The holiday season is upon us! The best thing about the holidays is giving and sharing with friends and family, and one of the best things to share is holiday traditions. Whatever the most important holiday is, there are sure to be traditions associated with its celebration. In the spirit of sharing and friendship, we’d like to share with you some of the favorite traditions of a few Tonkadale staff.

Tonakdale Greenhouse staff holiday traditions: eclectic treeThe holiday season’s traditions always start with family. First, my husband and I host Thanksgiving. It’s a big to-do (as far as I’m concerned) because that’s how I like it. I plan a well-coordinated menu and prep and cook for three days. Most importantly, our closest family members are our guests. We cook together, eat together, and watch the parade and football together.

Our Christmas traditions include:

  1. Trimming the tree while watching “White Christmas” and signing along. One thing we love about our tree is the eclectic mix of ornaments. Many are old, and almost all of them have a story whether they’re from someone we love or are from somewhere special we’ve been.
  2. Baking sugar cookies while listening to Christmas music (especially Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra and Harry Connick Jr.)
  3. Decorating inside and outside – lights, greens, and ornaments that hold up to the elements are a welcome sight any time we venture outdoors. We’re especially fond of the lighted wreath on the barn and the overly-lighted Showy Mountain Ash outside our living room window. Inside, most items get replaced with Christmas décor, including wall hangings and knick-knacks (I even decorate the bathroom!)
  4. Tonakdale Greenhouse staff holiday traditions: eclectic ornamentsIce fishing with family and friends. Sometime throughout the holiday season (if the weather cooperates!) my husband and I enjoy fishing with our family and friends.
  5. Food! Food and drink are important to all our holiday traditions. We always have lefse and wild rice, no matter what else is on the menu. We also always have wassail, a holiday beverage made with apple cider and highlighted in the song:

Here we come a-wassailing among the leaves so green;
Here we come a-wandering, so fair to be seen.
Love and joy come to you, and to you our wassail, too.
And God bless you and send you a Happy New Year
And God bless you and send you a Happy New Year

Wassail also means to toast to one’s health, and it tastes so good! Here’s my favorite recipe:

2 quarts apple cider
1 ½ quarts cranberry juice cocktail
2 tsp whole cloves
¼ cup packed brown sugar
1 lemon thinly sliced
5 three inch cinnamon sticks

Combine all ingredients in a large kettle. Heat to boiling, reduce heat and simmer 15-20 minutes. Remove cinnamon and cloves with a slotted spoon. Float fresh lemon slices in each cup. Add a shot of brandy to your cup, if you’d like.

Tonakdale Greenhouse staff holiday traditions: Hoppin' John

Hoppin’ John. Photo by Kristen Taylor, Wikimedia Commons

Another food tradition is eating beans on New Year’s Day because it’s supposed to bring good luck and prosperity all year. At my house we make Hoppin’ John, a traditional bean dish. It’s made with black eyed peas that are said to resemble coins, and should be served with collard greens that are representative of cash. Ham is commonly in the dish, but bacon can also be added. Here’s a good recipe: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/emeril-lagasse/hoppin-john-recipe.html

Here are a couple more Tonkadale employees’ traditions.

Laura, one of Tonkadale’s talented designers, is from the Netherlands. There, the big celebration is New Year’s Eve. “Everybody goes out at midnight. They are making fires and shooting off fireworks. You go to the neighbors houses to wish them happy New Year, and before you know it, it is 6 o’clock [in the morning] and it’s like ‘How did this happen?’” On New Year’s Day there are activities in the afternoon, but in the morning no one is out and about!

Tonakdale Greenhouse staff holiday traditions: Dreidel

Dreidel. Photo by Wikimedia Commons

JayAr, Greenhouse production assistant, celebrates both Hanukkah and Christmas on different sides of her family. When she was a kid, JayAr says, “My mom has a Hanukkah party, my dad has Christmas, and I go to my in-laws for New Year’s Eve. My mom and I listened to Klezmer music when we put up decorations for Hanukkah. We’d put up banners and window stickers and bring out dreidels. I’d get a little itty bity present every morning and two major ones some time during Hanukkah.”

At her dad’s house they’d put up a “Hanukkah bush” in lieu of a Christmas tree and decorate it with blue and silver.

Tonakdale Greenhouse staff holiday traditions: Risgrot

Risgrot. Photo by KEN, Wikimedia Commons

“When I was little we’d go to my Grandma’s house for Christmas. She was Scandinavian. We’d have a rice and milk soup (called risgrot). One would have an almond in it and whoever got the almond was supposed to have a really good year. For dinner we had meatballs and lefse (a potato flatbread). Thankfully, we didn’t have lutefisk!”

Whatever your holiday traditions may be, I hope you have the very merriest and happiness all next year!