Soon, millions of people around the world will be celebrating
the holidays. It's one of the most beautiful times of the year with
sparkling holiday lights adorning homes in nearly every
neighborhood and a fluffy blanket of snow covering the trees. I
absolutely love the holidays. Whether it's Christmas, Hanukkah,
Kwanzaa, Boxing Day or any one of the international holidays
celebrated this winter, every family has their own traditions. For
some families that means getting together on Christmas day to open
gifts and for others it means leaving some milk and cookies for
With my mixed ethnic background of Puerto Rican, German and
Polish, my family's holiday traditions are a bit of a hodgepodge of
cultural customs. I'm lucky to be able to pass down to my kids the
traditions I grew up with - the things that made the holidays
extra-special for me. Each, in their own special way, that
celebrates my eclectic heritage.
Before the holidays officially begin, my kids eagerly anticipate
the first of December. That's when we begin observing the Advent
calendar, a tradition that began in Germany. Each day in December
leading up to Christmas, my kids get a small treat - a nice
build-up to the big day.
One of my favorite activities leading up to the holiday is
baking. Each year, much to the delight of our family and friends,
my mom and I bake kolacky cookies using my grandmother's secret
recipe. Traditional Polish kolackys are light and flaky
fruit-filled pastries and they are delicious. It's one tradition
that I'm glad to pass on to my kids.
Finally, my Puerto Rican heritage allows us to celebrate Dia de
los Reyes or Three Kings Day. On January 6, Three Kings Day
celebrates the three wise men that visited Christ in Bethlehem.
Traditionally, children place an empty box of hay (to feed the
donkeys) under their beds and wait for the three wise men to visit
while they sleep and leave a small gift. While we don't leave hay
under our beds anymore, my family still gets together on Three
Kings Day. It's just another way we spend time together as a family
around the holidays.
I truly hope my kids continue these traditions with their own
families when they're older.
I hope they realize the importance of these traditions and that
they serve to bring them closer together.
I hope our traditions give deeper meaning to the holidays and
they make the season more enjoyable for them.
I hope our traditions become a part of who they are and that
they continue to be passed down through the generations.
So no matter what you have planned this year, I hope you get to
spend some time with friends and family this holiday season
because, to me, that's what the holidays are all about.
Amanda Ortiz is a full-time working mom to two kids (a teen and a toddler), living in suburban Chicago.
See more of Amanda's stories here.
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