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Holiday cookies baked by reader (and Holiday magazine cover photographer) JP Stanisic and his mother. (Credit: JP Stanisic)
Holiday cookies baked by reader (and Holiday magazine cover photographer) JP Stanisic and his mother. (Credit: JP Stanisic)

We asked our readers to share their local holiday rituals with us. From hiking at Mashomack on Thanksgiving, to letting in the New Year’s air on Jan. 1, here’s how they’ll be spending the holiday season.

Jane Boardman and Emma Olsen. (Credit: Courtesy of Sarah Olsen)
Jane Boardman and Emma Olsen. (Credit: Courtesy of Sarah Olsen)

Holiday Hike

“It’s funny when a tradition becomes a tradition in your family and you don’t even realize it. That’s how it is with my family and our annual tradition of hiking at Mashomack Preserve on Shelter Island on Thanksgiving morning.

Mashomack is an amazing example of smart land preservation, with over 2,000 acres preserved by The Nature Conservancy. Every year about 10 to 20 of us meet in Greenport at the Shelter Island Ferry for a 9 a.m. departure. Some of the younger crowd has a little trouble with the early time but we do that so that everyone can put their turkey in the oven before they leave. A few people are late stragglers but we typically all end up in the parking lot at Mashomack armed with snacks —water, nuts, clementines — and lots of people.

“Sometimes the group is so large that it splits off into different smaller groups, but that’s the fun of it. You end up having wonderful little conversations along the way and are able to catch up with family and friends. Often, we end up at the beach skipping rocks and regrouping for the walk back. A couple of years ago, one of our hikers even went swimming to the delight of all of us there. She’s become famous for that.

“A friend of mine once told me that she thought it was really nice that our family has a few traditions that we do continuously: a Swedish smorgasbord at Christmas, traveling to my sister’s house in the Adirondacks the day after Christmas and the Thanksgiving Mashomack hike. I now see through my children that traditions are extremely important and children really appreciate them. When I told my 12-year-old daughter that this year some of the traditions might be happening in a different way she was not too happy with me.

“This year we aren’t able to hike on Thanksgiving morning because we’re traveling to Connecticut for the day. Most of the group will still make the annual pilgrimage but I can assure you that we’ll keep our tradition and the 12-year-old will be happy — we’ll just be going on Friday morning.”

Sarah Olsen, Cutchogue, co-owner of Times Review Media Group

The Night Before Christmas

“My kids may kill me for saying this! Even though our boys are ages 24 and 27, we still read “A Visit From St. Nicholas” by Clement Clarke Moore (better known as ’Twas the Night Before Christmas) every Christmas Eve before we all go to bed, if we’re all at home. By now we all have it mostly memorized — but none of us can recite the whole thing from memory, even after all these years.

I’m confident that if Jake and Luke have children of their own, they will do the same. I look forward to buying a version of the book for each of them one day!”

Lauren Sisson, Mattituck, Times Review Media Group associate editor

Credit: Courtesy of JP Stanisic
Credit: Courtesy of JP Stanisic

Cookie Greetings

“We (me and my mom) have two that we do every year.

First, my godmother, Eleanor Michalerya, used to make these holiday walnut cookies and send them out to family every year. She did this for as long as I can remember.

She passed away a few years ago due to cancer so my mom and I took up the mantle and now make them every year and send them out to family. It was amazing how family really appreciated it, especially my godfather, Charles Michalerya (her husband).

We also do our own photo holiday card now. The past years it has been a photo of the house or fireplace decorated, a local winter scene, the Christmas tree (a couple times) we decorated. It is always something personal from our home to share with everyone.”

JP Stanisic, Southold, advertising design director 

Credit: Courtest of Paul Gilman
Credit: Courtest of Paul Gilman

Ethnic Fridays

“Almost seven years ago we started a new family holiday tradition. To combat the craziness of Black Friday, we turned the day after Thanksgiving into Ethnic Friday. Basically, Thanksgiving is a celebration of the origins of being an American, while Ethnic Friday is an opportunity to celebrate the cultures that make up America. For Ethnic Friday the family selects a culture to celebrate by making a communal dinner based on that cuisine including main course, vegetables, dessert and special drinks or wine. So far we have celebrated Indian, Korean, Puerto Rican, Israeli, Spanish and, last year, the fall harvest and wines of the North Fork. This year we will celebrate Cuban cuisine with Cuban sandwiches, black beans, flan and mojitos. Best of all, the participation in Ethnic Friday continues to grow.”

Paul Gilman, Southold, technology director for Praxair

Turkey Bread

“In 1992, my son Nicholas’ first grade class was having a Thanksgiving Pow Wow and our contribution was to bring the bread.

We decided to make our bread in the shape of a turkey, I still have the page that I ripped out of Redbook Magazine! They were such a hit with the kids that the directions went home on the next weeks homework sheet.

Credit: Courtesy of Nadine Bazata
Credit: Courtesy of Nadine Bazata

Ever since that first year, we have had them at every Thanksgiving dinner. Some years the baking switched to the kids, some years they looked less like a turkey and more like a vulture and some years they have been mailed to family that couldn’t make it home for Thanksgiving dinner. It’s funny how something so simple becomes a tradition before you realize it.

It wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without them.”

Nadine Bazata, Southold, senior account clerk for Southold schools

Credit: Courtesy Ali O'Brien
Credit: Courtesy Ali O’Brien

Edible Ornaments

“Every Christmas, we make cinnamon ornaments and decorations from scratch! It’s been a family tradition since I was little (I’m 27) and now we’ve started doing it with our son every holiday season. We use cookie cutters to choose the shapes of the ornaments (although I’m partial to snowflakes).

“I make the applesauce used in the ornaments from scratch, too, so it’s extra, extra special, and I get the apples from local farms! It’s a delicious way to celebrate the holidays!”

Ali O’Brien, Wading River, journalism student at St. Joseph’s College

The Tree Bags

“On Christmas Eve years ago when I was a child my father went to wrap some of his last-minute purchases and discovered that all the wrapping paper had been used up. Not to be deterred he went to the pantry where all the paper bags were stored.

“In went the gifts, but on each one he wrote a funny notation. Some bird food for my grandmother was labeled, “To Effie from Birdsie Young.” Well, Birdsie Young was the manager of the GLF store in town and they sold bird food.

“Most of these gifts were light enough to hang on the tree and there was one for each of us. The family was delighted with the whole thing.

To this day we still hang “tree bags” with funny notations on them. Christmastime wouldn’t be the same without them.

Sandra Kaser, Southold, retired elementary school teacher

Credit: Courtesy of Sharon Cook, Instagram
Credit: Courtesy of Sharon Cook, Instagram

Letting New Year’s In

“I have one tradition every Jan. 1. Let the old year out and the new year in by opening the front door. My parents did it. Now

I do it. Every … single … year.”

Sharon Cook, Sag Harbor, education coordinator and kindergarten teacher at Peconic Community School

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