This year, make your holidays by creating your own holiday calendar based on seasonal rituals and family traditions for a meaningful holiday season.
When I was a kid, there was tremendous build-up to Thanksgiving with lots of shopping, peeling, sifting, shaking, blending and baking. We would host at least a couple dozen people, so it really was a major event and preparation began days in advance. Today, with our little family of five, it’s hard to replicate the sense of prolonged anticipation that came with Thanksgiving that I experienced as a child.
When our oldest entered elementary school five years ago, we stopped making the trek to my hometown in Massachusetts for Thanksgiving. Because of the tight time line, traffic, unpredictable weather, and the loony logistics of traveling with three young kids, we decided to stay local over Thanksgiving and began to create our own traditions.
We started hosting Thanksgiving for our little family, my husband’s parents and his sister at our home in Old Town. A few years ago my husband’s parents moved into a log cabin in Lancaster County, Pa., and this year we will celebrate our second Thanksgiving there. With all of the accents of days gone (huge timbers and chinking, stone steps, enormous fireplace) commingled with modern conveniences, their cozy, bucolic home is such an appropriate place to embrace this particular holiday.
This change in venue meant we were less engrossed in planning, shopping and cooking, so we were inspired to create a few new rituals and traditions, especially ones that would compliment that particular setting, ones that we'll continue and enhance this year.
- We collected leaves, which we laminated to create placemats for each guest.
- We collected various elements of nature (pine cones, acorns, leaves and gourds) to create a centerpiece for the Thanksgiving feast.
- On Thanksgiving morning, we indulged in one of my favorite Thanksgiving treats from my own childhood – watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, as I did with my own siblings and Dad.
- This year, in addition to the other treats we’ll contribute to the feast, each of the kids wants to make a loaf of homemade bread.
- We have also started reading the Little House series. Although the timing was not intentional, it certainly feels appropriate. Reading about the harsh conditions under which early settlers lived gives one a very timely sense of appreciation and gratitude.
Whether you are having an intimate dinner with family or friends, will be hosting a hungry horde, or you are on your own, there are so many ways to embrace the holidays and create rituals and traditions that can stand for years to come.
Engage in some of the numerous activities and events in the coming weeks and grow a new tradition or ritual of your own.
Looking for a place to volunteer, to contribute donations, or give back in other ways? Explore the searchable volunteer database at Volunteer Alexandria.
Thanksgiving Day: Connect with Nature
- Pariticipate in the 36th Annual Alexandria Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving Day at 10 a.m.
- Go for a hike at Turkey Run Park (pun intended!), off the George Washington Memorial Parkway. Daingerfield Island, Theodore Roosevelt Island and Huntley Meadows Park are also great alternatives.
- Go for a scenic drive down the Parkway towards Mount Vernon, or be adventurous and head out to Skyline Drive.
If you are not into the cult of Black Friday, here are a few fun ways to keep the festivities going once your belly is full:
- Annual Tree Lighting Ceremony at Market Square in Old Town Alexandria
Friday, November 25, 7 p.m. (rain or shine)
- Reston Town Center Holiday Parade
Friday, November 25. Other festivities include visits with Santa, horse drawn carriage rides, a Holiday Tree Lighting & Sing-Along.
Leading into the Winter Holidays
- Holiday Concert Series
Enjoy the festive sounds of the season featuring barbershop, folk, Hanukah favorites, hand bell ringers and good old fashioned caroling.
- 41st Annual Scottish Christmas Walk Parade in Old Town Alexandria Saturday, December 3 at 11 a.m.
- Ornament Decorating Workshop at the Alexandria Archaeology Museum
Saturday, December 3, 1 p.m. - 4 p.m.
- Illuminated Boat Parade on the Potomac River
Saturday, Dec. 3, 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. Pre-parade festivities begin at 4 p.m. and include live musical performances and free photos with Santa Claus for kids and dogs.
- Volunteer – Food Distribution
Saturday, December 10 between 8:30 a.m. and 12 p.m.
Three locations: 300 Wythe Street in Old Town; 25 West Reed at the Cora Kelly Recreation Center; and 2280 North Beauregard at Church of the Resurrection. Children 7 and older can help. firstname.lastname@example.org, 703-837-9300 ext 2.