Hi everyone! It’s Friday again, which means that it’s time for the Friday Five Linkup with Cynthia, Courtney, and Mar! This week’s theme is holiday traditions. And to be honest, I didn’t really know how to approach this topic. This is my first Christmas ever outside Philly and away from my family, and to be honest I’m kind of taking it hard. At first I was all “YAY CHRISTMAS!” like usual, but as we get closer and closer to Christmas and the sun comes out less and less I can just feel myself becoming sadder. I’ve started realizing how sad some Christmas songs are – especially “I’ll Be Home For Christmas”. Seriously? What is Frank Sinatra trying to pull with that kind of song? Not everyone can be home for Christmas, and we don’t need to be reminded of it constantly. He is making me sob while driving to work, cry silently in my office during lunch, and get teary eyed when I read blog posts about other people doing stuff with their families. I am so happy we moved here and I’m still so in love with Alaska and my job, but I can’t deal with not being with my family on Christmas. Last year I even spent the night at my parents’ house and had so much fun feeling like a kid again. And now…everything is different. I’m realizing that my excitement over Christmas came from doing the same fun things every year, and I have none of those fun things here. I feel like you don’t know what you have until you can’t have it anymore. And the stupid sun is not helping my mood at all, even though I’m using a Happy Light and Vitamin D pills. And where is the snow!?!?!
So when I thought about holiday traditions, I didn’t really know what to say. So far we have done almost nothing Christmasy in Alaska because we don’t really know what’s out there. So I decided to take a look at my usual Christmas traditions and see how I can try to keep them going here in Alaska:
1. Look at Christmas Lights - This is my #1 holiday tradition. I take this really seriously! I knew about all the crazy Christmas houses in Bucks county, Montgomery county, Berks county, Delaware County, and Philadelphia County. Seriously, if you live in any of those places just ask and I’ll fill you in on where to go. We used to live in a very festive neighborhood and would drive around a few times a week looking at lights. Our block had some impressive stuff!
Part of their light display was a snowman cowboy – wearing an Eagles shirt in case anyone got any ideas :) Their neighbors had a blow-up manger scene acted out by cows.
South Philly was the most impressive with The Miracle on South 34th St.!
And no Christmas is complete without a visit to Longwood Gardens. I’ve been going here since I was younger and it never gets old!
Here in Alaska: I’ve been googling where to find the best Christmas lights in Anchorage and I can’t find a thing! It seems like most places here don’t put up lights. I think it’s probably because there’s supposed to be a lot of snow on the ground, so having tons of inflatable Christmas things all over the place and lights all over the roof will get tricky with snow. Since there’s hardly any snow, it’s not an issue this year and things just look weak. The Alaska Zoo has a light display but I’m still looking for other places to go too!
2. Baking/eating Christmas cookies - When I was younger my family would host Christmas Eve parties for our entire family, and my dad would bake a ton of cookies. His favorites were chocolate chip cookies with walnuts, pecan butter balls, and nut wreaths. They are soooooo good!
Santa ate my dad’s cookies!
Here in Alaska: I’m going to ask for my dad’s recipes and try to recreate them here. I’m also all about finding my own recipes to make my own Christmas cookie traditions!
3. Christmas Eve parties - As I said before, every year my family would host a Christmas Eve party. It was a huge part of my memories of Christmas, and when Andrew and I moved to DelCo after grad school I started hosting them myself! We had my family and Andrew’s family come over, and I would bake a turkey (and my dad would bring his cookies of course!). After our families would leave, Andrew and I would put Bella in her sweater and go for a drive around the neighborhood to look at the lights.
At our party 2 years ago – we weren’t even married yet!
Here in Alaska: We bought a turkey to have our own Christmas Eve party…for just the two of us. I’m a little afraid of my emotional state during a two-person, Bella-free Christmas Eve party, so I’m trying to think of something super awesome to do to make me forget how much I miss everyone. Suggestions?
4. Christmas morning - I act like a total child on Christmas morning! I run around screaming about Santa, opening presents with my family, and eating our traditional Christmas breakfast of cinnamon rolls while listening to Christmas music.
Bella helped me unwrap everything!
Here in Alaska: I’ve already got the cinnamon rolls in the fridge. My mom also mailed me all of my presents and they’re already under the tree. Seeing her handwriting on all of my presents made me cry, but I’m so grateful to have them. She told me she couldn’t bear the thought of me having any empty spots under my tree. We’re going to open them over Skype so we can pretend we’re together! Will I cry? Yes. Will it help me feel like we’re together? Yes!
So excited to see what she sent me!
5. Christmas dinner with my mom’s family - We always head over to my aunt’s house for Christmas dinner, Pennsylvania Dutch style :) So much ring bologna and cheese!
Getting silly after too many cookies!
Here in Alaska: I guess I’ll have to attend over the phone! And find something else to do for Christmas dinner. And they don’t sell PA Dutch food up here so maybe I’ll attempt to bake my first Shoo Fly Pie?
Writing this out helps me realize that there are ways to continue my Christmas traditions here in Alaska. It won’t be the same, and won’t ever fill the space in my heart that my family holds. But there are ways to make Christmas fun here. I’m hoping we can start to create new traditions, and this time next year I’ll be writing all about those instead!
In happier news, my very first virtual race is this Sunday! The Solstice Sprint Virtual 5k is being held on the darkest day of the year, and we’re celebrating the return of the sun with running and the chance to win a Black Diamond headlamp! Not running it? Enter here – it’s free and you know you want some virtual company on your weekend run! And for the 22 people already signed up, check back tomorrow for a quick post on how to get your bib, run the race, and enter to win the prize – plus a huge shoutout! I’m so excited!
Have you ever spent Christmas away from your family? How did you handle it? How did you fill old traditions with new ones?