Holly, jolly holiday traditions from CREA’s Board of Directors

It’s the best time of the year—the holiday season and final stretch of the year.

What better time to get to know our Board of Directors a little better, too? We asked several of our Directors to share their favourite holiday traditions.

Here’s what they shared:

Jason Stephen, President

“My favourite holiday tradition has to be eating lobster rolls on Christmas Eve. It’s my mom’s birthday and her favourite food is lobster, so that’s a tradition we love every year.”

Costa Poulopoulos, President-Elect

“My family enjoys the entire holiday season, and I have two favourite holiday traditions:

1)  An open house at our home for friends and family on Christmas Eve. We usually have between 25-40 people drop in throughout the evening and night. There is a lot of food, drink and Christmas cheer. It seems that’s the time we get to see more friends and family, as Christmas Day is difficult to get everyone together.

2) On New Year’s Day or a few days after, our family gets together at my mom’s home (adult kids, spouses/partners, grandkids and great grandkids) for the traditional “Vasilopita.” A Vasilopita is a traditional Greek cake prepared and enjoyed to celebrate the new year. Hidden inside the cake is a gold coin (we use a toonie), wrapped in foil. The family member who is fortunate enough to receive the coin in their slice is said to have good luck for the rest of the year.”

Len Wassill, Regional Director, Saskatchewan

“My favourite holiday tradition is a small lit decorative snowman that is appropriately nicknamed ‘Frosty.’ Frosty was always welcoming folks to my parents’ home during the festive season from the front steps of their house. Now that both my parents have passed on Frosty continues to have the same festive season duties from the front step of my home.”

Kimberly French, Regional Director, Atlantic

“Being from Newfoundland, you would expect I would say mummering. But I think for me now it’s sitting in the quiet with the Christmas tree lit surrounded by my dogs and relaxing for a few days without my phone ringing!

I also have fond memories of holidays spent in Alberta. For a few years I lived in Grande Prairie, Alberta and being an oil and gas town there were many people who were alone for Christmas. Our friends would come to our place on Christmas Eve for drinks and hors d’oeuvres, many staying to the wee hours of the morning, going home to freshen up and then back to our house in the early afternoon for a traditional Newfoundland Christmas dinner. Many would also bring their own traditional dishes (from all over the world) to make it a true Canadian Christmas. One Christmas we had 20 friends over on Christmas Eve and 30 Christmas Day! It was truly one of the best times of my life!”

Michael Barrett, Regional Director, Manitoba

“For our family, Christmas is a blend of respecting and observing traditions from both my wife’s family’s Ukrainian heritage and my family’s British traditions. Christmas Eve is usually spent at Sonia’s parent’s place with the traditional Ukrainian 12 meatless dishes for dinner followed by visiting, games and a gift exchange—and of course, a few beverages. Christmas Eve Mass is usually part of the tradition. 

Christmas Day always includes family and any friends who may be alone that day. Traditional foods on the dinner menu always includes roast turkey and all the trimmings, including shrimp salad. Dinner is finished with Christmas pudding and rum sauce. 

I guess you could summarize our Christmas traditions as food, faith, fellowship, merriment and welcoming anyone who is going to be alone that day.”

Kari McBride, Regional Director, Atlantic

“I have two favorite Christmas traditions:

  1. My mom’s tree.
  2. My dad’s dressing. 

Mom always puts such care and loving thought into each and every ornament she hangs. She takes careful consideration to how the ornament will dangle and makes sure the ornament’s best side is always showing. She uses ornaments from when her and my dad first got married, to ornaments my brother and I made as children, to newer ornaments she has received as gifts. It is always a special treasure to go home and see my mom’s tree and admire each and every sparkly, dangly, shiny decoration, and the memories that come with them. 

For dad’s dressing, the process begins at least 24 hours ahead of the main event. He makes a potato dressing, with some bread, but mostly potato and his own ‘secret spices’ that will forever remain a mystery (mostly because it’s never really the same). The thing about his dressing is, more often than not, we forget to serve it! I don’t know how many times we have been halfway through our meal and someone exclaims ‘the dressing!’ and then laughter erupts, accusations fly about how my dad was trying to ‘save’ it for himself, and when we finally get to sample it, of course it is the BEST one yet.”

Larry Cerqua, Regional Director, Ontario

“I will probably sound pretty cliché, but I honestly love being at home with my immediate family with plenty of food and treats.

When putting the tree up and I usually get yelled at by my lovely wife for using too many lights or she tells me we don’t need to put out every Christmas ornament we own.

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is also a family favorite no matter how many times we have all watched it. There is just something about the ‘Griswolds’ and their family Christmas dinner.

I hope everyone has a safe and healthy holiday no matter how they are celebrating.”

James Mabey, Director-at-large

“My family tradition is to spend Christmas at our cottage at Island Lake, Alberta where I spent so much time growing up. It’s an old log cabin with a big stone fireplace in the vaulted living room. We would always get out to the cottage as early as the busy season allowed.

A couple days before Christmas we would all get bundled up to go out and cut down the perfect tree. They always seem so much smaller when you are out in the bush freezing to death—and a whole lot fuller back in the cabin. No matter which tree we picked, it was always the perfect one once it was adorned with all our treasures: milk carton ornaments, and any other hideous things we made at school that year.

Now I share this tradition with my husband, Dylan, and we host Christmas for my parents and my sisters’ families when they can come. The cabin is a blessing that brings my family together.”

Don Kottick, Director-at-large

“Our holiday traditional is now a modified Christmas dinner with a fusion of Mexican-Canadian (Mexi-Can), since my better half is from Mexico. Dinner now includes the traditional turkey with hamburger stuffing (it’s amazing), complemented with pozole (a corn and pork soup), enchiladas, mole and of course: guacamole. We always have Mariachi and Christmas music playing in the background—the globalization of Christmas dinner.”

Jill Oudil, Director-at-large

“Being asked what your favorite holiday tradition is an extremely hard question. I absolutely love Christmas! However, if I had to say, now it is the tradition of bringing all of our three grown children together every day for a week, with my daughter and son-in-law coming to Vancouver, British Columbia from Portland, Oregon. Being able to be together is the absolute highlight now.”

Do you have a favourite holiday tradition? Tell us about is in the Comment section below.

As a Communications Advisor, Sarah O'Neill is responsible for developing a variety of internal and external communication materials—from blog content to newsletters, and social posts to speaking notes. Prior to joining CREA, Sarah worked as a journalist in a small town and as a national online editor at one of Canada’s largest news media companies. In her spare time, Sarah can be found renovating her century home, working out at the gym or binge-watching bad reality TV.

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