With long nights and low temperatures, festive holidays and seasonal giving, winter is easily the coziest time of the year. In a search for warmth we connect with loved ones in a number of ways: shared meals, gift exchanges, conversations by the fireplace, and more.
With this being said, we asked the Truckee Meadows Parks Foundation team to tell us about their favorite winter tradition, in hopes of spreading some seasonal cheer. Check out their responses below!
“My favorite holiday tradition is somewhat new in the past few years, but something that I love and fully embrace through all of the winter season. The tradition is called Hygge ("hooga"). "Hygge is about coziness and surrounding yourself with the things that make life good, like friendship, laughter, and security, as well as more concrete things like warmth, light, and seasonal food and drink."
This is known as a defining characteristic of Danish culture and, while I have never been to Denmark, it is where a large portion of my paternal family is from and I found this tradition while poking around Scandinavian traditions online. My favorite ways to embrace hygge at home is by lighting a lot of candles and warm lights around the house, having a fire, baking or cooking delicious treats, and making sure there are plenty of blankets available in every room. I've started doing "Slow Cook Sundays" where I spend the day cooking a hearty winter meal and oftentimes baking bread. The act of making the meal makes me feel happy and content, and then eating it makes me feel even better, especially when there's bread. I also tend to read a lot and rarely turn on the large overhead lights.
The holidays in particular can be really stressful and fast paced, and I love that this tradition emphasizes actively slowing down and focusing on all the positive things that we already have around us, and less on all of the things that we want.”
-Elena Larsen, Nature Study Area VP
“My favorite winter tradition is making Nutella hot chocolate with my family and watching a holiday movie, typically done around Christmas Eve. I really love this time of year because there’s something so comforting about staying in with my loved ones, drinking a warm bev, and vegging out on the couch to a movie. There aren’t any other expectations of anyone, nothing to do, change, or fix in the moment. Just us enjoying one another’s company, keeping warm, and passing the time. As I get older and life inevitably gets busier, I’ve really started to cherish these times where everyone around me collectively decides to chill out, together.
Plus, I’m a sucker for cheesy holiday movies. I recently rewatched Love Actually and couldn’t help but swoon. (I will say though, the movie is 20 years old now and the fat jokes did not age well at all.) Regardless, the core message remains: Love is all around us!!”
-Dayna Genio, Communications Coordinator
“My favorite personal holiday tradition is to stay in and watch holiday movies in ugly sweaters.
You can never go wrong with staying in during the cold month of December. Watching holiday movies helps to prepare for the Christmas spirit. This is the best time to bake all the fun desserts/treats, drink hot beverages, wrap Christmas gifts and take fun pictures. I enjoy staying in and watching the snowfall from the window.”
-Amiyah Tanner, Community Engagement Coordinator
“When I was in high school, my mom thought we could all start baking cookies together around the holidays. So, my mom, my sister, and I got all the ingredients and started baking. We baked 2 to 4 batches of 4 different kinds of cookies, Hershey kiss (sugar cookie base with a Hershey kiss on top), lemon ricotta (ricotta cookies with a lemon icing topped with a variety of sprinkles), sugar cookies of all different shapes, and chocolate chip. We probably made about 200 cookies and decided that we should hand them out to our neighbors and share them with friends and family.
Over the years our cookie making tradition has become more elaborate. We are now making 3 to 4 batches of every type of cookie, but have since added on to the list of what to bake and developed ways to make them taste better, and every once in a while we try a new recipe, which is how we found my favorite kind of cookie, chocolate crinkle cookies (which is basically a brownie shaped like a cookie with a light dusting of powdered sugar on top). A few years ago we decided to start making most of our dough the day before and chill them in big bricks in the fridge overnight. In the morning, we start baking and use all of our pans to push in and out of the oven, using all the counter and table space to roll the dough and shape it, and then decorate the final product. We don’t stop until the sun goes down, and we’ve even developed a system so each person has a designated job! We have gotten new tools to have cool new shapes for our sugar cookies and a plethora of sprinkles to decorate.
This is my favorite holiday tradition, especially since this is something that started when I was a teenager and I can look back at how far my mom, my sister, and I have come in our baking and decorating skills and how our tradition has changed a bit through the years. We all look forward to these days each year, and I’m so excited to fly back home and be able to eat my weight in cookies.”
-Alex De Sousa, Wetland Restoration Technician
“In our house, the holiday gift-wrapping process has evolved into a unique tradition that emphasizes simplicity and sustainability. Rather than fighting rolls and rolls of wrapping paper and spending all night wrapping gifts, I've adopted a more eco-friendly, stress-free approach. I use recyclable white butcher paper or brown packaging paper and transform a few large boxes into snowmen, reindeer, or other festive "sculptures.” I just throw as many gifts as will fit into a large box, wrap it in plain paper and then draw faces or other decorations on the outside. I first saw this method on Pinterest a few years ago and I have LOVED it ever since. This method streamlines the wrapping of presents for each child; I only wrap about 3 large boxes per kid. Plus, it reduces the environmental impact of using a ton of un-recyclable paper and adds a touch of fun and creativity to the holiday season. I don’t even need bows or ribbons and have even used clothing gifts like coats or hats to “dress” the box-snowmen. This year I’m going to be making a holiday train with the gifts! This wrapping hack is so fun that it has become a consistent holiday tradition in my house; I even use it throughout the year sometimes for birthday and baby shower gifts to make cats, bears and more! You can read about even more sustainable wrapping practices at KTMB’s latest blog.”
-Jennie Johnson, Wetland Restoration Outreach Coordinator
As a member of the Jewish community, one of my favorite holiday traditions is celebrating Hanukkah. Hanukkah has immense meaning to me, representing family, friends, and resilience. For millennia, Jews have always been seen as “other” in mainstream societies, and I enjoy embracing my cultural heritage and uniqueness. The story of Hanukkah recounts how the Jews refused to assimilate into colonizing Greek culture during the height of the Seleucid Empire, honoring our commitment to our history and traditions. Hanukkah has a personal meaning of resilience for me, as several of my family members were killed during the Russian Pogroms and during the Holocaust, reminding me of how lucky I am to be alive today and how resilient my ancestors were. Hanukkah evokes a deep sense of reflection in me, and reminds me of how grateful I am to wake up every day. On a happier note, lighting the menorah and chanting the Hanukkah blessings while cuddling up with a delicious bowl of my dad’s famous Matzo Ball Soup always warms my heart. And who could forget playing a lively game of dreidel? Embracing my culture and being proud to be Jewish is so important to me, especially during a time of increased antisemitism.
-Solomon Feinstein, Interpretive Trail Guide
“Being estranged from my family, my chosen crew —friends turned family— are the anchors of my holiday season. I've ditched the whole family gathering scene for Friendsgiving and Friendsmas, in an effort to build my own traditions.
My favorite holiday tradition is my annual D&D one-shot adventure with my old college buddies. What's supposed to be a four-hour quest turns into an all-night saga, filled with laughter and stories. It's a reminder that family isn't just blood; it's the folks who get you. As we gear up for the holidays, I'm looking forward to turning our usual Discord game nights into epic in-person sessions. It's a cool twist to our usual routine, all thanks to being in the same town during this time of year.”
-Bradley Leavitt, Camp Manager
In conclusion, the winter season is what you make of it, and we loved hearing everyone's take on this time of year. Feel free to share your own winter traditions in the comments below. May your holidays be filled with warmth and cheer!