My favorite part of the holiday season has everything to do with our family traditions. There is no cookie cutter guidelines for what holiday traditions should look like, for who you should share them with or for how they should grow over time. The only thing traditions require is that you care for them, share them with those you hold dear and above all, that you preserve them. It is imperative that you remember - traditions do not exist without you and your family because traditions live within you.
Why are holiday traditions so important you ask? Let me explain. You see, traditions allow you the opportunity to create valuable memories and cherish time with those you love. Nowadays it can be challenging to bring your family or friends together and truly be in the moment - I'm talking truly and utterly present. We are constantly battling a face-paced, high-stress world full of technologies and distractions. The true beauty in traditions is that they guarantee time spent together each year. Having a tradition to look forward to each year is like having a vacation on the horizon. It makes work and all of your day-to-day tasks more enjoyable because you know what is coming. Seriously, there is no better feeling than knowing that I am going to camp out with my siblings and bake cookies and drink spiked cider and help Pops hang the Christmas lights. I have so much to look forward to around the holidays and I’m not talking about the presents wrapped under the tree. I’m talking about the traditions that have been going on in the Simms house- some new and some old- most of which have been going on since before I was born. Aunt Johnnie hosts her annual chocolate fudge and wonton party. We crack fresh caught stone crab with hammers in the driveway and serve them on a newspaper wrapped table for Christmas Eve. My twin sister makes the world’s most EPIC Panatone French Toast on Christmas morning. We volunteer as elves at the fire department and deliver presents to local families on the big red trucks. Game night and watching It’s A Wonderful Life and White Christmas together in the matching pajamas that my mom gives us every year.
And the best part of it all is that I will watch my little nieces partake this year. And that thought alone makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside, because I know that they will make sure our traditions continue. I am filled with so much love and gratitude thinking about the next few weeks and I know the Lazy Dog Family at our Home Office is too. This past week we talked about our traditions and wanted to share them with you.
Don't have any traditions in your house? Then start a new one this year! Get creative, enjoy the process and don't be afraid to make them your own. Also, if you already have a tradition that you look forward to, please share it with us below! We would love to hear all about it.
- R. Simms, Creative Director, Lazy Dog Home Office
Happy Holidays from our table to yours.
"My favorite holiday tradition is the Feast of Seven Fishes or Festa die Sette Pesci. I have been eating this every Christmas since I was born. It is a throwback to my parents upbringing in Naples. It is so delicious and I love eating it every year with my family. Growing up in Florida as a kid we used to catch most of the fish used in the feast from our backyard in Tampa Bay. After moving to California it changed based on what fish was readily available here. Still we add to the ingredient list based on our fresh catch from a day of fishing. "
-Chef Gabe Caliendo, VP Food + Beverage, Lazy Dog Home Office
The Caliendo Feast of Seven Fishes includes these dishes ... give or take:
Chilled Octopus + Celery Leaf Salad
Chilled Shrimp + Lemon
Scungilli - conch that is thinly sliced, breaded, and pan-fried - served with lemon
Baccala - salt cod that is rehydrated and simmered in vinegar, tomato and sweet Italian peppers - served with crunch bread
Seafood Pasta - marinara simmered with with crab, clams, shrimp, mussels, octopus, etc - over spaghetti
Fritto Misto - we fry eel and smelts, crispy and tender - served with fresh lemon
“Our annual gingerbread house competition is a time honored family tradition that began many years ago in Boise, Idaho - at the Kimble household. On Christmas Eve, each family member creates their masterpiece. Plain gingerbread houses are built the day before on foil covered bases so they are stable (held together with frosting). Each contestant - old and young - sits at the big table with a bowl of white frosting and a table full of candied decorations. Pretzels for roofing, gum drops for landscaping, mints for windows, M&Ms for lighting, graham cracker bears for occupants, red vines for fencing, Oreos for eating (not many get on the houses).
At the end of the one hour time limit, each participant must provide a narrative of their creation and the winner is voted on by secret ballet. (Note: you can't vote for your own.) The winner has bragging rights for the rest of the season and a picture of their creation finds its way to the mantle.
Chimney stacks, second story bedrooms, campfires, ice skating ponds (complete with skating bears), outdoor play equipment and “snow” covered eves and landscaping, holiday window coverings, festive lighting and decorative pathways have found their way into the creations.
The houses are then displayed throughout the house. They dry quite hard (with the right frosting) and are smashed with a mallet (to signify the new beginning) on New Year’s Eve so they can be eaten in bite sized pieces (sometimes decorations go missing the week between Christmas and New Year’s). Great fun for everyone and, as you might guess, the competition is fierce- trash talk starts just after Thanksgiving."
- Matt Kimble, VP Human Resources, Lazy Dog Home Office
"A group of girlfriends and I get together in the month of December for a gift exchange/dinner or just dinner. We pick a restaurant, get dressed up and go to one our favorite restaurants OR a new restaurant that none of the girls have been to before. This tradition started out in 2010, as a small dinner at one of the girls’ houses. Potluck style. Now, every year we try to come up with something different. There are 10 of us, but one of our friends couldn’t make it last year. This picture was taken from last year’s holiday dinner at Driftwood Kitchen in Laguna Beach."
-Bonnie Giroth, Executive Assistant, Lazy Dog Home Office
"The kids and I love watching Elf several times during Christmas because it is a hilarious movie and the kids love how Elf looks just like me!"
-Chris Simms, Founder - Lazy Dog Restaurants
"Papa Joe’s Awful Waffles! There are few times that my grandpa will get in the kitchen to whip something up and one of those occasions is to make his Awful Waffles. Every Christmas morning there is no question what we are having for breakfast. Papa pulls out his special recipe written on a tattered little notebook he has had for years, and that’s when the magic happens! His waffles are paired with homemade blueberry sauce, bacon, sausage, and of course whipped cream. And there you have an awfully delicious Christmas breakfast!!"
-Ali Wigington, Operations Coordinator, Lazy Dog Home Office
"So my dad is German (his name is Herb Schmidl ) and he raised us with some of his German Christmas traditions. There are two that I look forward to in the 'Schmidl Haus' : St. Nicholas Day and Spritz Cookies!
Ever since I was little, my parents celebrated St. Nicholas Day with my sister and I. It was like the Christmas warm-up. After all, little kids love gifts and surprises. Why not throw in another opportunity to receive some bonus gifts during the holiday season? Here’s how it worked for us: On or around December 6th (it all depended on my parents remembering the correct date), my sister and I would leave a shoe out on the front porch before we went to bed. St. Nicholas (who we believed was another name for Santa) would visit our house during the night and fill our shoe with treats and small toys. We’d wake up the next morning, run out to the porch, and check our shoe. Sure enough, he always delivered! I remember wanting to leave out the biggest shoe I owned. Luckily, it was the early ‘90s and I had this lovely pair of black pleather boots. I was so excited to find that boot loaded with candy and other little toys. It was the best!
As for the cookies, when I think of Christmas cookies I think Spritz! For the first 10 years of my life they were one and the same. These little cookies are so simple -- buttery with a hint of almond – but I think it’s their cute little designs that sets them apart from the rest! My mom would prepare the traditional German recipe and press the dough through our old cookie press. My sister and I loved picking out the discs that the dough would squeeze through. We also loved dying the dough with green and red food coloring. Each click of the press would squeeze enough dough through the disc to make one perfect, little cookie. Some were shaped like jewels, others were shaped like poinsettias. My favorite was always those that were colored green and shaped like little trees. When a cookie sheet was filled with pressed dough, my sister and I worked together to decorate each one in great detail. We added colored sugar, mini chocolate chips, diced maraschino cherries, slivered almonds, and assorted sprinkles like nonpareils and colorful jimmies. Once decorated, mom popped them into the oven. After 8 minutes, perfect little Spritz cookies emerged. It was an all-day affair, but we loved every minute of it, especially leaving the prettiest ones out for Santa on Christmas Eve."
-Mary Schmidl, Training Coordinator, Lazy Dog Home Office