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Holiday traditions to start with your family

Mother and two children cutting out cookies

The holiday season is all about making memories. When you think back on the holiday magic of your childhood, you probably remember the traditions and time spent with your family over any gift or toy. If you’re looking for a new holiday ritual to start with your own family, Children’s Mercy employees have you covered! See some of the annual traditions our staff members look forward to each year. 

“On Christmas Eve, each family member opens one gift. It is always their Christmas pajamas. Each year the kids look forward to the ‘theme’ for the year, and I know they won’t be wearing their old faded or ripped jammies in Christmas morning pictures.” - Lisa Schroeder, Medical Administration 

“My parents' best friends since early marriage and their children and grandchildren have gathered with my family every Christmas evening for more than 60 years, without fail! One of the girls said she has been with my mother every Christmas evening of her 61 years, which is more than I can even say for myself, as I've been out of town a few times. Mom is the one remaining matriarch of the group. At 84, she still insists on hosting the gathering at her house and making her famous potato and onion casserole for the crowd.” - Julie Smith, Communications and Marketing 

“My family holiday tradition is to cook together, go see Christmas lights and watch movies later on Christmas night.” - Tara Edwards, Ophthalmology 

My mother’s family is from Poland and Eastern Europe, so every Christmas Eve, we gather around the dinner table and share the Oplatki (pronounced O-pwaht-kee) Christmas wafer. The Oplatki is broken into pieces and given to all in attendance. The oldest person goes first and offers each person a special blessing for the coming year before breaking off a small piece of the other person’s Oplatki and eating it. The blessings are unique to each individual; things like ‘may you enjoy retirement and find more time for golf or ‘may you have lots of fun in second grade and master your multiplication tables.’ After the oldest family member has offered a blessing to everyone, it is the next oldest person’s turn until everyone has given a special blessing to the rest of the family or friends in attendance. When the blessings are finished, everyone eats their own remaining piece of Oplatki. We sometimes even get special pink Oplatki for the family pets. It’s a nice way to share our love for each other, to remember family members who have passed, and honor our Polish ancestry.” - Katie O’Dea, Research and Sponsored Projects Administration 

“We hide a pickle ornament every year – not just on the tree, anywhere in the house. The adults used to hide it for me and my cousins for the prize of a $2 bill! I also have magical memories of Santa coming to my grandparents’ house on Christmas Eve and letting us open one present from his red sack.” - Ashley Stevens, Communications and Marketing 

“When my son was born, I started a tradition where I got him a unique ornament for the tree. He is 6 this year and every year everyone in our home picks out their own unique ornament to slowly replace our filler ornaments. When we get them, I write our initials and the year on each one. We love opening each one to see what we picked in the previous years!” - Sam Shook, Float Pool 

“We turn the lights on the house the evening of Thanksgiving and all go out to and watch and cheer, then Elf shows up that night. We also celebrate by doing 25 days of Christmas where we do one small activity each night together (grab hot cocoa, drive the neighborhood for lights, play a song on the piano, etc.)” – Megan Choate, Communications and Marketing 

“For the preparation of decorating for the holidays, our family fixes a delicious meal and invites the family over to decorate the tree, mantle, door and entry steps, with Christmas spirit. We make sugar cookies, listen to holiday music and watch holiday movies. Once the cookies cool from the oven the children decorate cookies and take extra cookies home. We make plans to do this at every home in the family. It’s a wonderful time of year to be with the ones you love.” - Ann Anderson, Contact Center 

“Whenever we have a family gathering everyone is required to be in the family photo. We take one ‘serious’ and one ‘funny’ and about 200 in between. We laugh each time as I drag them outside to participate in the ‘be yourself and do not coordinate clothing’ photos, which is the only rule of the photo. This alleviates the stress of trying to reach a ‘perfect us’ opportunity…we are perfect as we are every day.” - Tonya Behrens, Supply Chain 

“Every year on my husband’s side of the family for Christmas Eve, we go to the evening church service then go back to my in-laws house for game night! We all wear matching pajamas and eat Mexican food. It’s super fun!” - Katie Garrison, Communications and Marketing