Author's Note: While many of these points specifically reference Christmas as the winter holiday of discussion, I am discussing it in relation to my family's traditions as that is the holiday we celebrate. I am proud to live in a country that is diverse enough to celebrate multiple religious and cultural holidays during the winter, and I encourage you to share your traditions of your respective holidays below in the comments section!
Visit Historic Bethlehem
This is probably number one on my list whenever visiting home for the holidays. For me, there are few things like visiting Bethlehem, PA in December. The city completely lights up with holiday cheer and prides itself in doing so. For holiday shoppers, Christkindlmarkt is a must-go destination. Providing thousands of handmade gifts for the season, this pop up marketplace has made U.S. Travel & Leisure's list of best holiday markets. If you are looking to pop in for lunch during your visit to Bethlehem, look no further than Fegley's Brew Works for some great food (I personally recommend their burgers) and an in-house made brew. If you like a spiced beer, their Rude Elf's Reserve is sure to put you in the holiday mood! Finally, a MUST see destination is the Moravian Book Shop. It is actually the oldest continuously running book store in the country. I also may be biased, since this store has a very special meaning to me personally. It is where I met my fiancé and later on I proposed to her in front of the store - the very spot we met. We visit Bethlehem every December and it is one of my favorite traditions.
The Christmas Pickle
My family has a very strong German heritage and, being Pennsylvania Dutch, the holiday season would not be the same without the Christmas pickle! Now, some of you might be scratching your heads wondering what a Christmas pickle is. The tradition of the Christmas pickle was believed to come to America from Germany, known as Weihnachtsgurke. The tradition of the Christmas pickle is that it is hidden somewhere on the Christmas tree when the children have gone to sleep and the next morning they have to find it. The kid who finds the pickle gets to open their presents first. This game has definitely lead to my brother and I pushing each other into the tree when trying to find the pickle on more than one occasion!
Christmas Eve Chinese Food
This is possibly the longest-standing tradition for my family, dating back a few generations. This tradition started with my grandmother, my mom, and her sisters. When my mom was a kid, my grandmother worked in a Chinese restaurant in Allentown, PA. Around the holidays, they would always have a family dinner at the restaurant at some point. Eventually, my mom and aunt adopted this dinner as a standing family tradition and it was later moved to Christmas Eve. I always think this is a wonderful way to commemorate our family's history, and we all get Chinese food every Christmas Eve - quite an order considering there are usually around 20 of us!
The Great Schnecksville Bake-Off
So my hometown of Schnecksville doesn't actually have some huge bake-off around the holidays (that I know of, at least), but rather I am referring to the morning when my family decides to make cookies for the holiday season. Usually, my mother, sister, nieces, and sometimes aunts and cousins will get together on a December morning to turn out cut out cookies, thumbprints, and kiffles by the hundreds....I'm not kidding. Usually, the adults in the family are responsible for preparing the dough, cutting out the shapes, and loading the oven. After each batch of cookies are finished, it's go-time for the kiddos. The kids are usually responsible for decorating the cookies with different colored sugars, sprinkles, chocolate chips, and whatever they can find - a job that was formerly assigned to my brother and I. You can always tell which kid decorates which cookie though! Personalities definitely shine through, with the cookies ranging from very well organized and thought out to piles of confectioner's sugar under which there is probably a cookie!
It has been such a joy to write about these family traditions and share them with you. I hope that everybody has a wonderful holiday season, and I look forward to seeing you at an upcoming solo or 2nd Ceremony concert!