Happy Holidays :: The Importance of Traditions with Friends

The language of friends is not words but meanings.

Henry David Thoreau 

The holiday season brings traditions: twinkling lights, rich meals, and, of course, time with family. While I love the family traditions I knew growing up, I equally value holiday traditions that I’ve more recently made with my friends. Celebrating the season with friends is an escape from the hustle of the season and an investment in our friendship. Christmas hasn’t arrived until my friends and I have gathered for our annual “Cookie Day.”

Each December a few of my best college girlfriends and I gather in a warm kitchen and spend a full day baking together. Our tradition started seven years ago during a particularly difficult holiday season for me, when one of my dearest friends lifted my spirits with an invitation to bake cookies together. It was a welcome relief from the physical and emotional demands of the holiday season, and we decided to do again the next year. When we gathered for our third Cookie Day, my friend proclaimed, “Now it’s a tradition!” Over the years, we’ve included as many as we can fit in a kitchen and rotate hosts each year. 

I’m not going to lie, there are years that it would be easier to skip Cookie Day. Family and work obligations and the business of the holidays feel overwhelming. I start wondering if I can really set aside an entire day just for myself. Yet every year my friends and I treat Cookie Day as sacred. And every time it is worth the investment in friendship to continue our tradition.

Some years, Cookie Day is the only time we see each other. We’ve moved to different cities and started families, a combination that makes it easy to lose touch. Keeping our tradition is an annual appointment to check in with each other. A guarantee that we won’t grow apart because of a lack of communication. 

As we continue our tradition each year, the story of our friendship grows. We’ve announced engagements and pregnancies to each other during our Cookie Day. (Incidentally, the year I announced my daughter was on her way was also the year I ate none of the cookies because they all sounded disgusting.) We’ve shared loss together and the sadness and stress that can sometimes accompany the holiday season. We’ve had unforgettable moments, like the Cookie Day my friend Sarah went into labor. As the rest of us cleaned up her kitchen, she and her husband headed to the hospital to welcome their first child.

These moments make up the meaning of the holidays–a time to appreciate each other and practice gratitude for the blessings in life. That is a tradition worth keeping.

Here are a few suggestions for other ways to celebrate the holidays with friends: 

  • Friendsgiving – Gather with friends to celebrate Thanksgiving! This can take on a lot of forms, from a party enjoying fall foods with friends, all the way to a full course Thanksgiving dinner. Don’t forget the pumpkin pie!
  • Cookie Exchange – If you’re not up for a full day of baking holiday cookies, another great idea is a cookie exchange. Each guest brings a different type of cookies and swaps with others. This is a great way to share family recipes and learn more about your friends’ holiday traditions.
  • GALentine’s Day – A Valentine’s Day celebration with no significant other required! Gather your girlfriends together dinner, a movie, and cocktails the weekend before Valentine’s Day to celebrate the love of friendship.
  • Favorite Things Party – Invites guests for an evening of good food, wine, and favorite things! Ask each guest to bring a “favorite” $10 item to exchange, and each guest will leave with another’s favorite thing. This is a great conversation starter to introduce new friends to each other.

How do you make and keep traditions with your friends?

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