Though the focus of retailers during the holidays is getting us to spend money, many of us just appreciate the time we get to spend with family and friends. These relationships are important, so we celebrate and enjoy activities that are special to us. Often, this is how family traditions begin. Wesley Homes staff and residents reveal their holiday traditions and invite you to share yours with us. Bill Hanna: When my sister was eight and I was six, my folks had a small farm. Before Christmas, our dad would take us out on our farm to find the prefect tree. My sister and I would find a tree we liked, and Dad would tell us to shake it so the snow would fall off. The tree wouldn’t look as good without the snow because the large spaces between the branches would show. When we did find a tree we all liked, Dad would put it on his shoulder and carry it home. We didn’t have a lot of money, so the trimming didn’t take long. Our parents would make all our Christmas presents: a rag doll for my sister or a wooden tractor for me. My sister had her rag doll and I had my tractor for many years. We really enjoyed them. The winner of the Holiday Tradition Drawing for residents and staff is: Bill Hanna! Congratulations Bill on your $25 gift card! Mary Warden: Thanksgiving is a time of sharing what you are thankful for and spending time with your family. I am thankful for my staff, so I work on Thanksgiving from noon to 8:00 p.m. so they can spend that time with their families. My household has adults only with our families either in California or on the East Coast, so we share our time so other families can spend the day with their families. LaVonne Mahugh: My new tradition started two years ago. It's to not get “things” for gifts. Gifts are now shared experiences, such as a trip or tickets to events. When it the event is over, there is no additional clutter – only our shared memories. Kaylee Petter: Instead of Black Friday shopping, my family and I put up our Christmas decorations the day after Thanksgiving! Pat King: For forty-five years our family has put on a Christmas play for one another. The starring roles of Mary and Joseph go to the current young teenagers. Baby Jesus changes with the generations. It started out as a pantomime as Dad read. Then we added dialogue. "No. Go away. There’s no room at the inn." Now there are a lot of speaking roles. Along the way, we added singing angels and then carols. The shepherds still wear bathrobes and head covers that come from the kitchen drawer. They bring stuffed animals modified to resemble sheep, but the script stays faithful to the nativity story of Luke 2:1-20. Two years ago, I thought it was time to call a halt, but our new great granddaughter in-law, who played an angel, begged us to continue. “Please, can’t we do it again? I didn’t know any of this amazing, cool stuff before now.” Michael McMonagle: My Christmas tradition began in August 1984. I received a package full of my belongings from my mother, who was de-cluttering in preparation for a move. Mom was an accomplished seamstress and used the last item on the rack in her costume shop as packing material for my stuff. Imagine my surprise when I pulled a Santa Claus suit out of the box, the last thing I expected on a hot day in August. Though the suit is now retired, it started my tradition: Every year since 1998, I’ve put on the suit, persuaded children to join me and handed out Christmas presents at Wesley Homes Health Center. Trust me, a Santa suit is the most fun apparel you can own! The residents and staff now ask me in July if I’m going to bring my elves back in December. Pat Billups: When I was 17, I got married in Louisiana. I didn’t know how to cook, even though I grew up in a household of 10 children and our mother. My mother worried that my husband, Jack, and I might starve to death after we were married. She tried to teach me a few basics, but I simply did not like to cook. Each Thanksgiving morning after I was married, I’d call my mother and ask her how to make a Thanksgiving dish, such as sweet potato pie, collard greens and neck bones or a turkey. The year I called her about stuffing was momentous. It took an hour on the phone before I felt that I could attempt to make this most important part of our meal. I was a nervous wreck. My first stuffing tasted weird. I never did figure out what I did wrong, but we ate it. My mother and I continued this recipe tradition until she died. She would patiently go over the steps to preparing our favorite dishes. This was our special time. She never complained. We knew that we needed this time together. I miss my mother’s stuffing, but most of all, I miss her. Sten Crissey: Our family tradition stems from an oncoming Thanksgiving Day storm that threatened to knock out power on Bainbridge Island where my sister lived. She was planning for 24 guests – all family – and panicked over what to do. She and my brother-in-law decided to bake and carve the bird the day before Thanksgiving. Their plan would allow them to reheat the turkey if they had power or serve cold turkey if the power went out. They had power on Thanksgiving Day so they laid the turkey slices out on shallow aluminum pans, poured some chicken broth over them so they wouldn’t dry out, covered the pans with tin foil and reheated the turkey. It tasted so good no one knew it wasn’t fresh out of the oven. Now they cook the turkey this way every year. The benefit from cooking and carving the turkey the day before is that it frees them up to talk and mingle with guests before dinner, and they don’t have to worry about whether the turkey will be done when they want to serve. Theresa Hile: Christmas in my family was an all-day process. While Mum started early preparing the stuffing and getting the turkey in the oven, we opened the carefully placed gift at the end of each of our beds. After a quick breakfast, my father would hand out gifts to each of us individually as everyone else watched and waited patiently for their turn. Once each present was opened, the gift givers were thanked individually with a hug and kiss before moving on to the next gift. This process took hours! Some would think it was difficult for us as children to wait hours to open presents, but we loved it! It gave us the whole day with the family. As we grew older and our families grew, so did the tradition of making Christmas last. Hoa Nguyen: Every Christmas, my family and I would go to great lengths to struggle through the snowy mountains to handpick our Christmas tree. Then we’d go home and watch “A Christmas Story” while we decorated the tree. By the end of the movie, our tree would be filled with knickknacks we’d collected during the year, may it be a rock from a beach we recently visited, a postcard from a loved one or the entire tree slices from our previous Christmases. It all went up on the tree. The end result: a very ugly but fun-filled tree of memories. I’d sit for hours next to the fireplace, sipping my hot cup of condensed milk and staring at the tree and guessing which memento belonged to whom. We’d reminisce together, laugh together and sometimes cry together. It’s the only time where I feel my family is not so foreign and unknown to me. Lynette Barnett: My husband I started a new tradition two years ago. We go to our youngest son Mitchel’s for Thanksgiving dinner. We bring the homemade cheesecake that my husband Joe makes from scratch, and I do the yams. I always make the gravy as Mitchel is attending to all the fixings for the dinner. Other family members come over as well. We sit around laughing and talking about growing up and other topics. We play board games with the young and the old until dinner is ready. Afterwards, we all want to take naps from stuffing ourselves with Tom the turkey!