It's almost time to gather up the family for holiday celebrations. Today we release a special edition of the My Melrose Style Guide. We want to talk about how we celebrate the holidays, and we're not only talking about the day of. Everyone has traditions that are part of what lead up to Christmas, Hanukkah, etc., and we'd love to share some stories with all of you.
Smell the Joy of Christmas Cookies
The tradition of making cookies for the holidays has been part of the world for centuries. This tradition originated in the 10th and 11th century when the celebration of the winter solstice began.* Not really with cookies, but feasting. It may have began in the Neolithic period around 10,200 BC. The winter solstice marks day time being longer and nights shorter as the spring time approaches. Winter solstice day itself signifies the shortest day and longest night of the year which usually occurs between December 20th and 23rd. This year, the winter solstice is on Wednesday December 21st. If you are celebrating with your family, there are monuments to check out such as the Newgrange and Stonehenge.
Ancient celebrations include Roman traditions such as Saturnalia. The Norsemen in Scandinavia celebrated Yule. In modern day, Yule is the Scottish reference for Christmas. It is also a Neo-Pagan and Wiccan holiday celebration. Saturnalia is a pagan festival that honors Saturn, the agricultural god. The traditions from Saturnalia inspired modern ones we have for Christmas like wreaths, candles, feasting and giving gifts. Saturnalia inspired Christmas, a Christian holiday, during a time when pagans and Christians co-existed (4th century). The co-existence is potentially the way Christians at the time convinced pagan Romans to agree that Christianity is the official religion in Rome.
There are designated days during the holidays around the world such as St. Lucia's Day, Dong Zhi, Toji, and Shab-e Yalda.
Cookies began in the 1500s as trading brought fruits and spices in common kitchens and homes. While these were used sparingly in the times, spices and fruits were still traded during the holidays. These were difficult to afford, however this is how cookies were introduced as a gift giving tradition for Christmas in medieval times.**
Cookie baking is still part of modern holiday traditions. The author of this blog, Sydney, would like to share her personal Christmas cookie tradition her family has continuously done.
"My mom and aunt have been baking cookies for Christmas since I could remember, maybe even before that. They have normally made the same flavors of cookies for years. The longer I've lived to partake in eating their goodies, the better they've tasted and the more I've loved them. Family favorite cookies are plain sugar, frosted sugar, chocolate chip, M&M, peanut butter, and white macadamia. In the past they've made snickerdoodle and butter cookies (my great-grandma's recipe) (the links provided for cookie recipes are not mine nor the ones my family use). My favorite dynamic duo inspired me to try making cookies to share for the first time last year. Red velvet sandwhich cookies were my first attempt. While they turned out edible, they're nowhere the level of goodness my mom and aunt do, but I'll get there one day."
Feel Warm Fuzzies with Matching Family Pajamas
Matching family pajamas is a cute bonding tradition that is a more modern one that began in the '50s when department store catalogs advertised holiday items for the family. The tradition trend lived on until the '80s then revived in 2013 over the viral YouTube video "Christmas Jammies." Our department manager Trent, has a personal anecdote about the tradition of dressing in matching pajamas for Christmas.
"Getting married has meant incorporating my wife’s traditions into my life. The first of those traditions is dressing up as a family—something I have to confess to being unenthusiastic about at first. It didn’t take long for me to appreciate the comfort of donning matching pajamas for the day or wearing a cozy onesie though! As goofy as it was to wear matching clothes, I can’t deny the effortless smile I get looking back at photos and seeing everyone happy and matching, their compliance to the dress code a symbol of family unity."
Sydney tried matching pajamas with her significant other around this time last year. They wore an all plaid set with red lining, one she thought both of them would enjoy together.
Food is What Brings Us Together
No matter what your holiday tradition is, food is always a staple part of what brings us together. Some families do something small like a selection of finger foods, while others are more ornate and cook delicious savory choices. Our social media coordinator Brianna, shares a little bit about traditional Hispanic foods and drink.
"The holidays bring families together and it’s a great time to enjoy their company and create memories. Families have different traditions, but food is what brings everyone together. In the Hispanic community, celebrating the holidays includes making tamales, menudo, pozole, and desserts. There are a variety of Hispanic dishes that come from different countries. For example, Mexican tamales are made with corn husk while Honduran tamales are made with banana leaves. When it comes to Menudo and Pozole, most people have a preference of one or the other, but both are great soups to enjoy during the cold season. Lastly, enjoying desserts with the family is a must! Popular desserts enjoyed during the holiday season are Arroz con Leche, Flan, Mexican Bunuelos, and can’t forget the traditional hot drink Ponche."
Doesn't everything Brianna mentioned make you hungry? You'll be more hungry after Sydney shares a favorite appetizer her aunt makes for Christmas every year.
"It's simple, but my favorite thing my aunt makes every Christmas. She combines a block of cheese, diced tomatoes and ground sausage to make queso in a slow cooker. I only have it once a year, and it always makes my mouth water the closer it gets to Christmas. I might be the one that eats the majority of it each year I love it that much."
If you're the cook for your holiday feast this year, you'll need a kitchen towel or two to help protect your hands from heat, or help clean a mess. How about a spatula for stirring too? Snag our "Nidico" Holiday Wood Spatula and Hand Towel Set to start preparing to cook for less.
Instill Joy Into the Community
Other traditions that are part of the holidays is giving back to the community somehow. Some volunteer at their local food bank, donate toys, sing Christmas carols, etc. There are people who are less fortunate or they might feel a little lonely during the holiday season.
Our director of marketing and new store development, Genevieve Valdes, donates toys from our My Melrose stores yearly to children in need. Sydney recollects various traditions she had participated in past years.
"I remember when I was a kid in private school, we had different methods of giving back to the local community in San Antonio, my hometown. In middle school, we went caroling at a senior folks home. Thinking back, I hope us visiting with them helped them feel loved and special during the holidays. One year, my class made blankets for kids that were in the hospital. My mom and I were most encouraged by the food drives hosted and donated canned food. I can't say I have any community giving traditions at the moment in my adult life, but I am reminded how community contribution may make a family or individual happy and a little more fortunate."
If you and your family are looking to give back to the community, pop into one of our My Melrose stores and pick up some toys to donate to a toy drive. With our variety and affordable pricing, you have the ability to make multiple kids feel a little bit more joyful this holiday season.
From all of us at My Melrose, we want to wish everyone the happiest of holidays no matter what you celebrate. It's a wonderful time of year; be with the ones you love and hold these moments close in your hearts and cherish them. Bring joy to your friends and neighbors and spread kindness this season. With a humble heart, I personally wish you all a wonderful holiday season and am grateful to continue writing to you guys. Thank you for your support and readership. Until next time!
*History.com Editors (2020). "Winter Solstice." Winter Solstice - HISTORY.
**Culturally Ours Podcast. "Christmas Cookie Traditions From Around The World." Christmas Cookie Traditions From Around The World - CulturallyOurs