Our Joy-Filled Traditions

A local take on how festivities fill our holiday celebrations with meaning and purpose

Published online: Dec 18, 2019 Articles, Best of IF, Family Fun Guide, Holidays
Viewed 1638 time(s)

Magnificently lit Christmas trees lining city streets and dotting the banks of the river, the Festivals of Trees fundraiser, and snowy sleigh rides in the park are just a few Christmas traditions members of our community enjoy.

Hearts are filled with the spirit of the joyous season; gift-giving, generosity and service are natural extensions of that Christmassy aura. 19th-century author Washington Irving said it well: “Christmas is a season for kindling the fire for hospitality in the hall, the genial flame of charity in the heart.” 

Festivities fill people’s holiday celebrations with meaning and purpose. Whether it be a white elephant gift exchange at an office party, fashioning gingerbread houses, visiting Santa, ugly sweater contests, trimming the tree, or wassail for carolers, a myriad of traditions abounds. 

One Idaho Falls couple, Mitch and Paula Kvarfordt, have purchased or made an ornament for each member of their family since their marriage 45 years ago. They add mementos to the baubles for any family member born that year. In addition, an ornament is created and hung to represent their theme at the past summer reunion. Christmas gift boxes are created for each of their children’s families filled with pajamas like their cousins, a gift for the adults and treats and activities for the families to enjoy on Christmas.

Another family rents a cabin, picks a theme for the weekend and enjoys food, games, prizes and memorabilia supporting that theme. One year the theme focused on the movie “How the Grinch Stole Christmas," another “Christmas Vacation” and yet another “The Christmas Story." Imagine winning the Red Rider BB gun!

If we were to visit TV anchorwoman Karole Honas’ home, we would find Karole and Ken making Christmas cookies with their kids and grandkids. Karole reports that even the men get involved and create some incredibly artistic cookies. Another tradition is the dice game they play every Christmas Eve, piling dozens of gag gifts on the table. With a roll of doubles, they pick a gift. When the gifts are gone, they continue rolling dice and stealing whatever gift they want from others. Friends have heard about this iconic Honas game and drop by to join in the friendly fray. Karole reports that they enjoy clam chowder on Christmas Eve and prime rib on Christmas Day.

Another family does what they call a nativity drop-and-run. They purchase a nativity set and place each piece into different decorated paper bags. One bag is anonymously dropped off each night at the home of the chosen family. The Baby Jesus nativity piece is the last to be delivered on Christmas Eve.

Secret Santa-ing is another pay it forward tradition many residents enjoy. Gifts are purchased for members of a household and delivered in some sort of incognito fashion. Giving to others never grows old.

Many sing carols around the neighborhood or atop a hay wagon. Crowds congregate for concerts and musical programs to enjoy the ambiance of the season. There is nothing like the power of Christmas music to elicit the depths of human emotion.

Baking together as children and now as nine adult siblings keeps one family connected at Christmastime. Although they reside in four different states, everyone bakes on the second Saturday of December for their annual long-distance family baking day. A reminder is sent in the mail along with a hot pad, cookie-cutter, apron or other baking tools. After the baking is complete, they post pictures. Each sibling receives baked items from each of their eight brothers or sisters the week before Christmas.

Many enjoy creating ways to implement the 12 Days of Christmas in their celebrations. 

No matter the traditions, ”Christmas is a tonic for our souls. It moves us to think of others rather than of ourselves. It directs our thoughts to giving.” B.C. Forbes

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