The Balancing Act

This month on my blog I’m sharing holiday traditions, mine and other people’s as well. Today Vanessa shares what the holidays look like in her family 🙂

The Balancing Act

by Vanessa Ricci-Thode

Celebrating the winter holidays in my family is often like doing acrobatics on the tightrope, as we mix and blend friends and family, old traditions and new, religious elements with secularism, trying to keep our holiday true to our atheistic roots without spoiling the magic of the season for our little one (or ourselves, when you come right down to it).

It starts with the holiday letter that I draft up and send out to nearly five dozen friends and family members. I like to spend time with people. Quality time with loved ones is the best gift I can receive, but we all have busy lives, and some of my favourite people also live the farthest away. So I send a letter to them all as a substitute, shining a light into my life, sharing in the family’s activities.

Then, in early December, the lights go up on the house—just a few—and we head out to the tree farm to hunt down our very own Christmas tree. There’s cider and hot chocolate, and crafts to buy, cookies to eat, and a hay bale pyramid for the kids and kids-at-heart to climb. We decorate the tree as a family—even the dogs will get involved—and don’t forget the TARDIS ornament! There are the usual holiday parties with friends and colleagues, and the obligatory picture with Santa for my daughter (and sometimes the dogs). We hang stockings, one for everyone in the house (yes, dogs too!) and everyone gets something “from Santa” to delight in on Christmas morning.

Holiday family time begins, usually, on Christmas Eve when we attend my in-laws’ holiday party in Hamilton. Sometimes things start a little sooner, if I have family arriving from out of town to entertain. This year will be particularly interesting as my mother has just moved to our city, so our usual traditions will need some tweaking, and there will be a lot more family around this year.

On Christmas morning we check out our stockings while breakfast is being made. We’re a house of cereal eaters, so we have bacon and eggs or pancakes as a special treat Christmas morning. Then we dive into the presents, stockings first (yes, yes, the dogs too), those of us with holiday pyjamas are wearing them. Pictures are taken, gifts are enjoyed, and we spend the afternoon playing with our new toys and watching less than traditional Christmas movies. My favourites are Die Hard, Bad Santa, and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. And then there’s always the Doctor Who Christmas Special.

For Christmas dinner, we pack up and head to my in-laws’ again, bringing presents for our nieces and nephew, and the kids all open more presents there and play and eat and generally have an excellent time. Drinks all around for the adults, and plenty of treats for all.

We top off the year with a family-friendly New Year’s Eve party at my friend’s house. Sometimes watching more Doctor Who, always eating and drinking some very tasty things with excellently geeky company.


Vanessa is an author and editor whose life seldom strays from the world of books, especially during winter hibernation. Even her volunteer work revolves around the literary world, with involvement in the Editors’ Association of Canada, Canadian Authors Association, and regionally for National Novel Writing Month. She’s the author of two fantasy novels: Dragon Whisperer and After the Dragon Raid, both released through Iguana Books.

When she’s not being bookish, she’s into astronomy, hiking, kickboxing, gardening, “collecting” stunning national parks across the continent, and being a massive geek. She loves Halloween and hates to be cold. Vanessa lives in Waterloo with her husband, daughter, and three crazy dogs. To learn more, visit
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