Guest writer: Erin Simula

This past Thanksgiving, I offered to make a green bean casserole. I had only made one once in my life, and it was years ago. So why I offered to make this, I have no idea. But I wanted to contribute something to the thanksgiving dinner. When my sister-in-law took a bite of the casserole, she said, “Well, Erin, now you’re going to have to make this every year!” I immediately let out a sigh of relief and was glad that everyone liked it. 

Growing up, my Christmas mornings were warm and sunny since I lived in Florida. I remember waking up, and opening presents with my family and then meeting a bunch of my cousins at my aunt’s house for a big breakfast. My favorite thing was the chocolate croissants and her pastelón (a Dominican Plantain shepherd’s pie, basically). 

For a few years, one of my Tia’s would hide all our presents between three of my aunts and uncles’ houses (we lived on the same street), and she would write riddles for us to solve and find our presents. 

My cousin Kristina and her family would go running every Christmas morning and then go to the beach later that day. 

I remember us all complaining about the heat on Christmas and wishing it would miraculously snow just for that day. Now that I live where it snows, I have to laugh a little. My husband’s holidays were much different than mine growing up. He’s told me about how they would make an ice rink out of their grandpa’s pond and go ice-skating every New Year’s. They also would cut out a hole in the ice, and some of them, if feeling brave enough, would jump into it with a rope around their waist just for safety. My mother-in-law makes a ton of Christmas cookies every year.

I never really thought much about traditions when I was younger. I never put any thought into who starts them or how they continue. I just enjoyed the things we do year after year. But once I got married and moved out, I realized that we had to start our traditions or decide to continue ones that our families did every year. 

I think most traditions happen by accident. Someone makes something delicious, and then everyone expects it to be there next year. And some of them are purposeful, deciding to take the family out and drive around to look at Christmas lights. But all traditions have something in common. They make people feel something. Some make us feel happy. Some help us to remember something or someone. Some help brings people together again. Sometimes traditions can seem pointless or ancient and boring, but I think most of the time they come from a good place with a special purpose. There’s something almost magical about them. And sometimes they come with a perfect story. 

I hope that whatever traditions we end up having bring joy and excitement to our family and keep us close together.

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