A little holiday re-post to bring on the holiday high.

Last night, over a pan of manicotti, I was asked what it was about x-mas music that I loved so much. Specifically my Grinch like husband inquired, “How do you stomach this vulgar chanting?  I mean, if it weren’t themed for Christmas would you listen to this?” It’s all about the nostalgia.  I grew up listening to Christmas songs as we trimmed the tree, baked cookies, and cleaned the house for company.

My father had us watch March of The Wooden Soldiers, despite our being resistant at first because it was a black and white movie. My sister and I grew to love it and mimicked the faces the skinny one made. We couldn’t remember which was Laurel and which was Hardy, though it seemed logical that the fat one would be Hardy.

My mother explained to us the meaning of the Little Drummer Boy song, how the best gift wasn’t the most costly. It was the one from the heart, and she warmed ours in her telling of it. Christmas music is warm; it’s why I listen to it year-round, especially Baby It’s Cold Outside and Santa Baby.  It’s the spice of the season, all mulled and delicious, reminding me of feety pajamas, sitting with my sister, atop our staircase, looking down at the gifts beneath our tree, left for us by Santa.

“Yeah,” Phil said as he ate from my plate, “see, I didn’t have that growing up.”  And I realized how lucky I was to have a mother so crafty and spirited, one who taught us to harmonize and sing and cook and love everything around us.

“Listen you Grinch, we need to make our own traditions now.  Why don’t we go home and watch It’s A Wonderful Life?

“It’s not the holiday yet.” It’s nearly Hannukah, hello. But there aren’t any feel good Hannukah movies… yet.  Maybe Adam Sandler will step it up with something other than a cartoon.

“Well I’m making cookies and singing songs with our beans just like my mother did, but we need to come up with something that’s just ours.”  I wonder what it will be.

Holiday Traditions


  1. Before I say anything about this particular entry, I wanted to let you know that I've been keeping up with your blog since June of this past summer (I just haven't commented until today) and that I really enjoy your writing. I also loved your book. It's inspiring how you're so free about putting yourself "out there" for the world to read about. Thank you for writing so wonderfully.

    I absolutely love Christmas music as well. I could listen to it all year if the weather here in Florida wasn't so hot. The heat takes away from the mood that Christmas music brings about. I hope you and The Grinch will conjure up some ways to start holiday traditions with your little ones.

  2. I'm the same way with Christmas music. It makes me feel warm and it brings back so many memories. I'm sure that you and Phil will think of something really special to be "just yours" for your new family!

  3. i have been humming the little drummer boy to my son in order to soothe him, since he was born (even in july). he was born on december 14th, so i think that's why he loves Christmas music. he's three now, and we still listen to it all year.

  4. I have to say this is my favorite part of being in my own family- we cull together traditions from my first family, they conjure memories of grandparents long since gone, of christmases spent staring out the window looking for santa, of my mother's cookies, that feeling of love that filled the house. This year I even cried, remembering my grandmother, as I opened ornaments.

    My husband is like Phil. His family didn't do much for the holidays, he can become Grinch-like, or the reverse- he overflows with emotion. For my daugher, now, we've created new traditions, added to the past traditions. We build a gingerbread house every year, for example. It's something I don't remember once doing as a child, but something my daughter and I share together every year now.

    Much like the ornaments on my tree, our traditions are a fine blend of those from my childhood, and ones lovingly given to my daughter.

    Enjoy the journey, Stephanie! We also celebrate Hanukkah and Christmas in this house. Our big Hanukkah celebration is tonight, I'll be toasting to you, Phil, Abigail, and Lucas.

  5. my sentiments exactly. i am about to a marry a non jew and there is a part of me that resents the fact that Christmas has so many great songs and traditions. Hannukah isn't a very important holiday in the Jewish religion, it has just become more of a big deal becasue of the timing with Christmas. there are no great movies or inspiring music about latkes and i think about that a lot when i think about the traditions i want to have with my family. i want my children to enjoy everything that comes iwth teh holiday season, i think i will just have to make up some new traditions of my own then blend all the holidays and tarditions in one

  6. This year is the first year our family has really gotten into the Christmas spirit. We decorated, I've been baking up a storm for the first time in my life, my daughter and I are singing Christmas songs at the top of our lungs on the car ride home, drinking hot cocoa while sitting at the kitchen table, the Christmas story books, the Christmas songs on the piano…This is what memories are made of. I'm so excited for you! The possibilities are endless!

  7. Just wait……children bring a magic to the holidays you cannot even imagine, and it won't take long for Phil to be even more enthusiastic than you. When your little ones are getting their first holiday picture taken, opening their first gifts, singing holiday songs, and you're going to their school to watch them in a holiday production, it's the best thing ever. Watching their eyes light up on Christmas morning believing that Santa was REALLY in their house while they were asleep. It's all making me smile just thinking about it.

    I am also sure that with your spirit and creativity, your family will have some wonderful holidays – you're all blessed to have each other.

  8. The tradition that I started with my children is this: every year I buy each of them a Christmas ornament to hang on the tree. On the back of each ornament, I write the child's name and the year.

    When they grow up and move to their own homes, they will each get to take their own ornaments (and their memories) with them.

  9. How different this unplanned Christmas must be turning out for you. A family of four instead of two.

    I envy you this. That it's now time for you to come up with your 'special family thing'. Your own traditions.

  10. It's the traditions that make Christmas special. I have to say though, The Little Drummer Boy was never taught that way in my house growing up. My father used to grumble "God Damn Little Drummer Boy" whenever it came on. Have to say I agree with him.


    The ox and lamb kept time?

    Come on!

    Merry Christmas to the Klein/Beers – all four of them!

  11. Stephanie,
    I know that with you in their lives, Abigail & Lucas will have many wonderful memories to share as they grow older. Phil will be "along for the ride" so to speak based on this latest post. HOWEVER, nothing changes the way you think about the holidays when you start to see them through the eyes of your children… You rock! AND don't you forget it!

  12. Damn I missed your blogs.

    Check this site out.

    It is SOOOOO neat. Basically you can pay like 5 bucks, 10 bucks to get a letter mailed to your child from Santa. You even get to choose what the letter says.

    Another friend of mine uses different wrapping paper for the Santa gifts just so her kid will know.

    I love traditions. This is the first Christmas my little boy actually gets it and I think this is one of my favorite things about being a mom. You get to relive all that excitement. It's soooo much fun. You're going to have a blast with yours!

  13. I feel the exact same way about X-mas! How exciting to start new X-mas tradition with your babies and husband. My husband too is a bit Grinchy, too. Some of the best tradition happen accidentally. My son & I have a family X-mas tradition to put out a raw potato for Santa instead of the usual cookies & milk. It started when he was 2 1/2 and I asked him what we should leave out for Santa to eat. My son picked the potato. At the time, he couldn't explain why, being only 2 1/2, but now he says Santa gets sick of sweets and might like to cook a potato in the microwave. Another tradition: come December 1, the only music allowed in the car is X-mas music and we sing as loudly and as badly as we can. Merry Christmas!

  14. I love Christmas. Everything about it: christmas songs, making cookies etc
    Btw, Baby its cold outside is one of my favorites.

  15. Did Phil just say 'vulgar chanting'? Josh Grogan (?), the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, the Waitresses, whatever song Madonna covered, and many others. I know everyone has their own tastes, but how is possible to not have an appreciation of the TSO or Josh Grogan's efforts?

    As far as the movies go, for better or worse, this is a predominantly Christian country, and when Hollywood makes movies to serve the biggest audience possible, that's just the way it is.

    Besides, any movie pre-dating the birth of Christ really qualifies as a Jewish movie to some degree. The 10 Commandments has to be a Jewish movie. Ben Hur is a quasi-Jewish movie.

    In any case, there really aren't that many Catholic Passover movies.

  16. "I know that with you in their lives, Abigail & Lucas will have many wonderful memories to share as they grow older."

    Like the first time one of their classmates asks them about that passage in their mom's book where she lets a stranger lubricate her pussy with a non-caloric cooking spray.

  17. I don't mean this to seem rude – I'm just curious: Don't you find it a bit odd celebrating Christmas without being Christian?

  18. Maybe each year you and the babies can take a few minutes to honor the nurses in the NICU. While the rest of us are at home preparing for the holidays and spending time with family, the nurses and doctors are at the hospital taking care of our loved ones.

    Every year for my son's birthday, I send a little note of appreciate to the anesthesiologists at the hopital. Last year when I was having an emergency c-section, one of the anesthesiologists literally saved my life on the table during my surgery. There are so many people in the operating room and the doctors are usually the only ones to get the glory.

    I can only offer prayers for you and the babies but it is the most powerful thing that can get you through this exciting but precarious time.

  19. If you like "Santa Baby," you'd like the version done by the Pussycat Dolls. Happy Chrismukka!

  20. It was so nice to see a post about you planning the holidays and sounding cheerful and looking ahead to making your own traditions with your babies. I hope I'm not wrong to think that your good mood must have something to do w/ how well Abigail and Lucas must be doing. You sounded like the old Stephanie. :o) Enjoy the holidays and keep on keeping your chin up!

  21. I have an idea. How about each year, you buy one special ornament and phil buys one special ornament.Then once the tree is all decorated you each say a prayer asking for the blessings you want for your children and family for the coming year.Then exchange ornaments with each other and say a blessing over the others ornament that their prayer may be granted, then you can hang them on the tree together. Imagine having a tree full of blessings by the time the twins are grown.I always wanted to do this but my husband (now the wasband) was too much of a grinch too.

  22. I've been listening to Christmas music since Thanksgiving. I can't find my cd's as my house is being renovated and they are in a box somewhere. But I've found 2 radio stations that play non stop Christmas music. I'm not sure my husband is appreciating my singing as he's been laying down laminate flooring throughout our house for 2 weeks now. I couldn't decorate and can barely cook, but I still have the spirit. This will be my first Christmas without my father. I can hear him planning menus for our Italian feast on Christmas Eve and asking me if I'll help him shop for my mom's gift. I have wonderful memories of all the holidays. The older I get the luckier I feel to have had such a great childhood and to have had my dad live for 88 years. I know this much, your kids are very lucky to have you and your wonderful memories.

  23. My family has always loved Christmas and we celebrate old and new traditions every year. 4 years ago I bought a Christmas coloring book that I take out all December every year. I ask friends and family to color and sign and date their pages, and I take it out each year when Holiday Cheer is in full swing. I'm so happy that you get the opportunity to begin your own traditions with your new family. Sending lots of love and thoughts to the four of you this season.

  24. Stephanie- I am working late and this comment from your xxx-mas link made me laugh out loud…..

    "Live it all while you can girls. Life is short. Take a lover. Martha did it all when she was alive, right down to her Indian lover with the strap-on. When she was finished experimenting, Martha left her. The Indian lady went crazy, hunted her down with guns."


  25. Like Damn Yankee, I, too, am celebrating my first Christmas without my father. I can just see him opening presents and finding that two of his children have given him another diary. You see, he wrote in a diary every day since age 11 and he lived to age 86. Toward the end, his entries were shorter and shorter so Ma said he had a stack of brand new diaries in his room that he would have to live to 100 to fill in… we had quite a laugh about that when I visited her in April (he died March 1, 2006). So, Phil, be the Dad that makes memories for his children that they will talk about long after you have left this Earth…. be the Dad that is so cherished that your children tell fond stories about you for the rest of their lives… (-;

  26. "Don't you find it a bit odd celebrating Christmas without being Christian?"

    I've been to Bar Mitzvahs, enjoyed the heck out of myself (they spent an insane amount of money) and I'm not Jewish.

    What I found interesting is that they celebrate Christmas in Japan. They don't celebrate it in the same manner, since they aren't Christian, but they do some sort of celebration. Maybe it's from being a NYer, but I always thought that, if you see something fun in someone else's culture, steal unashamedly.

  27. I love the idea of taking care of the hospital staffs that take care of us…

    My condolensces to those who have lost family members recently. I feel your pain.

    JoeyB, I'm right there with you. I'm a Catholic but have many Jewish friends (sister-in-law included) who have a ball adopting Christmas each year. They don't think anything of it, the same way we don't think anything of attending bar/bat mitzvahs. It's all a big celebration!

    My idea for your Christmas tradition is to make sure that they get back to New York SOMETIME around the holidays so that they can see what Mommy may have done..the tree, the store windows, FAO Schwartz. You know how magical it is here this time of the year..

  28. I've been reading for a while, but have never posted – just wanted to say congrats on the beans, the pictures were beautiful!!

    JoeyB, I think the question was posed more with regards to the religious parts of Christmas. I don't know what Stephanie does, but there is a difference between celebrating the tradition/fun/holiday-ish aspects and celebrating the religious ones.

    As for the Bar Mitzvahs, I would guess you wouldn't have had as much fun if they had been limited to just the religious aspects (which is basically what a bar mitzvah was before people began spending all the money on them). It is just a matter of separating the religious from the fun, which is what I think Katherine was getting at.

  29. I absolutely love Christmas music and look forward to turning it on every year. It conjurs up feelings of warmth and memories for me like almost nothing else. It has helped get me in the spirit quite a bit this year since it has been in the 50s and 60s here in Pittsburgh, making it not quite seem like Christmas.

    I also understand about making new memories and traditions. My family is in the process of changing; a new sister-in-law and a new brother-in-law, a grandfather who is missed terribly, a cousin with a new baby on the way. Things have changed over the past few years and our old traditions have given way to new traditions, some of the old melting into the new. It has taken a lot of getting used to because I liked what Christmas Eve was for 28 years of my life…but the past couple years, the new traditions are feeling more and more like home to me. I can't wait until I have someone in my life where my family traditions can melt into his, creating a whole new set.

    *sigh* Rudolph is on TV (the classic Burl Ives version) so I am going to curl up on the couch now with a mug of hot chocolate. Happy Christmas-time!

  30. Um, arent you and Phil both Jewish????

    FROM STEPHANIE: I really hope this is the last time I address this on my site. I'm a quarter Russian, Austrian, Greek, and Puerto Rican. My father is Jewish. My mother is Greek Orthodox. I was raised Jewish, went to Hebrew School, had a Bat Mitzvah, and Phil and I intend to send our babies to Hebrew school as well. However, every single year of my life, without stepping foot into church or talking of Jesus or Christ, we celebrated Christmas, not so much as the birth of Christ, but as a time for Santa, a time for toys, a time for company, filet mignon and homemade lasagna. A wood-burning fire, cousins, and roasting marshmallows. We celebrated Hannukah with Latkes and our Jewish cousins. I've always had the best of both worlds, and we intend to honor the traditions with which we grew. Both Hannukah and Christmas, in our own way.

  31. I celebrate Christmas but have not set foot in church in 37 years. In fact, my 16 year old son and I celebrated Christmas this past Tuesday night with dinner at our fave Thai restaurant, then home to open presents. Christmas is not just a religious holiday, it is a time for showing how much you love those in your life with food, gifts, laughter, etc.! It makes my little family happy and I bring out all of my many Greek Virgin Mary icons and place them on my fireplace with the Santas and ornaments from my childhood. I have also celebrated the Jewish holiday from time to time and will be happy to celebrate Kwanzaa if someone invites me to.

  32. As someone else posted, we also add an ornament every year for each of the kids, and it represents whatever stage they're going thru at the time. This year I have a tree full of christmas shoes, for my shopaholic, a musical note for my clarinet player, and "Mater" from the Disney Cars movie for my son, they'll be in their stockings on Christmas morning, and then when they spread their wings and fly, they can take their ornaments to start their own tree….but we have a few they will fight over – When I was pregnant with my first child, a co-worker made me an entire tree full of ornaments that were 'kid proof'…the only ones left, are the santa clauses, which my children expect to see on the tree each year, because, there is a special place to hide candy in them. They love seeing that Santa has left candy in "his" ornaments each year :)

  33. I'm sure as Lucas and Abigail grow, Stephanie and Phil will come up with their own traditions.

    I can not cook to save my life. I hate the thought of stuffing a turkey or cooking a ham. So, our family has our own tradition that we started last year, a la A Christmas Story… After the family service at our Lutheran church, we went to a restaurant called The Grand Mandarin, complete with gold lions out front and a pond with huge goldfish inside, and a lazy suzan for sharing the food.

    It was a riot, and the kids had fun, the food was good, and I didn't have to cook or clean.

    On Christmas Day, we grill filet mignon and have broccoli casserole and that yummy hash brown, sour cream, cheddar cheese casserole, and that corn muffin casserole…

    Getting hungry!

    I was thinking it would be a beautiful Christmas Day to hang out at the NICU holding your babies Kangaroo-style, listening to your favorite Xmas music and sharing egg nog with the staff! That would probably brighten up the staff's day too!

  34. Isn't it strange that I can't stand Christmas music?

    I think of long car rides in people's cars with the heat so high that I wanted to scream out loud, "MY FUCKING BOOGERS ARE DRY FOR FUCK'S SAKE".

    But instead, I would just sit there and try to avoid the heat vents and wimper inside, "UUUUH, when can I get the hell out of this heat trap?"

    The music would sound so joyful, and all I wanted to do is punch the singer in the face! I can hear myself now, "SHUT UP! I AM DYING HERE! OH, WHY ME?! WHY ME?!"

    XXX-Music…uch. No wonder we fight.

  35. I do miss sitting at the top of the staircase though. That was the best! Every kid deserves Christmas.

  36. My oldest boys (16 and 14) have always insisted we celebrate every culture's holiday – Christmas, Hannukah, Kwanzaa, etc. – because they saw it as an opportunity to get more presents! However, they're not as bad as they sound from that statement. I have the most generous, empathetic, respectful boys in the world, and we have our own little United Nations in our family alone. My birth son is Irish Catholic, my adopted daughter Ashley is Italian, my adopted daughter Jessica is Latino, and my adopted son Corey is Native American.

    Since everyone was raised in a Christian faith, one of our traditions is to have a birthday cake for Jesus each Christmas.

    Whatever holidays you choose to celebrate and in whatever way, you have already received the most special gifts in the world – your beautiful Lucas and Abigail!

  37. In response to the comment about whether you feel odd celebrating Christmas without being Christian. First, Christmas was originally a pagan holiday to celebrate the winter solstice. The Romans celebrated on Dec. 25 because it was Mirtha (sp?), the Sun God's birthday. Many of the traditional things we associate with Christmas have pagan origins (holly, evergreens, the yule log). Historians believe that Jesus was actually born sometime in the spring (shepherds would not be out wtaching their flocks in the winter). In order to make Christianity more appealing and palatable, the early Christian church co-opted a lot of the pagan traditions. Until the early to mid-1800s most Christian churches did not have a Christmas service. In fact, Christians have never been big on celebrating Christmas with presents and parties and decorating and music. Oliver Cromwell, one of the early Puritans, overthrew the throne and outlawed Christmas in England for several years. So, Christmas is not actually a Christian holiday, but a "human" holiday.

  38. Hi there, I have to agree more with Lea than Stephanie this time – Christmas music – UGH. (Hi Lea.) I find it unpalatable to say the least, and unbearable to say the most, to see all the stressed, over worked, under paid, prozac popping, martha stewart guilted, always trying to beat the hell out of the Joneses, trying to convice everyone that they're filled with joy, people. There are those that radiate quiet contentedness – those I envy. The rest just fatigue me.

    But today and yesterday are days truly worth celebrating – Winter Solstice! Now the days will get longer again! Spring is coming! Winter is waning! Okay – so I'm not wildly pessimistic in general – just about Christmas.

    But happy days to the Klein-Beer family – so glad to hear some normalcy returning and some fear abating.

  39. Hi Stephanie…Wishing a wonderful holiday to you and yours! Just a few thoughts: I grew up as WASP in NYC where most of my friends were Jewish…Keep in mind that Phil — unlike you, with your gloriously mixed family — probably was not experiencing all the nuances of traditional Christmas holidays. My bet is his family observed Hannukah; Christmas just was not part of his heritage. You were exposed to both.
    BUT: with the wonderful twin blessings of yours…IT IS ALL A FRESH NEW PAGE, upon which you will create and forge your own special memories.
    My son is now 19 but I will tell you this: every Christmas time I feel grateful beyond words that I got to relive all my special joyous memories through his wide-open, wondering eyes. It is one of the greatest joys and blessings of my life to have had this opportunity to not only revisit — but REINVENT — some very special traditions of our own.
    I had inherited many family tree ornaments; now my son and I make it a tradition to exchange ornaments each year. When I am long gone from this earth, our tradition will be his to savor and carry on with his own.
    A joyous season to all the "Beer/Kleins"
    Much love today & always,

  40. Having a family means that you can create and continue whatever traditions that you want. I love that you are wanting to instill family traditions yet come up with your own. Like Phil, my husband didn't have a similar Christmas experience(s) as I did growing up, but I can say for certain that we have had so much fun coming up with our own traditions and adopting some of the ones that I grew up with to share with our son.

    Like a previous poster said, how beautiful it will be to being doing Kangaroo care with your precious babies, singing to Christmas music, eating your baked cookies with all of the fabulous nurses in NICU! We still keep in touch with many of the ones that oversaw my son. Even a few of them have commented that they are prepared to love our little one currently baking in my tummy (I am 29 weeks now) as I am showing all signs of having this baby within the next 4 weeks.

    Merry Christmas Stephanie, Phil, Abigail and Lucas. May your holiday season be filled with love and laughter.

  41. Traditions. Traditions. Without our traditions, our lives would be nothing. Nothing. But a hora on a hoof.

  42. I have two little grandchildren and am starting new traditions with them as I did with my own children.

    Australia is hot in December and it does not cool down at night so getting five excited little children to sleep could be difficult. We would walk around the nearby streets to look at all the Christmas lights and when we returned home we would open just one small "special" gift to take the edge off the huge excitement of waiting for Santa to visit. The other tradition was to have new nighties or pj's to wear on Christmas eve. This tradition has been passed onto my grandchildren – so important to look good when expecting Santa!

    Love the idea of Christmas decorations to keep, and in turn, pass onto their children.

    Sending happy Christmas wishes to your family and I hope 2007 will be a magical year for you all. Fran

  43. My specialty at the holidays is Chex Mix…I make it from scratch and have quite a following. Seriously…. I thought it was silly years ago, but every year, around Thanksgiving, people start asking if I'm making it this year. 26 years and counting! My 23 year old daughter has been calling for 2 days to get the process right for her first batch. I feel like I've handed along a family Christmas tradition (my Mom made it too). I congratulated her on her first batch and feel the tradition lives on! Small as it is, it's ours. I felt great about it!!! You'll find yours. Enjoy!

  44. In my youth the parents used to pile us in the station wagon and go look at Christmas lights on Christmas Eve. Loved that tradition and do it with my kids to this day :) Family time enjoying the kindness of others.

  45. uh, i just vomited all over IWs post.

    i think traditions are what make the holidays. i'm 27 but this year my mother and i decided to have an old fashioned christmas like we used to do when i was little. we just got done baking our first batch of peanut butter cookies (with the hershey kiss on top). we still have nut tossies, cut-outs, kiffles and snowballs to do! she also started the yearly christmas ornament engrave that have gotten me through some alone christmases. another fave is singing A Partridge in a Pear Tree on christmas eve. we've even done that one over the phone when we've been away from one another!

    traditions just happen. one year someone does something and it just sticks. plus you carry down the ones you love from your childhood and before you know it…you have your own family traditions…ones that will come in time…and will last a lifetime!

  46. PS – His name is Josh Groban, not Grogan.

    Happy Holidays Stephanie! Your first holiday season as a mom and full family! I'm so happy for you.


  47. "FROM STEPHANIE: I really hope this is the last time I address this on my site. I'm a quarter Russian, Austrian, Greek, and Puerto Rican."

    and here I thought you were American.
    maybe I'm a freak, but when asked to fill out 'race' I always put HUMAN ; )

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