What’s Next? A Giveaway!

Abby is her mother’s daughter. She keeps very detailed notes about her days in a Boston Terrier-themed calendar which hangs on the back of her bedroom door. It gives me such deep pleasure to look at her elaborate system of chronicling. Days are circled, numbers x’d out, playdates and soccer games all recorded in advance. She never ever misses a day and when the month turns, she insists the whole family weigh in on the latest Boston Terrier photo and how much or how little it resembles our own (truly bonkers) BT, Iris. Earlier this week, when she flipped from October to November she took a quick scan of the grid and asked, “So what’s next, Mom?” I wasn’t sure what she meant. “You know, how we just celebrated Halloween and my birthday? And so what’s next to celebrate? Thanksgiving?” She found the little note on November 25 and confirmed the answer for herself. I could see her doing what I do, hooking a mental bungee cord to the top of the November mountain and start working her way towards her reward. I love how kids always need something to look forward to, how their little optimistic spirits naturally crave it.

Lucky for parents, the calendar does the heavy lifting on providing the events, so all we have to do is come up with an overlay of richness, a concept more commonly known as Rituals. We have lots of holiday rituals in our house, and you’ll be hearing about them soon, but for now I want to hear about yours. The ones you’ve done on every Thanksgiving or Hannukah or Christmas or Christmas Eve your whole life, or the ones you’ve just recently started with your kids, the ones you haven’t started but want to steal. Because something tells me DALS readers might want to steal them, too.

So here’s the deal: I’m going to brave the contest waters. Submit your ritual to jenny AT dinneralovestory DOT com or, preferably, via Dinner: A Love Story’s facebook page by Thursday, November 18. Readers can vote/”like” their favorites if they choose, but ultimately a team of experts (me, Abby, Phoebe, Iris) will decide on a winner who will be announced Tuesday, November 23. And how’s this for cool: The winner will walk away with a $75 gift certificate to the amazing CSN, which is comprised of over 200 online stores that sell everything from kitchen counter stools to Le Creuset Dutch ovens. In addition to the CSN giveaway, I will also, of course, be handing out a bunch of “Make Dinner Not War” bumper stickers to runners-up.

Can’t wait to hear from you.

Illustration is by Donald Chaffin and taken from Andy’s childhood copy of Fantastic Mr. Fox, Abby’s current obsession (both the book and the movie).

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Bodi Luse

When I was a kid my mother used to sit us down every New Year’s Day to make a tape where we’d all talk about the highlights of the past year and our hopes for the year to come. Now that my son is five, I plan to institute this tradition in our house on New Years. And I really want to get my mom’s old tapes transferred to digital!


My parents separated, and ultimately divorced, when I was ten. And I think that first Christmas morning was one of the most painful days for us and for my father. By the second Christmas we developed a new tradition. My brother and I spent the night of December 23rd at my father’s house and woke up Christmas Eve morning to open presents and spend the day together as if Christmas. That night we went to my mother’s house and started our Christmas celebration there. We called the night before Christmas Eve Christmas Adam. We still call each other on Christmas Adam. I’m so grateful that now my family lives under one roof. But I always think of divorced families at this time of year and I haven’t heard of a better way to capture that otherwise missed special time.


I’ll post this on FB too, if that makes it easier.

We used to give new winter pjs on Christmas Eve, just as my parents did. Then a friend mentioned moving the tradition to Thanksgiving, and I immediately lifted that idea. A no-brainer as there is enough “new” everything around Christmas, and the warm jammies get a little more wear before spring.

We also do the familiar “go around the table” and share three things for which we’re grateful. I sometimes have placecards for guests to record these, one year we made hand-traced turkeys and wrote in those…usually I get my kids to ask the reluctant ones, but I really treasure the little book in which we keep them all.

We also have a seasonal basket of books, with books that only come out during that holiday season. My oldest has gotten to the age where he reads by himself and I miss the read-a-loud stage, but during the holidays he picks one of these familiar books each night and we read them together.


We make wild and outlandish predictions of what is going to happen the coming year, both for individuals and in general. It is a stitch hearing the kids come up with what they consider the craziest thing they can think of. We write them down and revisit them the following year and then try to top it. That and a visit to take muffins to our elderly neighbors.

Dana M.

One family ritual for this time of year (basically the entire month of November) is our thankful tree. The tree looks a bit different each year but there are always leaves on which each member of the family writes what they are thankful for on that day. Seeing those notes that range from the big things in life like family members to the smallest like a favorite toy really makes us all stop and truly be thankful. I keep the leaves (at least some of them) for the family scrapbook so it has been neat to see our daughter grow up through her leaves!


My younger sister’s birthday is on Christmas Eve (a tough time to have a kids birthday party), so our parents opted to make Christmas Eve all about my sister. Our Christmas tree would be put up by them and the older 3 kids so it would be a surprise for the 3 younger ones.

And best of all, we got to have leftover birthday cake for Christmas breakfast!! It’s amazing how good yellow cake with a filling of currant jelly and shredded coconut and covered in an inch of mocha frosting make the morning feel.

While we don’t get to do this every year, every time we’re together, its the same thing … birthday cake for breakfast. Yum.


I read this one year in Family Fun magazine, so I can’t claim it as my own, but each year the 1st of December starts our Holiday Book tradition.

I gift wrap all the holiday books I can find in our house (and at first I had to stretch it to include anything having to do with winter). Then each night in December we unwrap one book and read it together as a family. My kids are getting older now (13, 11, 9), but they still love this tradition. We get to treasure each of our holiday books in a special way, and we usually do this just before bedtime, so it ends the day with some lovely family time. I try to include a new book each year to keep things interesting.

Also, (in the years when I’m super-organized), as I put away the Christmas decorations after Christmas, I re-wrap the books again and put them away in a box. Then, when Dec 1st sneaks up on me (and it always does!), I can pull out the box of books and we are ready to go!


How I miss the old Thanksgiving traditions. How my brother’s four sons would show up in leather jackets, swap funny stories around the table about their latest robbery or drug bust, and, bellies full, top it all off with the most cherished holiday ritual of all: seeing who could press the most weight with their bare hands on the bathroom scale. Ah, Norman Rockwell, ye shoulda been there…


We have two traditions which I thought I’d mention – both involving food – as I think most of our family traditions do.

The first is “Leftover Thanksgiving.” Each year our best friends and their kids come over to our house the Sat. after Thanksgiving (and maybe some relatives who are still hanging around) and we combine our leftovers for a huge leftovers feast. It is super relaxing and no one has to cook that day and there is no pressure of a “holiday” or navigating the relatives but all of the yummy food and a lot of good cheer. I really look forward to it as much as the actual Thanksgiving Day.

Our second tradition is making Pizzelles. Most of my holiday childhood memories are centered around my italian grandmother making cookies for all the holidays and always there were Pizzelles. They were and still are everyone’s favorite. Now I make them for us, for our friends, and as presents (got to fatten up the teachers and mail carriers). The smell just says Christmas to me and now it does for my children too. Though my favorite part is having them with coffee for breakfast when no one is watching. Now that’s a fun tradition.


Ever since I can remember, we have always had Roast Beef (usually a small Prime Rib) and Yorkshire Pudding every Christmas Eve. Our Boston Terriers would always hang out under the table with a “please feed me I am starving” look! When I was a child, we would watch “The Nutcracker” Ballet after dinner and have Plum Pudding with Hard Sauce. These days, since my 2 sons dislike ballet, so we watch another Christmas themed movie with our pudding. It is always a magical (and tasty!) evening to look forward to all year!


Thanksgiving ritual — blow the joint and head for Montreal, pick up some Schwartz’s smoked meat (one pound hot and wet) then settle into a rented apartment in the North End, a block from Jean Talon Market. No Black Friday silliness, lots of fantastic ethnic food to be found. Ahhh… tradition!


We do a Thanksgiving Leftovers party too! I thought we were the only ones! It’s fun to get a taste of what other families make for the holiday. I agree that it is the most fun part of the weekend.

But Thanksgiving is fun too. On Thanksgiving morning my kids set out a “nibble tray” with dried fruit, nuts, cheese, crackers, a few veggies and some cinnamon cookies made with leftover pie dough. We don’t serve breakfast or lunch, but everyone is encouraged to graze freely from the nibble tray while we prep Thanksgiving dinner. My daughters, now 15 and 12, shop for nibble tray items when I do my Thanksgiving dinner shopping, and there is a lot of back-and-forth as they try to decide what combination of things will taste best.

In years past the tray was a way for me to keep hungry children out of my hair while I cooked, but it has become an important part of our Thanksgiving tradition.