CEO & EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
We have two very special traditions in my little family. I am especially heartened every year around the holidays because we get to show our kids the merging of two very different cultures. On New Year’s Eve it is tradition in the Dominican Republic to eat 12 grapes. Each grape represents a month of the year, and as you eat each one you set an intention, make a wish, or set a new goal for the year to come. In my husband’s family, it’s tradition to eat cabbage on New Year’s Day. This is meant to set the tone for happiness and prosperity in the year ahead.
Preparing to spend the holidays with my family is my favorite time of year. One of my favorite memories that we still keep alive today is gathering around my mom’s Christmas tree on Christmas morning to open gifts. No matter our ages or physical distance, my brothers and I still go home each Christmas morning to see my mom and grandmother and curl up on the couch with holiday music playing (we love the Elvis Christmas album), cinnamon rolls in the oven, and presents shared between us. It is such a beautiful, nostalgic time that brings us all together and truly fills my heart.
I’m a big “tradition person,” so holidays in our house are loaded with them. My all-time favorite, however, has to be our family’s “Joy Jar.” Throughout the year, we each add items—ticket stubs, wristbands from events, napkins from a special party, etc.—to one of three glass jars we have on our dining room side table. The jars serve as a repository for souvenirs and reminders from the special events, occasions, and fun memories that color our days. Every January 1st, we gather around the table and empty the jars’ contents and relive, piece by piece, the fun of the past year. It’s a heartwarming, meaningful way for us to reminisce about our crazy family adventures, cherished moments, and ultimate joys that we may have otherwise forgotten in the hecticness of the holiday season—and life. I’ve boxed up all of the Joy Jars from when my girls were growing up and look forward to a January 1st in the future in which we empty them once again to take a long, joyful stroll down memory lane.
I love making bow-tie cookies with my mom around the holidays. When I think about it, I can recall the smell, taste, and texture of making these treats and it instantly brings a smile to my face and reminds me of my family.
Growing up Jewish has been more of a musical journey than a spiritual one for me. At Shababa, the Jewish singing group my family was a part of, my mother’s and my voice were featured acapella on the “Siyahamba” album when I was in the first grade. As long as I had heard the song, I could harmonize with my mom as she sang it, and to me that was magical. Taking piano lessons helped me hear what notes were called, but I didn’t need to memorize anything to enjoy singing duets with my younger brother. As he matured and his voice deepened, mine remained high, and we have been creating melodies together every year on Chanukah. As we light the candles for Shabbat, my mother and I lead my dad and siblings in prayer as we feel the warmth of the firelight. Whether we celebrate the holidays in Palm Beach or New York City, it is always filled with family, great food, and music.
MINDY GURA & PAULA ORLAN
When we were growing up, we would celebrate Hanukkah by getting a different present from our parents for eight nights straight. As little girls, this was a dream come true! One night we would get something like a Barbie doll, another night we might get a board game we could play together as a family, and on other nights we would get chocolate candy or books. It didn’t matter how big or small the gift was. It was just exciting to be surprised and spend that festive time with our family. But the most fun was lighting the menorah candles each night and sitting around singing Hanukkah songs. We didn’t always know all the words, but we would laugh and sing as we watched the candles burn. It always felt so cozy and joyous. We still carry on this tradition with our children.
ONLINE EDITORIAL & BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT ASSISTANT
My favorite holiday tradition is baking cookies with my mom, sister, and grandma. Every year we make hundreds of cookies to share with family and friends. We start early in the day, and end late at night, but the best part is taste-testing every batch right out of the oven!
It began when I was in the third grade. I would carefully creep down the hall and turn on the Christmas tree lights. I’d lie beside it and make a wish. They started off so simple: a baby doll, a Barbie dream house. As I got older, my wishes grew deeper: A call from a boy in my class. And then they were more meaningful: Please let it be benign. The houses have changed, the trees have changed, but what has remained the same for over 40 years are the wishes. Now I share the tradition with my daughter. We place two couch pillows on the floor side by side, look up into the twinkling lights, and make our wishes.
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