Pausing To Reflect with Lisa Foster
Dec. 20, 2022

Holiday Traditions with Rebecca Gorton

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This week…it’s all about the holidays!  

Join me and my fabulous guest, Rebecca Gorton - mom, wife, teacher, and one of my closest friends. We discuss holiday traditions and share hilarious anecdotes about our favorite time of year. We share the history and meaning behind our holiday traditions, including the importance of giving to others.  

Join us on our Facebook group at so we can continue to share about the holidays.  


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Holidays can feel overwhelming. Sometimes they can even create more stress. Download this free video for 3 simple techniques to help decrease stress during the holidays. Click on the link  

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Hi everyone, and welcome to Real Life Momz, I'm your host Lisa Foster and Real Life Momz is a podcast that's all about connecting moms through real parenting conversations. I believe that moms have so much insight and knowledge, and together we are powerful. On this podcast, we give moms a voice to tell their stories and share their expertise and resources through real conversations. And this week I invited Rebecca Gorton, one of my besties, to talk about our favorite holiday traditions and how we can make them more special. 

Hi, Rebecca.

Welcome to Real Life Momz. I am really excited to have you on today because you're one of my besties and Yeah. And you're one of my favorite people. But you're also a go-to mom for me. You're the mom I go to and I ask for advice at all hours. So,

Well, I am so excited to be here and oh my goodness, the feeling is reciprocated a hundred times in, on all counts that you are a go-to mom for me, you know, you are my emergency contact.

I am, I am on more forms than you tell me sometimes, but that's okay. But I'm excited to discuss the holidays with you and just the traditions of mm-hmm. <affirmative>, what we do for the holidays because I'm actually looking for some new traditions. So this is something I would've called you for, but now we'll just have all the listeners actually be here while we talk about it.

<Laugh>. I love it. I love it. And, it's funny because it really kind of, you know, it forced me to think about what are our traditions,

Right? I know, I know you so well. Right. But tell the listeners a little bit about you, maybe a little bit about your family, and just a little bit about what you love about the holidays.

I am a teacher. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, uh, as a second career. And I live in Colorado, which is beautiful with my husband and my two children. My son is in college, he's a junior, and my daughter is a middle schooler, as you know. And you know, I've been a stay-at-home mom, I've been a working mom. So that's something I really love about your podcast, is how inclusive it is. Uh, I love the holidays, Christmas in particular.

I absolutely, absolutely love. And we have celebrated it in a hundred different ways based on the ages of our children.

It changes over the years for sure, doesn't it?

Yes. And there are traditions that have, you know, that have stuck, uh, that we do nearly every year. But I realize that there are a lot of traditions that have changed over time because of their ages. And so, yeah.

And I don't know if you feel this way, but like, as my kids get older, I love when they say to me like, I'm gonna do this when I'm like, married and have kids. And I'm like, oh, yes. That's so cool.

Yes. I love that. And I think that's, and I think that's so neat. And it's so important because my husband and I have, we have small families on both sides. We just, have small families and we haven't always spent the holidays with our families, like our families of origin, we each only have one living parent. And so we have had a lot of holidays, just us, we, our kids. We didn't always wanna travel at Christmas, and our families lived far away in some ways.

That's, you know, there were times when I was like, that's kind of sad. But the other way, it allowed us to really, really intentionally create traditions that represented our family. That was kind of neat. And so I think that's amazing that your kids are saying that.

Yes. And, and you saying that I mean, same here, right? Same here. I, my family doesn't live here, right? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, so I don't really see them for certain holidays. Actually, I don't see them for any holidays. Sorry, mom. I know she's listening. She's my favorite listener, um, my mom. But typically I like to go home, not when it's a holiday, because Exactly. I feel like the holidays are filled with things that you have to do. Yes. And I wanna see and spend time, you know, when I do visit with them, just with them and not feel overwhelmed.

So I typically don't go home for the holidays. So same here. We've had to create like, our own traditions so that we can, you know, make them a little bit more special. Yeah.

Yeah. Absolutely. And, and I, I really value that. Like, even when we were first married, before we had kids, we were beginning to create those traditions. I love that my kids wake up in their own beds on Christmas morning, <laugh>, like, we just wear our jammies. And so yeah. It's actually, you know, it's a mixed blessing for sure. But I really value that part. And I didn't really think about it. I hadn't thought about it in a long time until you asked.

Me. Well, so tell me,, what are your favorite holiday traditions? What do you do?

So, one of them, and this one is just a, a brief one is that <laugh> that we're just fortunate to do is that my husband loves to bake. And, um, he's, he's very logical, he was an engineer and he, um, is very logical about it and methodical. And so he makes, uh, chocolate croissants. Ugh. I know. I, I can't even make,

Well, I'm thinking, why am I not over at your house during the holiday?

Yeah. I think I think it might be time for me to bring you some.

Yes, thank you.

Catholic ants and then, um, like, I don't know what they are, maybe danishes or something that has like honey and fruit in them. And that just fascinates me because it requires a love of getting up early, Lisa, which, you know, I don't do well. So that part, that part I really, really love. Uh, but I have zero to do with that. Nothing. I cannot replicate that in any way. So that's kind of my favorite one.

Yeah, mine too. Mine too. So I'm gonna, cause no offense, Rebecca, I'm gonna say we make holiday cookies and I remember dropping some off at your door. Yeah.

And you're, you're like, where are.

My chocolate picking? But I didn't know anything about these croissants, so I'm sorry. But this year I'm expecting at least one. Okay. <laugh>.

I,, I think we can do that. I'm gonna make sure he knows he needs to make extra for the fosters.

Yes. Even one, we'll split it if we have to, but we will. I want one.

Um, so I love that. I love the part where we get up and we're all in our jammies. I love that. I love that the kids, even from when they were little, you know, like, uh, Santa always puts their presence out. There are things that are unwrapped so that they can find those first while they're waiting to, um, unwrap presence, you know, and stockings and things. But one tradition that's kind of original <laugh> I really love is that the dog, uh, we have a Boston Terrier named Via, and prior to that we had a Boston Terrier named Scout.

And the dogs give everyone gifts for Christmas and they provide deodorant. The dogs love to give deodorant, <laugh>, uh, they give deodorant and shampoo and body wash and you know, body spray, anything that really can make you smell good. Um, because the dogs would like you to smell good if they're gonna snuggling with you. And I found that that had so many benefits. One, I just thought it was quirky and fun. So I started doing it. But it has some added benefits because kids can, you know, when you have that kind of period where they're not really, they haven't kind of crossed over into using all of the product, but you might want them to smell a little better.

It doesn't have to come from you, the parent, cuz it's the dog.

Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>. I love it. Love it. And I love the idea of giving a gift that you need in the house anyway, you know? Yes. Like I am constantly buying those things from my kids. Yes. Um, that it becomes a gift. I love, I love that <laugh>.

I know I did too.

So sorry, you smell a little bit. But you needed these products anyway, so it didn't really cost me any extra.

Right. And it's from the dogs, so you can't get mad at me because I have no control over what the dogs buy for Christmas. Yeah.

Depending on how old your kids are, I think they might catch on, but that's okay. Yeah.

<Laugh>. Yeah. And I think we've always really been, but that's how I shut down the arguments if there were any.

Yeah, exactly. That was the dog Via gave to you, not me. Yeah.

She's concerned about your deodorant needs. So.

Your hygiene. Yes. That's so funny. <laugh>. I love that one. That's, that might be something I add in this year. I'm going to see, we have three dogs, so we can give a lot of those products.

<Laugh>. Exactly.

Any other traditions that you really love in your house?

One that I loved, this isn't really useful for you and I right now, although you could, you could adopt it and you could start doing it anyway. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Um, but when they were little, I had a tradition that my mom did when I was little and it was based on a book that I found. And it's from 1966 <laugh> called Santa Mouse. And it's very much a 1966 book, although you can still buy it. And it's called Santa Mouse and it's by Michael Brown, basically, there's this little mouse that travels around with Santa and Santa Mouse will leave presents as well as Santa, but Santa Mouse leaves them in the tree.

And my mom was really good at things like that. So she would wrap little tiny presents in little tiny boxes and put them in the tree. And those were the ones from Santa Mouse. So we did that when my kids were little and that was really fun.

Oh, that is fun. I love that. I.

Haven't done it in a long time. I miss it.

<Laugh>. Yeah. You should do that this year. I think you can put little things in the tree. I was thinking when you said tree, like outside, I was like, and then, then I realized the Christmas tree. Yes.

You could also put them outside, Lisa. I don't, I don't think, I think that's totally fine. And he has like a little Santa suit that so cute gives them and he puts, I feel like it used to be that they had to be yellow ribbons. I'm not sure. But anyway, so you put them in the tree and it was so fun.

Yes. I love that. And you know, I love traditions because not only are we passing them down, but Yes. So I grew up, you know, I grew up Jewish, so I celebrated Hanukkah growing up. Yes. And then I got married and my husband celebrates Christmas. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, that's super religious, but he celebrates Christmas, so we had to like merge. Yes. And it was tough at first because of course I had all my Hanukkah things where we got eight presents every night. Now granted Hanukkah is so much easier than Christmas.

It's like, for me, it's easier. It's like, yeah. It's just not as big. So it's like, okay, you get eight presents, whether they're, I remember one year my parents literally, I just remember every night I would go into this bag and it had like a, a matchbox car. I don't even if I like matchbox cars when I was kid, I don't really remember.

I was a bit of a tomboy. It's possible. But I would pick one out every night and be like, matchbox car, you know? And that was just like, it could be simple, right? Yes. Christmas, I don't know if it was like my husband, but that was like the end all be all. He like, it was huge in, in his eyes. I, I talked to his family, but not so much in their eyes. Seems to have somehow he like blew it up in his mind and it became this big thing. So the first year we were together it was kind of like, God, how do we do this?

Because I am not figuring out eight gifts for Hanukkah and then a Christmas present. Like, geez, this is crazy and super expensive. Yes. So we decided that Hanukkah would become like eight days of something that did not cost any money.

Oh, it's, and it's, for me, it changed everything. Cuz I actually really love Hanukkah now. I've always liked Hanukkah. It was always fine. It was not a big thing. I liked the potato pancakes. Yummy. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Um, but it was never like very meaningful to me. Yeah. But now it has been because every year we pick a theme. So the first year we did it happened to fall on Thanksgiving. So we did eight things we're thankful for. So every night we'd light a candle and we'd go around and say one thing we were thankful for. So we would do it, I would do it, my husband. And then the kids would say something.

And it was really beautiful. And we've had some amazing themes. I mean we've had everything from, you know, eight goals we would like to achieve that year to Yeah. Right. Really good.

We also did like eight things that inspire each other. So, that year what we did was, if it was my husband, I would say something that inspired me about him. And then the kids would say that too. And then we'd just go around that way for eight days. So everyone had eight things or more really that inspired, you know, that they did. Which was nice because you never thought about what those were. Right. Those are things you don't think of. I think one of my favorite ones, I have to say was eight gifts, like dream gifts. But we didn't purchase them.

It was like, you know how they always say the thought counts, right? Yeah. Like the thought counts. So we did that. We said, okay, well if it's a thought we can buy you anything, but we don't actually purchase it. That was so much fun.

We all loved our gifts because it really taught us like that they really knew us. You know, the kids really knew us. We really knew what they wanted. Like honestly, my husband <laugh>, I got, I got him a mansion on the water with a yacht because he loves the water. He is always wanted, granted we live in Colorado, so this is not good. But he was so happy with his president. I didn't actually buy him. Right. <laugh>. Oh my goodness. I love this. Yeah. So this year we're gonna do eight things that we wanted to achieve, but were afraid to achieve them.

So, oh, I love that. That's, that's the theme for this year. So I always love that. I feel like Hanukkah comes and we're like, Ugh, it's so fun. It's inspiring. It's not stressful. Right. Why? Because it's just this great thing we've created. Christmas comes and it's like, well, first of all, just the cookies alone.

Let's talk about the cookies. Ok. Because growing up not making Christmas cookies, I really felt that Jewish people cannot make Christmas cookies because, I don't know why mine were always so bad, but it turns out that it's not the case. <laugh>, you can make Christmas cookies, you just have to have the right recipes and a little help. Right. But then I learned I could make them and I really love those holiday cookies. Yummy. Oh, me too. But what I didn't like was the mess.

Like it was so stressful. The flower was everywhere. The coordination of everything. It was no fun. And then one day, I had a dear friend say to me, oh Lisa, it's not about; you're supposed to know that it will be messy. And I was like, oh really? Like that's part of the, so I got, I got to the point of joy because it was really fun. My kids also got older so their helpfulness was actually helpful. Yes. But yeah, let's talk about Christmas cookies. I know your husband makes croissants, which is fabulous, but do you make Christmas cookies?

Well, I mean, yes. And I love cookies. I have these two dear friends who live in Seattle I've known one of them since middle school and I adore her and she sends, she and her partner send cookies, like this little box every year. And it has all the things in it that they've made. And I'm so fascinated. I'm so fascinated. I appreciate them so much because everyone in my family is like, is that from them?

Like it's, it is. Is that the box? It is. And then, you know, we just are in heaven. So yes, I make Christmas cookies, but not in my head. I'm imagining them doing something like that. And I have not ever done that. All the kinds, all the kinds out. It's, it's really different every year. <laugh> depends on my mood, but in my head, I am one of those people.

Yeah. And I think we have to go back to; I don't know if the covid thing or whatever, but like, you know, where people weren't really getting together. But I think another thing we have to recommend is that cookie exchange. Cause those are brilliant. Those are brilliant, right? Where you make, like, whatever, two dozen of the same cookies. Yes. You go to a party, you invite your besties over, and then you pick a few from each plate. So everyone ends up with all different cookies. Yes. And then you're not doing that. What we need to do is that, that's okay. We're gonna put the croissant, and we're gonna make a cookie exchange with our besties.

I'm gonna, I'm gonna plan that. Cause it's still early enough to plan that. Um, cookie exchange. Okay, we're going to do that. That's gonna be a new tradition.

Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>. Yeah.

Now I need another, like, I like your traditions, but I, we need another one that's more meaningful. Cuz I do, there's something about Christmas that comes for me. The morning comes, my kids wake up at, you know, granted, I'm a warning person. I'm a 5:00 AM person, I get that. But they're waking up at three, 4:00 AM Okay. Like, I don't care how old they are at this point. Like they wake up early, and they're excited. Right. Okay. And I'm not excited at three four; I'm excited at six seven mm-hmm. <affirmative>, whatever. But we wake up early; we get our coffee, there's the present exchange, and then we're just tired.

Right? Yes. So yes, I feel like that needs to be more meaningful. A little bit different. And I'm trying to think of what we can do to make Christmas a little bit more full.

I know. I think about that exact same thing because I remember it <laugh> I may, I may be inflating this a little bit, as we know can happen with the Christmas celebrations.

Yeah. You and my husband. Yeah,.

Exactly. Um, I remember it being incredibly full to me as a child, as a teenager, we had a lot, of practices that were much more religious than I have in my own family. And so I do wonder about, you know, how to incorporate some of those feelings. And I was raised not in a, in like seriously the most liberal, almost non-religious <affirmative> religious religion. But there were all of those traditions that involved candlelight and music and things that felt to me really meaningful.

Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>. And so sometimes I feel bad that, that I'm still carrying on with those feelings. But my kids are very familiar with and know about that. But we don't practice in the same way. So I'm not sure; I'm still trying to figure out how do we Incorporate Yeah.

More of that meaning.

Exactly. I love lights and music too. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Um, I really do. I think that feels very hoes. I know they always have parades and things like that, but those are cold. Right. They're, I don't enjoy sitting out there. That doesn't feel meaningful.


I know. I have to think as well; I know we've done some things that we have done is they have like those light shows, whether it's at like the botanical gardens or the zoo. We do those, the drive-throughs. We have gotten like hot chocolate on the way. Yes. And then like drove through or walk through. I do get, I do get a nice holiday feeling from those, but they could be expensive too. So sometimes that's not always in the holiday budget. Right, right. But I do love those.

I agree.

Here's one thing, and I'm thinking that we've done in the past, it's not a tradition, but we have done it probably once or twice in the past. And we have done, where we've gone to, usually my husband's family does the Christmas Eve dinner. Yes. So we'll drive there. And on the way driving there, we have actually put little food packets together. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> and have stopped off at any of the homeless that is literally like asking for change mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And we've given them bags of food on the way.

And we've really, really had that. That's been really, really wonderful. That, that fills me that that's been a really good, um, thing that we liked. I wouldn't say it's a tradition. It's more of, like, I don't remember. I think one time we were making, we made extra, and then we did that. But we should probably think about that cuz that was really fun.

Yes. You know? I agree. And we did that more often when we lived in Seattle, which is where we lived before we lived in Colorado. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Um, because we hadn't lived in a neither of us had lived in a big city before. And so that was kind of our, our formative years in really seeing and understanding homelessness in a way that we didn't see as much growing up. And there were homeless people undoubtedly everywhere. Um, but that was a good opportunity.

And we did that same thing where we gathered up one year, we bought like wool socks and gloves and mm-hmm. <affirmative>, you know, and so I agree. I think that's a really great idea. And that's something nice to think about adding now that the kids are older. I mean it would've been meaningful when they were younger too. Now when you know you, you can add different traditions in as they get.

Older. And that was something my daughter actually brought up like because we were saying like, what are some traditions we need to do? And my daughter reminded me of a time that we like adopted a family for the holiday. Yes. Oh my husband's mom. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> is really a big advocate for the homeless and does a lot. So she actually sparked this and she picked a family, but as a whole family we got a list of what the family needed and we went out and purchased it and then dropped it off at the center. Um, and that was really nice.

So my daughter reminded me, she goes, well, could we adopt a family again? Could that be a tradition? And I think that's also another way of doing it cuz I mean, as much as it was nice to hand the food out to the homeless, I mean, sometimes when you're doing it right off the street, it's not always as easy.

And I think that is such a wonderful thing to do. But it's when you adopt a family and you have a list of their needs or their wants, and you fulfill those, I think it adds this wonderful layer of dignity in saying that you deserve to have exactly what you want. You.

Know, just.

The way that we can very often have the things in our price range, what we want. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And so, and I think that's such a meaningful like you feel so good when you're giving a gift, and you know exactly what someone wants and you can get them that, that gift You feel so good that that might be a really neat way for kids to feel that, oh my goodness, this feels really good because this person will, will have this experience that even I can have.

And as you're saying that, I think you just pointed out what is missing for our traditional mm-hmm. <affirmative> holiday Christmas part is that you know, helping somebody else and giving, right? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, I think, I think there's been a lot of receiving Yes. For the Christmas portion, right? Yes. Um, that giving to others, however, however that is right. Yeah. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, I think that's the tradition we have to, for my family have to like reestablish. Yeah.

So that, yeah. So that's, that's what I'm gonna try to focus on this holiday season is how we can create a tradition that requires, that allows us to give. Cause that's what feels good. You know, that's the Hanukkah celebration feels good too. Cuz a lot of times, yes, we're thinking of these thoughtful things, but we're also giving to others in our family by saying, I'm gonna give you this thoughtful gift that, you know, doesn't cost anything, but I've really thought about it for you. Or this is what inspires me about you and I like giving that to them.

I'm saying these things that are nice to my family members. So I think we've, yeah. Kind of incorporated that for Hanukkah, but not at all for Christmas. So it's been more of a free for all, you know,

Know. Well, and with young children, I mean, I think as parents, you know, that's what we want for them initially is we really want that magic. We want that feeling that they get where this big thing happened. You know, this big magical thing happened in this big magical way, and everything around us is kind of predicated on keeping this magic for children. Whether or not we achieve it all the time. But I, I it's, it's easy, and as a parent it's fun.

Yeah. Like I remember how fun that is too when, you know when they still believe um mm-hmm. <affirmative> in Santa, if your family does Santa and they still believe in Santa, oh my gosh, it's so fun. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And so I think, you know, I think it's okay that sometimes a little bit gets lost in that and then we, we do have to reestablish traditions later and evolve them <laugh> Yeah. As humans out of lets have some magic.

Yeah. <laugh> that's um, creating different magic. Right.

Exactly. But let's not have, we're not gonna have the giant circus 10 Magic that we had.

No, no, no. Jumpy Castle Magic. Yeah. From Santa. Right. Um, I have to plug in here. Well, there is one more holiday at the end of all these holidays. Right? Like people might also celebrate Kwanza, whatever else that is going on or, you know, just whatever traditions. But New Year's, new Year kind of wraps everything up, and people are like going forward; I feel like we do have a good New Year's tradition.

Oh, what is your New Year's? Yes. Cause people forget people are burnt out from all the other holidays.

You just want to go to bed.

Up so New Year. Right. But New Years comes, right? Yeah.

We make vision boards every year. Every year we take a huge piece of like oak tag cuz our vision, cause our visions are big. Okay. <laugh> huge. We've done things from like, you know, printing pictures of the internet to actually drawing our vision boards to just having words, whatever it is. And we all of us make our own vision boards for that year, what we wanna achieve, what our magic words are, you know mm-hmm. <affirmative>, everything. Things that we just wanna do.

And then we hang them in our closet so that we can see them every day for the whole year. And then when New Year comes, we actually look at them and say, what do we ask for last year? What do we wanna achieve from last year? And then we check off the things that we have achieved, and then we make our new vision board.

Oh, I love that. I think about that a lot. And so now I think, I think we're gonna have to incorporate that, that over here because I love that.

Yeah. Because honestly New Year's Eve, we're not partiers. No. You know, my husband and I, you know, if I could stay up to midnight, it's a big thing. Okay.

That's a big thing. Yeah.

So we either make them New Year's Eve or if we happen to have plans, which honestly, usually we do not <laugh>, but we might, we might, we're hopeful. Right. Um, then we meet them the next day.

I love that. So.

It's either a new Eve or New Year's Day. Yep. Yep. That's our, that's our tradition. So you can have that one.

Oh, I love that. I'm gonna use that because, again, this is that sort of in-between time with kids where they may or may not be out having their own mm-hmm. <affirmative> celebration. But more than likely right now, at least one of mine is probably not. Or if she is, it's it's not gonna be till midnight. And so I love that. Cause that's a really great way to make that a family holiday too. Never really. I've tried any number of different things with New Year's Eve, just in my own life.

<Laugh>, I have some lovey memories of being young and celebrating it and having a lot of fun. But mostly I, I find it kind of bewildering. Like I love what it means. I love waking up, and there's New Year <laugh>, but I don't, so I love that because I haven't found one that's stuck. That's,.

Yeah, you should do it. And this is the other thing. First of all, my daughter loves this, and she lives by it. Like if she has goals like she will check them off for sure. Oh. But what we also allow is because it's up, we're about, it's, it's um, it's not like a one and done like during the year if something new comes up, you can add it to your vision board for.

A hundred percent.

Yeah. Yes. Yes. So you don't have to feel like, oh my God, I have to do everything. It could be a work in progress, and I, it's really nice to um, be able to achieve but also to add new things. So yeah. So your vision board is ongoing for the whole.

Year. I love this. If only we could merge that with the chocolate croissants. We, we might, really.

Well, why can't we? I mean if.

Your husband will, I dunno.

If your husband will actually make me some, I'm happy to have more. Come on New Years' <laugh>. Well, thank you for sharing your ideas and just talking about the holidays, it really kind of clarified what I need to do. I feel really good about Hanukkah. I feel really good about New Year's, but it kind of clarified for me like what I could do for Christmas to make it more meaningful. So I'm gonna work on that, and I have some new traditions ahead of me.

Me too. I'm so excited. Thank you.

You're welcome. 

Thank you for listening to this episode. I hope it sparks some new traditions for you and your family. Join us on a Real Life Momz Facebook group. I'd love to hear about your Family Holiday traditions. Please rate and review this podcast on your favorite platform, and I hope you and your family have a happy holiday and start your new traditions this year.

Rebecca GortonProfile Photo

Rebecca Gorton

Educator and Mom

Rebecca Gorton is an educator and mom in beautiful Colorado.