksgiving so we get to enjoy it for weeks and weeks.
Years ago my friend Kat showed me the putz house DIYs on Retro Renovation’s website, and I immediately called for a crafting party. We’ve created two or three houses each during these post-work, snack-filled get-togethers, and I just loved it. Crafter hours are a good way to catch up with pals while also making some headway on holiday crafts. When you add the snacks, these parties are a win-win-win.
Wrapping Gifts Pt. 2
For the past few years, I’ve volunteered to wrap gifts at a nearby Barnes & Noble. All the proceeds go to the Wisconsin Humane Society. Like I said, I love to wrap gifts, and if I get to do it for a cause I love – all the better.
THE LIKE NEW
Day After Christmas Party
Every year, my great-aunt Mary threw a post-Christmas party at her house (now my home!). I have really fond memories of these shindigs. There’d be pizza or Chinese food, a few games and relatives I hadn’t seen since the prior year. These parties were never elaborate, but they were always a highlight of the Christmas season. Once I moved into our home, I knew I had to keep the tradition alive. So now every December 26, Michael and I host a Mary-inspired soiree with PBR, hot toddies and more cookies than you can fathom. It’s probably my favorite tradition of all.
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To give you an idea of the traditions I’ve forgone, here’s a short list: making handmade watercolor Christmas cards (tedious), crafting every gift for EVERYONE (please stop), spending all day baking a bouche noel (huge time suck) and sewing Christmas outfits (frustration of frustrations).