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Standing on (holiday) ceremony

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Nancy Barziza’s family – all eight children and 19 grandchildren – get together one day every year (in one kitchen) to bake family recipes for the winter holidays. Not an easy feat to pull off, let alone take a picture of; hence this Easter family photo instead!

This month for Back Porch we asked friends to share their best holiday-tradition stories. They didn’t disappoint. What we got was inspiring – happy and heartwarming and a tribute to what family and the holidays are all about. Read on for some highlights that we hope might inspire a new tradition or two in your family.

Bake day
Pulling off a holiday bake day for one grandmother, eight children and 19 grandchildren might seem impossible. But every year, Nancy Barziza, better known as Nana, pulls it off. Her clan is scattered throughout Texas, but the group finds a day each year to get together and bake family recipes, recall old memories and make new ones.

“Everyone picks a recipe from a family cookbook my mom started,” Nancy’s daughter, Stephanie Petru, says. Each person brings ingredients to make his or her chosen recipe. They’ll bake one batch of everything, “so that everyone can sample it that day,” and then individual families go home with their own pre-made dough for each recipe that they can freeze until the holidays arrive. “The aroma and taste of baking the recipes is a memory in itself,” Stephanie says.

Tex-Mex and Xbox
Joy Yeager says that every Christmas Eve we’ll find her family “dining on tamales, baking cookies for Santa, with plenty of extras for ourselves, and watching It’s a Wonderful Life, which I’ve probably seen 50 times and somehow gets better every year.”

But it was an unexpected surprise, not a tradition, that became one of Joy’s favorite Christmas memories. “It was that really rainy and cold December 25 about three years ago, and we Yeagers opened our presents, one of which was “Family Feud” for the Xbox. I think we played it for about six hours in our pajamas and had a ball. Not exactly Norman Rockwell, but lots of fun.”

Secret Santa, digitized
Jenifer Ben-Shoshan and her two sisters, who live out of town, celebrate a night of Hanukkah during Thanksgiving weekend, knowing that everyone will be in town. “A few years ago, [we] decided to do Elfster, an online secret-Santa program,” Jenifer says.

“My youngest sister coordinates, and it matches us up, making sure not to match up spouses. We can each input a wish list, and it can even link to websites for exactly what you want.” Kids get presents from everyone, and adults get one present that’s guaranteed to hit the spot. See

Turkey break
The Trautner family – Barbara, Kevin, Margaret and Mark – always buys their Christmas tree the Friday after Thanksgiving. They spend that night, just the four of them, decorating the tree and celebrating at home with homemade pizza. “We aren’t Italian,” Barbara says. “We just crave pizza after all that turkey!” Barbara makes the dough from a box of Pillsbury Hot Roll Mix. “I have to have that box,” she says. “They are getting harder and harder to find in stores, so I buy two whenever I see them.”

Midnight madness
Imagine five grown siblings – all girls – and their families in matching PJs. At midnight. Starting what will become a very competitive game of Monopoly. At midnight.

That’s what Jill Klaff and her family will be doing this and every Christmas Eve. They all travel to Miami to be together (one sister lives there). On Christmas Eve, they’ll go out for a nice dinner and come home to open presents, always gifting each other with matching pajamas. At midnight, they start the game that won’t end until 3 a.m. “It’s the only time during the year that we get into a seriously competitive family game,” Jill says. Christmas morning, they’ll be sleeping in.

Game on
Every New Year’s Eve, Tracy and Josh Pesikoff and their two children host a family game night at their home. “Instead of making plans to be out on December 31, we invite over some other families and order in Thai food and play charades, Balderdash and Taboo until midnight,” Tracy says. “We love this tradition because it keeps us all safe at home spending time with our family and friends and not having to get all dressed up, make reservations somewhere and worry about driving. One of my favorite family traditions!”

Eggnog, please
And, well, there was one shared story, anonymity required, from an awesome family who just happens to be in touch with – and very open about – their own dysfunction: “Does not seeing [one side of the family] at all count as a tradition?” the wife asks. “It works. Others should try it!”

Happy holidays.

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