WBUR staff and readers share the holiday traditions that bring them joy

Editor's Note: Many of these moments of joy were shared as part of WBUR's Pick Me Up newsletter. If you want a little bit of good news to help you get through the week and spread cheer this holiday season, sign up here. 

We're feeling merry and bright at the WBUR studios.

As part of our seasonal joy newsletter, The Pick Me Up, we've been asking listeners and readers to share their favorite holiday traditions.

So, we decided to ask our staff the same question.

We hope these special sentiments, stories, song suggestions and more make you smile, and maybe inspire you to start a new tradition or two:

"The Vince Guaraldi Trio made one of the best Christmas albums of all time: 'A Charlie Brown Christmas.' First of all, I love Charlie Brown. Second of all, I love piano jazz from musicians like Bill Evans, Ahmad Jamal, Errol Garner and, of course, Vince Guaraldi. This album includes one of my favorite holiday songs 'Christmas Time Is Here.' No disrespect to Mariah Carey, the queen of seasonal tunes, but it’s not really the holidays for me until I hear this classic. It sounds like hot cocoa on a snowy night. It feels like a hug from grandma. It’s perfect." — Darryl C. Murphy, host of The Common

"Finding fun things to make with oil that aren't latkes (they're fine, I'm just a little bored). Olive oil cake and platanos maduros are my current faves!" — Naomi Sobel, senior leadership gift officer

"My favorite New Years Eve tradition is cooking a big giant pot of Hoppin' John and watching CNN's NYE Special with Andy Cohen and Anderson Cooper. We aim to have the John finished when the clock strikes midnight so the first thing we eat in the New Year is the Hoppin' John. Then, for as long as it lasts, first thing we eat every day is a spoonful of Hoppin' John for good luck." — Amanda Beland, producer / director

"For the last several years, I make a point to start a small fight the day after Halloween. I argue to my partner that there's no good reason we can't immediately start ringing in the holidays with 'Yuletide Bangerz' by beat-maker extraordinaire Jonwayne. Brian asks for patience; I eventually concede that I'll overplay the songs if we don't wait until after Thanksgiving. Once that day comes though, I blast that beautiful 30-minute playlist of pure seasonal joy every single day through the new year. I hope you and yours will now, too." — Lisa Creamer, managing editor of digital

Steven's pasta dough and special wood rolling board. (Courtesy of Steven Davy)
Steven's pasta dough and special wood rolling board. (Courtesy of Steven Davy)

"Drawing inspiration from my wife’s Italian roots, a few years ago we started making a lasagna dinner on Christmas the old fashioned way. I had a custom 'pasta board' made from a local woodworking shop for dough-making adventures, and from scratch lasagne noodles rolled out using a traditional mattarello. I’m in charge of the salsa marinara, aka gravy. We assemble, bake and then feast like Italian gods." — Steven Davy, senior producer at WBUR CitySpace

"Most of my traditions associated with winter holidays that I celebrate are more memories than current. For example: playing too many games of dreidel with children who are weirdly over-invested in winning, or setting off the smoke alarm over and over again while trying to fry latkes, or reciting for the zillionth time to all assembled that for the life of me I don't know why anybody would want to go to Times Square on New Year's Eve. But my favorite ongoing tradition involves a holiday I don't even celebrate. For Christmas Eve, we must watch 'It's A Wonderful Life' on TV and curse the ill-timed commercials. I also must force all humankind to listen to the best song ever, on repeat." — Sharon Brody, news anchor

"My family’s got a classic holiday veggie: broccoli rabe. (We call them 'rabbies.') We simmer pounds of them in olive oil and garlic. The more bitter, the better. If a new boyfriend at Christmas dinner ever turned up his nose at them, we silently deemed the relationship doomed. Still, it meant more leftovers for rabbie sandwiches (don’t knock ‘em until you try ‘em)." — Lisa Mullins, host of All Things Considered

"The winter season was always a special time for me as a kid in the circus because of our stop at Lincoln Center in Manhattan. The other circus kids and I would turn the Guggenheim Bandshell into our own personal playground. We’d walk a few blocks over to Central Park. And when snow days meant canceled shows or school (I was juggling both at the time), I caught up with friends that I didn’t get to see nearly enough. Those were magical days." — Jack Lepiarz, reporter and anchor

Courtesy of Tiziana Dearing
Courtesy of Tiziana Dearing

"Chocolate cream pie is a holiday favorite of mine. It’s not the dessert itself, but the way it’s helped me build a new tradition — rooted in the old. When I was little, my mom made it once a year on my brother Ted’s birthday. I would only get a tiny slice, since there were so many of us. Fast forward to my own household: for more than a decade, we’ve traded off hosting the holidays with our closest friends. Traditional pies aren’t a huge draw, especially for the kids. But chocolate … Now, that’s something we can all get behind! So, I’ve added my mom’s chocolate cream pie to the annual menu. It became special when the daughters of both families learned to make it. (It’s pretty hard to pull off!) Now, the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving, you’ll find most of us in my kitchen, proudly bringing mom’s concoction back to life. There’s something sacred in passing on what you remember from your own childhood, and in baking love into something from scratch for the holiday table." — Tiziana Dearing, host of Radio Boston

"Every Christmas, when my family sits together in front of the same meal, someone inevitably remembers that we’re also marking the anniversary of the day my mother and older sister came to the U.S. In 1973, my Dad was already here; my mom and sister — then a baby — were stranded at Heathrow Airport in London. My mother recalls wearing sandals in the snow. She ran out of milk and poured hotel coffee creamers together in a cup to make some sort of drink for my sister. They got home to Dad fine, but that one fraught moment in a hotel has been memorialized through the years because of the Christmas retellings. Now, it’s a family tradition that comforts me every year." — Rupa Shenoy, host of Morning Edition

"My holiday tradition is making gingerbread houses every year since I was probably 5. It is an engineering and decorating activity: we build structures out of cardboard and then affix graham crackers with royal icing. And then decorate with tons of candy. We now do it annually with close friends who are Jewish (we are not), so the tradition has expanded to include cooking / eating latkes and lighting the menorah." — Joan Dimicco, executive editor of product

"We live in Framingham and at the holidays the town puts the old soldiers from Shoppers World around town and makes a scavenger hunt out of finding them all. It's a really fun family tradition. We load the car with hot chocolate and Christmas music and away we go." — Paula Witkin, sales manager

"The feast of the seven fishes." — Deborah Becker, host and reporter

"What brings me joy is triple wrapping a tasty Christmas gift for my dog Zena and watching her unwrap it." — Christine Willmsen, senior investigative reporter and editor

Many of our readers also shared some of the holiday traditions that are bringing them joy. Here are a few:

  • "We reminisce about our travels over the past 40 years when we decorate the Christmas tree with an ornament from each place we vacationed: Mexico, Canada, Honduras, Ireland, South Africa, the Vatican, Greece, Arizona, SD, MO, DC, HI, AK to name a few." Tricia
  • "Back where I was born and raised in India we celebrate Diwali, a festival of lights. I have brought this tradition with me to the US which is home to me. Now every year during the fall, I join friends and colleagues to celebration all our different cultures by lighting candles. This holiday tradition of lighting candles is delightfully joyful!" Krina
  • "My favorite family tradition is going to our friend's tree farm, cutting down a tree, then bringing it home to decorate." Susan
  • "We have saved copies of our family's photo holiday cards since our oldest child was born in 1996. We hang a twine cord around our dining room and clip our photo cards in order from 1996 to present day. It is like taking a walk down memory lane to look at how our three children (now 26, 23, and 21) have grown through the years. I'm so grateful for my family." Pam



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