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Holiday Traditions

We're at our home in Portland for the holidays. Soon, our houseguests will arrive and the brief period of holiday traditions will begin. We are not a religious bunch, but we embrace it all and pick the parts we like best for our own traditions…like this naked headless Barbie wreath, for example, which hangs over the fireplace as I type:

BodywreathHere are some of our other holiday traditions:

Christmas Tree

We usually wait until everyone is here to do the tree thing. The past few years the tree has been procured and decorated on Christmas Eve (I know, it's late, but it's a fun Christmasy outing). We all pile into the truck (or if there are a lot of us, the truck AND the Camry) and drive out Zurbrugg Farms on Germantown Road, where we get all muddy hiking over sometimes snowy hill and dale to find the perfect tree. We always pick a pretty large Douglas Fir or Grand Fir (and Kevin usually says, "That won't fit in the living room" and sometimes he's right and we end up cutting a bit more off the bottom, but not always).

Kevin is normally the one who does the cutting, as he lays on top of  a lawn and leaf bag we brought from home, while I pull the trunck out away from the side where he's cutting to make it a tiny bit easier. Timber is eventually called and we all carry the thing back to the truck, hoist it up onto the roof, tie it down, and head home.

The tree lights and ornament boxes come down from the closet shelf and decorating begins — after about an hour of untangling the damn lights. Again!

We have all sorts of fun ornaments, including (new this year) a menorah, a dreidel, and a tugboat:

Menorah Menorah Tugboat

Some of my favorite ornaments are the vampire sock monkey, the handmade mermaid with arms that move, and the little gingerbread man that Kevin made when he was 7. The tip top of the tree gets an angel made out of an old license plate with colander petals for wings. She's fabulous. (The angel was made by my friend from art school, Hilary Pfiefer. Check her out…she makes cool things.)


We order pizza on Christmas Eve. On Christmas morning (after opening presents) we do fresh bagels, cream cheese, lox, capers, tomatoes, avocado, etc. (sometimes with mimosas). That usually holds everyone until dinner, which this year will be filet mignon, mushroom risotto, roasted asparagus, spinach salad, and a bread pudding souffle for dessert. The last few years we did barbecue for Christmas dinner (ribs, chicken, brisket, pulled pork, cornbread, collard greens, etc.), and one year before that we had a Spanish theme — tapas starting in the afternoon, and then paella around dinner time (after everyone was full from all the tapas). We've never cooked a turkey. (It's not that we don't like turkey, it's just that we like other things better. Plus, it's kind of fun to make our own traditions, rather than going with the expected.)

Outside Decorations

We used to put lights up on the house, but now that the house has lights all the way around the deck (festive little white ones), we don't see a need. Plus, one time we put lights up and just left them there for a few years (because we're lazy), and they just don't hold up that well after 8 years in the Pacific Northwest weather. 

I have a big glittery poinsettia flower that I put on the top of the little dwarf pine in a pot on the front porch, but that's about it for outside.


We have spent Thanksgiving in the Airstream once (we smoked a duck, and I made a caramel flan for dessert), but never Christmas on the road (or water)…usually our house is the gathering place in December, so we like to be home for that.

What are your holiday traditions? Anything out of the ordinary? If so, we'd love to hear about them!


  1. Amanda Amanda

    I love your traditions! Sounds like you have some great ornaments and very unique tree topper. The thing I miss most about spending Christmas in a house is cutting down a real tree. This will be our third year spending Christmas in the Airstream, and so far we haven’t developed any real traditions since we always seem to be somewhere different every year. This time we’ll be parked at my grandmothers house, so at least we can cook a meal in a full size kitchen. Wishing you both a very merry day!

    • Thanks Amanda!! I hope you guys have a wonderful holiday!

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