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Tales of Holiday Parenting

Real-Life Richmond

What makes the holiday season so special? Stories you never forget, time spent together, and family traditions. Here, parents share some of their most cherished holiday moments.

Looking back at the fondest of holiday memories, I barely remember the gifts. I do recall the things we did together each year. Whether I adored these family moments (putting the elf on the tree) or tried to avoid them (eating oysters for breakfast), these were our traditions and they filled our lives with love and joy.

“Since we are Jewish and most of my children’s friends were Christian, we made it a practice to give an ornament to our best friends for their trees. This way my children learned to respect and do something appropriate for another person’s tradition. These same dear friends would come to our house to light the menorah. All the children are grown now and I think they are all very understanding of different customs. Our message to our own kids was that the world is far more exciting and beautiful, like a mosaic, because of all the differences than it would be if everyone looked, acted and thought the same.” – Linda, Richmond

“A new tradition that we started a couple of years ago is to give the gift of time to our parents. We all pick out a date and a place and then give them a gift certificate, so we can all go out together as a big family.” – Jan, West End

“The best gift we’ve given our kids was tickets to see Wicked on tour in Baltimore. We stayed in a big hotel, which was a treat. We were all mesmerized by the show and the girls talked about it for months. It was great to do something all together that everyone enjoyed. Those moments are so hard to come by!” –Mark, Henrico


Handed down from generation to generation, traditions evolve as children grow older, and change when families join together and develop their own unique ways of celebrating the holidays. Some traditions seem to run their course, like when children grow too old to visit Santa, or family and friends move away and shipping gifts becomes drudgery. Why not try adding a new tradition this year?

“Each year on Christmas Eve we read ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas. All the grandkids live in different states now, so we conference call and my father reads to everyone in the family.” -Laura, Glen Allen

“For several years in a row, we invited an orphaned boy from a boy’s home here in Richmond to spend the day with our family. He ate dinner with our family, opened presents, watched a holiday movie and played video games with our boys. He no longer lives in Richmond but still stays in touch.” -Lisa, Richmond

“I am one of four children and we are spread out through Virginia and North Carolina. Due to location and extended families, my mother understands that it’s next to impossible to get all of us together on Christmas Day. Years ago, she generously offered to let each of us spend Christmas with our in-laws. Instead, she plans a full family Christmas on another day-usually the first available Saturday. This way we have never failed to be together over the holidays, even if it’s not exactly on Christmas Day. And believe me, my children never complain about a second Christmas!” -Kelly, West End

Like an angel getting his or her wings with every ring of the Red Kettle bell, the holiday season brings sweet stories of miracles and blessings. And who doesn’t love a holiday miracle?

“My parents tried for years to have children and could not. One Christmas Eve, they learned that a little boy was born that they could adopt. He was brought home Christmas morning. That boy is my older brother and all of my family still recounts that story. I was not born until three years later!” -Betsy, Henrico

“It was Christmas Eve and I was very pregnant with my third child, due December 28. Around 11 p.m. my oldest son who was three and half at the time, came down with such a bad case of croup that we called 911. They insisted he be taken to St. Mary’s Hospital by ambulance. My husband followed behind with our middle child who was only eighteen months old. We spent about five hours of quality time with our inquisitive preschooler asking all kinds of Santa questions: What is Santa going to do at our house? Is he in Richmond? What is he going to do if he finds out we aren’t home? The questions were non-stop.As it turned out my son was fine and we finally ended up back at home around three in the morning. The first thing he wanted to do was go into the den and see if Santa had come yet. It was the longest Christmas Eve ever.” -Elisa, West End

What would the holidays be like without the yummy dishes that send us all running to the gym on the first of January? As a traditional turkey and stuffing family, we all grumbled when my mother-in-law suggested we have Italian favorites such as eggplant and sausage instead of the regular menu. Now, Italian Christmas is the highlight of our holiday season.

“We were transporting a honey-baked ham to Montana for Christmas and it was lost with the luggage. Interestingly enough, the lost luggage storage in Minneapolis is not well-heated and the ham was still partially frozen when we received it two days later! I remember saying, ‘Please find my luggage. There’s a ham in my suitcase!’” -Ann, Short Pump

“I make latkes for the first night of Hanukkah every year. I hate making latkes. They make a huge mess, the house smells like burned onions for days, and I am only somewhat competent at the task. But, my kids love them and always say they are delicious. They get so excited when the big bag of potatoes comes out.” -Sara, Henrico

“After our pediatrician downgraded my daughter’s peanut allergy to mild, we decided it was time to put peanut butter cookies back on the Christmas baking list. Note to parent: that doesn’t mean the child can fully participate. The hives all over her arms were bigger than the cookie dough balls she was rolling. Benadryl to the rescue!” -Karen, Richmond

What do a zillion lights, a holiday extravaganza worthy of Lincoln Center, and a dancing mouse have in common? These are some of the best-loved traditions and activities that Richmond families look forward to all year long.

“We love the Tacky Light Tour. There are so many awesome displays…the house in the Farmington neighborhood is our favorite!” -Leigh, Short Pump

“My daughter begged me to switch churches the first time we saw ‘Glorious Christmas Nights’ at West End Assembly of God.” -Elizabeth, Richmond

“We love to take the kids to see the lights at the James Center.” -Jen, Richmond

“Our family enjoys the Ukrop’s Christmas Parade each year. The best part is waiting for the arrival of Santa.” -Marie, Henrico

“One of our family’s favorite Christmas traditions is to see The Nutcracker on stage and eat dinner at Robin Inn in the Fan.” -Lynn, West End

“Don’t miss the Lewis Ginter lights display. The train exhibit inside is fun and walking around looking at the beautiful lights is something we always love.” -Maryanne, Glen Allen

“The Richmond Zoo’s nativity reenactment is very well done – including the beautiful music from local choirs.” -Ellen, Midlothian

Amy Farina is a freelance writer, preschool teacher, wife, and mother of two teen boys. She lives in the West End with her family.
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