North Valley readers share what makes this time of year so special to their families

Holiday TraditionsLife

North Valley readers share what makes this time of year so special to their families.

By Kristin Caliendo

I never realized how important holiday traditions were until I had a family of my own. I was inspired looking back over my childhood, while tracing my family traditions for this column. This journey made me appreciate all the effort my grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles put in to celebrating our heritage. I know one thing is for sure; it takes heart to fulfill lifelong traditions and keep the torch burning. I enjoyed hearing touching stories from North Valley readers as they shared with me what makes their holidays special.

Check out the festive fun! Who knows? This might be the year you start a new tradition or put a spin on an oldie-but-a-goodie.


“Every year my family gets together to make tamales, which is a Mexican tradition. It is quite the production, and one year I even had a bunch of friends come over to help finish making them. I love this tradition because it brings friends and family together for the holidays.”––Josette Rosene

“The Edge holiday tradition is the gift that keeps on giving. We buy a family present each year that is revealed on Christmas Day. It is a special item to add to our holiday decor. Last year was an ice castle for our ceramic snow village, and this year an electric Thomas the train for around the Christmas tree.”–– Krista Edge

“Christmas Eve has always been so magical to me. Growing up in Canada my parents would let my brother and I open a few of our gifts after dinner. Dinner was usually special too because we would give my mom a break and order dinner in. My husband’s family didn’t follow the same tradition but when we met he was happy to indulge me, and now we really couldn’t imagine it any other way. Over the years, we have modified it a bit. Instead of having dinner at home, we usually go out, followed by a walk with our dogs around the neighborhood to admire all the holiday lights. Only after the boys have asked a million times, ‘Is it time to open gifts yet?,’ do we sit around the tree and let them unwrap a few special ones we set aside. Once they’ve had some time to enjoy their shiny new possessions, it’s off to their beds with visions of sugarplums dancing in their heads.”–– Stacey Reid

“The tradition of building gingerbread houses started probably about 20 years ago. I wanted to do something with my grandchildren that they could always remember and share with their families. I wasn’t much of a baker or seamstress so the gingerbread houses seemed like the most feasible for me, and fun for them. I have done it every year since then and have added great grandchildren in the fun. I like to say, ‘One on the house, two in the mouth!’”–– Dottie Hoffman

“One of my favorite family holiday traditions is the distribution of silver dollars, which was started several generations ago with my Mom’s family in Nebraska. Every Christmas Eve, a family elder places a brand new silver dollar at each dinner place setting. The coin then becomes part of a collection for each of the children and helps to build memories of cherished family gatherings.” — Sarah Estrada

“For me, holidays are all about creating memories with family and friends. My favorite tradition is driving through Starbucks for hot cocoa and then driving around the neighborhood admiring all the lights on the houses. This tradition started about 11 years ago with my family. For the last several years I have been carrying on the tradition with friends and loved ones. It’s special to me because I get a warm and cozy feeling and it doesn’t cost a whole lot, other than a cocoa. It’s a great thing to do, especially if you are on a strict budget, but still wanting to do something magical! I enjoy going to Santa’s house near Thunderbird and 32nd Street to see what new displays he has created for the neighborhood. People flock here from all over the North Valley to check it out! This year I am really looking forward to sharing this tradition with my boyfriend Charlie.”–– Sarah Pena

“Christmas morning is all about my Great Aunt’s coffee cake. My Great Aunt was Italian and her coffee cake is so scrumptious that it has held up in tradition for four generations. Sadly, she passed away before I was born, but my mother carried on the tradition of baking the coffee cake on Christmas morning. The recipe has travelled all the way from New York and my sister and I get up before dawn to bake so that the cake will be hot out of the oven to eat while opening up and discovering Santa’s gifts. It’s customary for the woman of the house to bake the cake. The smell of cinnamon and brown sugar baking brings back memories of my mother on Christmas morning.”–– Bridget Argana

“What would Christmas Eve be without Pierogi! This Polish delicacy is a staple on the dining room table during the holidays in my parent’s home. I have been cooking and eating Pierogi since before I had teeth. As a young child, I would wait in line at the Polish deli with my mother, my aunt and my cousins. That alone brings back fond memories of my family and the holidays. Every person in my family knows how to make Pierogi and I have never met anyone who doesn’t love it. My mom and dad make them every year and they are passing down the tradition to my children.”–– Kristin Caliendo


Wanting to start a tradition? Give these a try

  1. Put together a softball or T-ball game.
  2. Sponsor a family in need
  3. Go caroling dressed in ugly sweaters



A Christmas Story––The Weber Family Traditions

For many people living in Phoenix, when they hear the name Weber, a cheerful smile emerges. For Phoenix native and newlywed Colleen Weber-Argo, it warms her heart when people share stories about her parents, Flip and Kathy Weber.

The last few holidays have been difficult for Colleen as her parents both passed away around one year of each other. This mother and father duo happily raised six children and were very active in the community. They were generous to everyone they knew and more so to those in need. It was not easy for Colleen to recall the many family traditions that her parents had, as the loss is still so new.

Colleen describes their Paradise Valley home in full holiday grandeur, adorned with colorful lights and boundless gifts wrapped to perfection under a towering Christmas tree. It was her mother’s unwavering commitment to making everything perfect for her children that brings a tear to Colleen’s eye. Hours upon hours of wrapping and decorating went into each holiday. “None of us kids ever knew the amount of effort that went into making the holidays magical. But, for my mom, for all the joy and festivity it brought, it was worth it,” explains Colleen.

Maybe it was the stuffed lobsters flown in from Maine that reminds Colleen most of her Dad. Or the lingering smell of fresh Matzo Ball soup that really hits home. “During the holidays, Dad’s place was in the kitchen. That was tradition. You don’t really realize all the traditions until family members pass away.”

It’s the essence of her parents that made the holidays what they truly were, and that was about being with family––not the shiny gifts or the delectable dishes. Now that her parents aren’t here to celebrate, Colleen feels that it’s her role to carry out the traditions for the Weber family; to keep the memory of her parents alive and well.

As the holidays don’t get any easier, it’s her husband and his family that have welcomed Colleen with open arms and poured their love and joy into her heart. No one can ever replace her parents or their traditions, but Colleen says of her new family: “I feel very loved and welcomed.”





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