How to Make Holiday Traditions

Episode Details:

Air date: December 13, 2017

Guest: Rachel Kuberry

Runtime: 28 minutes, 28 seconds

Summary: Our tenth episode is the second in a two-part holiday series. In episode nine, we spoke about making gifts. This time around, we’re talking about making traditions.

Also, in January, “How to Make a Memory” is being featured in a campaign from #TwoPodsADay. Find new independent podcasts like this one by following #TwoPodsADay on Facebook and Twitter.

Links of Interest: 

Owl Advent Calendar
Traditional Wassail recipe

What I Made This Week:

From the transcript: “And now I’d like to tell you about something I made this week. I’ve been working on getting the kids’ Christmas gifts finished up. I picked out a really cute hooded cowl for Emma and knit that up last week. It’s made with rainbow colored yarn and looks like a fairy hat. For Joey, I’m in the middle of assembling a busy book for him. It’s made mostly of felt and has lots of little activities to keep him busy on long car rides. Are you making any gifts this season?”

Episode Transcript 

[Opening Music]


Hello and welcome to “How to Make a Memory,” the show that explores the items we make for one another and how they impact our relationships. My name is Jen Tierney and before you hear the second part of my holiday series with Rachel, I’d like to talk to you about an exciting campaign that I’m participating in next month. It’s called #2PodsADay and introduces podcast listeners to independent podcasts like this one. They spotlight two podcasts every day and their next campaign will run through January and February. If you’re looking to discover new podcasts, follow #2PodsADay on Facebook and Twitter.

All right, this week Rachel and I are going to be talking about how to make traditions for the holidays. A quick note that we recorded together a few weeks before Thanksgiving. Okay, enjoy this week’s episode.


Rachel: What I’ve been working on for the last couple of years, since I had the kids (and really longer, since I’ve been married) has been making the holidays ours. Making our mark on the holidays and coming up with our traditions and the things we’re gonna do. Which is a combination of things that I did, things my husband did, and new things that we just want to start doing.

So for me now, a lot of that is about making things. Like this afternoon, I’m just one step closer to Eli’s Christmas stocking. I made Christmas stockings for myself and my husband probably the first year we got married, very early on. And I made Ruby’s before Ruby was born. It might be fair to say – she’s an April baby – I probably made it like around Christmastime the year before she was born. Which is when I cut Eli’s out and I’m like, “Eli needs a stocking before we can deck the halls. That boy needs a stocking. There’s not going to be three stocking on the mantle for even two minutes.” There are four stockings, that’s what’s happening. It’s happening. The beautiful part is done, I just need to like put it together. It’ll get there. I just got it out again, haven’t worked on it in most months and months and months. I got it out again so it’ll be done in a week or two.

I just want to make Christmas our Christmas. Every year we make a Christmas ornament. That is something we do make for Morgan every year – Ruby has made him an ornament. So I need to think about what sort of ornament they’re gonna make for him this year. I don’t think they’ll do two ornaments. I think we’ll do one ornament. That’s a lot of ornaments, if they make two. That’s like 50 ornaments. One ornament, they’ll make a joint ornament. It’s decided.

So, like, how to infuse yourself into this. Even traditions that we want to keep up just like our families did. How do we tweak it and change it for our life? And in my family, in our house right now, a lot of that is creating and making something different. Like Christmas stockings. Our Christmas stockings in my house were made by my grandmother, so I made our family Christmas stockings. I’m not gonna buy them, I’m gonna make them, and they’re gonna match in a funny way and they’re gunna be great.

So that’s what I hope. I hope that they take away and that they enjoy and they remember. That they go forward and do in their adult lives and with their families.

Jen: Yeah, we’re trying to figure out our own Christmas right now, too. We’ve historically almost always spent Christmas Day somewhere else – not in our own house. And this year, finally, Joe was like, “Oh, we’re gonna just be home.”

Rachel: Stayin’ home! Good for you.

Jen: I was like, “All right!” and he was like, “Yeah, I think I’ve finally come around. Christmas is for our kids. We’re gonna do our Christmas and then we can go and see other people later.” It’s a bit of a relief because I really want to have… There were certain things about Christmas in my family growing up that are just so… I don’t know, just taking out certain items that had been packed up all year and putting them out around the house in certain places. Stringing popcorn for the tree and we always left out like carrots and cookies for Santa and the reindeer and you know all those things. Other people do Christmas differently and they have their own different traditions and I feel like I don’t want any of those other traditions. I want to have things that we do. And so we’re trying to kind of figure out what those things are on the fly. We’re just kind of making it up as we go.

Rachel: It’s hard for me because… We’ve spent Christmas at home since we had the kids. Historically we’ve traveled back to my family’s home in Pittsburgh and I really, I love that because I love having the Christmas I had growing up but every year it’s less like the Christmas I had growing up because less people are there, people have their own family. Things have changed and so I want to go back to 1980s Pittsburgh. That’s what I want. And that’s not a thing that I can go back to. So kids or no kids I’ve been trying to come to peace with that. My husband is also very nostalgic, so he feels a very similar way. We’ve been having Christmas at home since we had the kids but this is the first year that we’re not going to go back to Pittsburgh after Christmas. We’re staying here because I just want to wear jammies all week and do whatever we want to do.

I have welcomed the grandparents and, I mean anyone can come see us! That’s fine. But Christmas is about children and our children are staying in their home. We might change that, you know? I would imagine we’re still gonna go back to Pittsburgh every couple of years but we aren’t going to go every year. If anyone wants to come be here, that’s fine.

Up to this point, we’ve front-loaded Christmas. We do a lot of Christmas celebrating before Christmas and then Christmas is sort of the end. And then we get in the car and drive back to Pittsburgh. This year, I want that build up to Christmas – I love it, I want to celebrate Christmas all the time – and then I just want to keep doing it.

Ruby, tonight we were watching a video about a boy – Caillou. Caillou was going to celebrate Christmas and he was going to get his Christmas tree. I was asking her, we were talking about the show, and I was like “What’s he doing?” And she was like, “He’s going to get his Christmas tree!” and she was like super into it and I was like, this is just a fluke that we picked this cuz we read a Caillou swimming book, we wanted to watch Caillou swimming… We watched that yesterday, I didn’t want to watch it again. So we watched Caillou’s Christmas. And she got really excited and my husband’s like, “Yeah, we can get a tree this year. When it gets a little closer to Christmas we’ll put the tree up.” And I think she’s gonna be really into, like you said, getting all the things out and decking the halls.

My husband and I started making a gingerbread house – that’s our tradition, our families didn’t do that. I don’t think we made one Ruby’s first year. Maybe we did, Ruby didn’t help, but maybe we made one. She made one last year with grandma and grandpa and that was her candy house, is what she called it. And all the pictures of her with the candy house she has the giantest smile on her face. Because we just let her make the candy house, let the candy house dry, and then we let her have the candy house. There are pictures of her holding the gingerbread house and just biting pieces of it. [Laughter] And I just want to let them do that.

We got this dumb… our neighbors had a light-up pig in their front yard. And so we got a light up t-rex, which we may have even got before we had Ruby. Or like, her first Christmas. And then her grandparents bought her a similar light up pig and everyday Ruby, last winter, goes out and feeds the animals and loves on them. Christmas is magical with children and I want to have all that I can.

When I think about my memories of Christmas, I think about a lot of things in Pittsburgh that I did and loved to do, some of which are still there, some of which are not. But I want my children to have those experiences here in their home. So that when they think about Christmas, they think about their Christmas here, near their house. Stuff that they can go to or, if they want to, stuff they can travel back here and go to with their families. Not stuff they have to come here and then they go to Pittsburgh for something. I don’t want them to have this disjointed Christmas experience.

So I expect we’ll be making a candy house. We’ll have to have a day for that.

Jen: Oh man, Emma will be so excited to be involved in the candy house building.

Rachel: Well, I save all the candy through the year – like, the bad candy – so it’s all gross candy. Because that’s the candy that looks good too. And I’ll buy a new bag of gumdrops. They should be good. But the rest of the stuff on it is gross candy.

Jen: It’s true. We’ve done cookies a few years with Emma. As soon as she was capable of sort of helping in any way with cookies… She likes decorating cookies, as you’ve witnessed. She loves it. We made cupcakes the other night because she was just like, “I want cupcakes.” So, “Sure, let’s make a batch of cupcake.” And we made frosting and she got some sprinkles from the store, which she stole! Because she’s got the stickiest fingers.

Rachel: This podcast is… don’t say too much Jen. This is on the air.

Jen: I know right? No, she just… Oh my gosh, we got home and I was like, “Where did you get those?” And she was like, “At the store.” “What?!” She’d just thrown them into her backpack. She’s got her little backpack, with her little leash, which she calls her tail because Ruby has a backpack with a tail. And, you know, she had like… when I wasn’t looking, grabbed some sprinkles and put them in her bag.

Rachel: Now you’re gunna need to frisk her when you go to the grocery store.

Jen: I know! She didn’t mean to steal them, you know? She just was like, “Oh, we’re taking these home!” And she doesn’t know the concept of money. Also, our groceries are usually delivered by a man. “The Man” comes to our house and delivers our groceries because we use Amazon Fresh. So she doesn’t… she just thinks some magical man comes to our house and gives us food.

Rachel: She doesn’t even  know you pay for those. That’s not a thing.

Jen: I know. She has no idea. It’s just like, “Oops!”

Rachel: I think Christmas is a real time to pull back and look through the eyes or our children and see what they see and love what they love. We drove through the Center today. I’m not sure if you’ve been to Woburn Center, but Santa’s here.

Jen: Oh, really?

Rachel: Yeah I thought he came the day after Thanksgiving and usually we have a festival the day after Thanksgiving. Well Santa actually comes after the  Halloween parade, so I wonder if it’s been up since then and I just haven’t noticed. But we also have a festival after Thanksgiving which is what I thought was the kickoff to Christmas.

Anyway, there’s a Christmas village in Woburn Center and Ruby… we were driving and we were stopped at the red light and Ruby was like, “Want to get out! Want to get out! Want to go there! Want to see that!” It’s just like, I think it’s just lovely, getting to experience Christmas with them.

You know that Ruby’s into Legos. And my husband is into Legos. So we have a Christmas Lego Village. That’s another tradition that we started, like my husband and myself, that’s not a family thing. He always wanted a Christmas village and I am like, “I am not having that like ceramic.. that is not a thing that is going in our house.” And then my aunt actually just like last year tried to give me her Christmas Village and I was like, “No, I’m sorry you have a nice fancy-pants, expensive Christmas village that has no place in my house. We are all set with our Lego Christmas village.” And it’s wonderful because Lego actually releases two sets a year – this year’s in last year’s, in case you didn’t get it. So every year you can buy one or two depending on what you need for your Lego Village. Honestly, we’re pretty much all set. I think we have like five maybe, which is for the size of our house plenty. But we don’t completely disassemble them because who wants to build that much Lego? I’ve got other things to do at Christmastime, guys! And I expect Ruby’s going to love them.

We have a quote-unquote Halloween village up right now which she is all about and I think we’re about ready for it to be a Christmas village. She can play with all the people and do all the things. I think she’ll really like it. And it makes me happy, I love having all of that stuff around and swapping out our décor. Probably the funniest thing we got, and it’s been very useful because we travel at Christmas so our Christmas tree has been kind of spotty, my mother-in-law gave us a curtain panel that IKEA made which has a fake Christmas tree on it. Obviously it’s fake, it’s just a curtain panel. So it’s a two dimensional evergreen and we hang it in this window. I used to have green drapes which I actually still put up for Christmas. So the Christmas tree is on a white panel with the green drapes on each side and it glows in the dark.

Jen: Of course it does.

Rachel: Doesn’t really glow in the dark in New England because it’s never bright enough to get the glows going. It’s the funniest part of our Christmas décor. She gave it to me and I was like, “What the heck is this?” And then I hung it up and I was like, “This is the best thing ever!”

Jen: Did you see our owl advent calendar last year? It’s so funny.

Rachel: Not ringing a bell.

Jen: I think if you saw it, you’d go, “Oh yeah, that one.” I went into TJ Maxx to… I don’t know what I needed to get in there but I think I was looking for Christmas presents for people who I don’t know what to get, you know? [Laughter]

So I walked in and I was looking for a tree skirt for us because we didn’t have one and it seemed like something we should have and I see next to the tree skirts this giant, it must be three feet tall, plush…

Rachel: Oh I’m remembering this! It was hanging in your living room.

Jen: Yeah, on the door. Oh my word. It’s got little pockets on its chest and you move the little star from one number to the next.

Rachel: And you were like, “My daughter needs to have this.”

Jen: And I was like, “This is perfect and beautiful. He’s wearing a Christmas hat. He’s a big owl, he’s just giant. He covers the whole door. And every day last year, I would say, “Emma, you have to move the star on the owl.” And she would just be like, “[gasp] We have to change the star on the owl!” And eventually she just knew to do it every day. She’d go and pull up a chair and move it over. And it was great for a lot of reasons. It gives her numbers and it’s something she was excited about and she understands that we’re counting down to Christmas. So it’s just all the things. She was super excited about it. So, excited get the owl out again. I cannot wait. Yeah, there are some things that I just get really excited about.

Rachel: The advent calendar that we had growing up was a giant felt panel hanging on our dining room wall that my mother made. So the felt panel was probably 3 feet by 4 feet large and then she made 25, for the advent calendar, 25 pieces for this felt panel which made the nativity. So there was Joseph, Mary, the donkey, a cow, the manger, straw, Baby Jesus, three wise men, a camel. Twenty-five of them. I could continue naming things and we would probably get to like 17 or 18. So the rest were sheep and bushes.

So we had this every year, it was a family of five – my parents and three kids. And so every year, we would, maybe perhaps a different person started it, I don’t know, maybe my Dad started it every year, who knows? Every night you went around the table and a different person put up a thing, like “It was your night last night. It’s my night tonight.” So you pick a thing. And it was like, people have real strong opinions about what the good things to… and it’s funny what kids get into. Who cares who put up the wise men? Who cares that you have to put up a bush? You care! You care a lot.

Jen: Yes, it’s true. It’s amazing.

Rachel: I remember the emotion about that and I remember they had to go in specific spots. They didn’t really have to. But that’s how we thought it should be. It was supposed to be the same every year. It was like, “No, the three wise men can go anywhere in this general area. They’re coming from East!” [Laughter]

I think it’ll be funny as our kids grow up, and they have that sibling dynamic, of seeing how Christmas shapes out. Like, I already got their matching PJ’s. Dinosaur Christmas PJs.

Jen: Oh that’s great.

Rachel: Both kids will love them.

Jen: I need to figure out what we’re doing for Christmas PJs this year. Because, I really need… there need to be some some good Christmas PJs. What’s the other…? Oh! So I’ve been thinking really hard about the stocking situation, because I have crappy Target store-bought stockings that I don’t like but we’re just fillers until I got around to making some. And I’ve always been like, “Oh I will knit beautiful stockings.” But they take so long to make….and…

Rachel: So don’t make presents for all the other people.

Jen: I know, and just make stockings. Right.

Rachel: And next year. However long it takes, it’s fine.

Jen: So I’ve thought about that a lot. About making stockings. But then I’m like, “If I make them out of yarn, will they be able to hold things or will they just stretch? You know?

Rachel: Ours were crocheted. The ones that we had growing up were crocheted granny squares. So, yeah, you’re right, a solid knit…

Jen: Might just stretch..

Rachel: Might not, I don’t know.

Jen: So I have to try to find a pattern that won’t stretch out on me. But then what I thought about doing, that would be a real time commitment, and I should start in June one year. Before the kids start to have like actual memories of things that we do. What I wanted to do, because we’ve got the two kids and it seems like a fun alternative to stockings, is make 25 tiny stockings. Like little, little guys and hang them, and in each one would be a little item or a little…

Rachel: Yeah! So it’s an advent calendar.

Jen: Yeah, an advent calendar and also it’s a little gift you get every night. And I think it’ll be like a slip of paper, you know? And inside this little paper will tell you what you get. Like a book or an experience sort of thing. Like go see a movie with mom or go to the playground with dad or whatever.

Rachel: I think you should do both though.

Jen: Yeah, I know. I really want to because we also do stockings at our house.

Rachel: Ok, so you need to make the stockings. That’s a must. And I think that’s like a keepsake and a thing they’ll always remember. 2) For the mini stocking advent calendar, first you should just change the owl to just be that.

Jen: Yeah, just be the owl.

Rachel: And then work on the little socks.

Jen: Yeah, they’re basically baby socks. But made with really bright Christmas colors.

Rachel: Yes, so you should do that and then once you have 25, the owl will be ratty anyways. He’ll be ready to go. And you’ll swap over to the mini stockings.

Jen: That’s another interesting point that you made earlier about your memories of Christmas are like 1980s in Pittsburgh and so… I forget what it’s called, but there’s a thing that has been a bit of a meme on the internet in the last year or so about people having these false memories. So the one that people frequently cite is the Berenstain Bears. People remember it being spelled differently than it’s actually spelled.

Rachel: Right.

Jen: So I have a memory, a strong memory, of how Christmas was celebrated in my house growing up. And because I’m the oldest, I believe that my memory is correct. Also my parents for some reason don’t seem to have such strong memories of that time. Where as because for me I was a young child…

Rachel: It was very meaningful to you.

Jen: Yeah, so I feel like I really have a strong understanding of what we did. And I think my brother’s memories of Christmas have sort of been painted over by later years. So for me, I always remember we didn’t open any presents Christmas night. We would watch a movie or read some stories or whatever. We put out milk and cookies and carrots. And then the next morning at like 4:00 am, because I’m a crazy person and I could not sleep past like 4 or 4:30, I would tiptoe down the stairs, look at all the presents… It would always smell different. I don’t know why, but my house would always just smell different to me.

Rachel: It was the sweat of your parents.

Jen: The sweat of my parents having stayed up for hours assembling bikes, and basketball hoops, and whatever else that they had bought for us.

Rachel: And all those snacks and beverages they drank. Yeah, it probably did smell different. You’re right! [Laughter]

Jen: And I’d go downstairs and I’d check and see and there’d always be bites taken out of all the things. They went to great lengths… like the carrot always looked as though an actual reindeer had bitten it, not a human mouth. They had bit it in a way that made it look like a reindeer really bit it. It was just crazy.

Rachel: This is feeling very stressful to me because I haven’t thought about these things for my children.

Jen: I know, right? And my Mom would always hand write a letter from Santa, which is just beautiful. Just this wonderful note – something to each of us about how wonderful we’d been during the year. Thinking about it, I really wish I had those notes now, because it was a letter from my mom! Ugh! And I wish I had them. I wrote a letter to Emma from the Paci Fairy and I’ve kept that. That’s now my letter. I’ll give it to her one day.

Rachel: Yes, you will.

Jen: I’m not gonna throw it away. It’s how I felt about Emma in that moment, you know?

So, I have this very strong memory. And then I’d sit down there. I wouldn’t touch anything. I’d sit in my living room and I’d wait for everyone else to get up. My parents obviously wouldn’t get up until like 9:00. My brothers would come down around 6:00 or 6:30 and I would be the body guard who kept all the presents safe from them. But for some reason, when I talk about this with my family, they’re always like, “No Jen, we opened presents on Christmas Eve.” They don’t remember doing it that way. And I don’t like… It — it just so… I know that we [flustered] … I know that that’s how Christmas worked! I have that memory!

Rachel: That’s really funny.

Jen: So even when I go home now, we don’t celebrate Christmas that way because they don’t remember doing it that way. They don’t do the big Christmas morning reveal of presents and opening everything together. It’s just totally different now and it’s like that version of Christmas never existed. It’s very weird.

Rachel: That’s interesting. Memories are funny like that. It doesn’t really matter what happened, it matters what you remember.

Jen: I know for certain that it only actually snowed on one Christmas during my childhood. But in my mind, it snowed every year.

Rachel: So, yeah, you know your false memories.

Jen: Yeah, I know that one’s false. I know. But my memory of Christmas is always like that one morning. But, I know – I know that we opened presents on Christmas morning. Nobody remembers it that way.

Rachel: So my dad’s family didn’t – and I think this was kind of common in the time, maybe not as dramatically as my dad’s family but – they didn’t have as big of a like ramp up to Christmas like we have. And Christmas wasn’t as big of a thing – his parents were Depression people. They decorated for Christmas on Christmas Eve when the kids went to bed. So the kids woke up in the morning and it was Christmas. They put up a tree and everything.

Jen: Oh my goodness. Have you ever had wassail?

Rachel: No.

Jen: [gasp] We should make wassail this year. It’s really quite good. I don’t think it’s alcoholic traditionally though. Maybe it is. I don’t know.

Rachel: I’ve had mulled cider.

Jen: Yeah, it’s warm and it’s got cranberry and apple juice in it, I believe. And cloves and cinnamon and stuff. I don’t know if it has any sort of alcohol. It might, I have to look it up. I’ll see if I can find a recipe.

Rachel: It probably did. Everything had alcohol in it to kill the germs.

Jen: I know. That’s true. And it was very.. you know, “Here we go a wassailing.”

Rachel: It probably had alcohol in it.

Jen: Yeah. I remember reading about it. People would go and sing to get this drink.

Rachel: It probably had alcohol in it.


Jen: It must have! We should make it – it’ll be good. We’ll do a craft night with wassail. Oh my goodness.


I’m so excited to have friends like Rachael nearby as we figure out how to make lasting memories and traditions for our children. Last week, we bundled up the kids into strollers and took them for a stroll through a nearby neighborhood to see all of the beautiful lights and decorations. We have plans to bake cookies and build gingerbread houses. And I’m going to make sure that wassail happens, which I have since learned includes hard cider and brandy. Sounds like a perfect beverage for a cold evening activity.

And now, I’d like to tell you about something I made this week. I’ve been working on getting the kids’ Christmas gifts finished up. I picked out a really cute hooded cowl for Emma and knit that up last week. It’s made with rainbow-colored yarn and looks like a fairy hat. For Joey, I’m in the middle of assembling a busy book for him. It’s made mostly of felt and has lots of little activities to keep him busy on long car rides. Are you making any gifts this season? Come join me on the show’s Facebook page and let me know what you’re making.

Normally the next episode would be available in two weeks, but I’ll be taking the rest of the year off to enjoy the holidays with my family. The next episode will be up on January 3rd. That will also be the day that “How to Make a Memory” will be featured on #2PodsADay. So please come back and help me celebrate independent podcasting. Well, that brings us to the end of this week’s episode. Thanks again to Rachael for helping me brainstorm in my mission to make the season special for my children. Our music is by Chuck Salamone. Our logo is by Becky Carpenter. We get system admin support from Greg Thole. Now, go make something for someone you love.

[Closing Music]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.