From Ski Trips to Family Recipes, Palisadians Share Their Favorite Things to do Each Holiday Season
By LAUREN FUCHS and JULIA ABBOTT
Sparkling lights, peppermint mochas—and a complete lack of snow. The holiday season has approached Pacific Palisades and the Palisadian-Post spoke with several residents who shared their own unique sets of traditions they look forward to each year.
I spend all year waiting for December, where the Christmas decorations of Caruso’s Palisades Village never fail to brighten my season.
My family’s holiday traditions make the best season even better. We celebrate Chanukah—and every year, add an Abbott twist to the holiday.
Some years, we just light the menorah, cook some latkes, and celebrate with friends and family. Other times, we harvest our grapefruits in between singing songs.
My brother and mother both have birthdays during the holiday season, so we get a little birthday magic sprinkled in as well.
However, my favorite holiday tradition is our family dinners. Every Chanukah, my parents make it a point to get the family together. With relatives living as far as Vermont and Iran, this hasn’t always been easy. But, the focus of the holiday is always family.
For years, we didn’t even get presents. In fact, the presents only started after my little brothers spent months begging. The entire focus is to have a holiday where we are able to celebrate being together.
I’ll never forget the high-stakes (chocolate gelt was on the line) dreidel competitions of my youth. More importantly, I’ll never forget being with my family.
Thanksgiving, for as long as I can remember, has been my favorite holiday. Though Los Angeles provides very little of a quintessential fall, with September and October typically being the warmest months of the year, I love nothing more than cozying up with my family on our couch to watch classics such as “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving.”
Many traditions revolving around Thanksgiving have remained the same over the years, but as my brothers and I have gotten older, we have stepped into the role of Thanksgiving chefs. As soon as school gets out on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, the cooking begins.
Each year, we commence our feast preparation by tackling the breads, bringing out my late grandmother’s infamous “Beard on Bread” cookbook. Pumpkin and cornbread have become our staples, and for tradition’s sake, we always include a cranberry orange loaf.
Like the breads, many of the recipes my family and I make year after year are inspired by those my grandmother made for my mom throughout her childhood. When she was still around, my grandmother came to all of our Thanksgiving dinners, and to bring a piece of her into the holiday year after year, we remain faithful to her recipes.
Ciara Torres, a junior at Pali High, shared that she loves Christmas. How could she not? Her Christmas begins with delicious food.
Torres’ grandmother cooks traditional Salvadorian foods like tamales, pasteles and pupusas. She also makes Salvadorian horchata, with help from the whole family. The Salvadorian version is made out of a morro or melon seed, while the Mexican version uses rice.
Then, on December 25, the family spends the day together. With plenty of hugs, kisses and “Merry Christmas” greetings, the little kids open their presents.
Torres’ uncle would always give out “essential” items, like towels, toothbrushes and backpacks. The kids would joke about the survivalist presents in the place of regular toys given by other family members.
The entire family (second cousins, aunts from another family tree and family members who were related in such a distant way everyone had quite forgotten) would spend Christmas together. In fact, Torres’ main memory of Christmas is simply being with her family. And isn’t that the point of the winter holidays?
Robert and JoAnn Klein
For lifelong Palisadians and current Alphabet Street residents Robert and JoAnn Klein, the holiday season means festivities, family and faith.
The couple, along with their three children, who also reside in the Palisades, and their grandchildren, hold Corpus Christi Catholic Church in the Palisades very close to their hearts, especially during the holidays.
“That has been an important thing: to worship on the holidays together as a family,” JoAnn shared with the Post.
Outside of religious services, the Kleins gather in various holiday festivities from mountain biking and turkey frying for the men during Thanksgiving, to caroling and dancing on Christmas. Regardless of the occasion, they relish spending time together and celebrating.
Robert spoke of his wife’s love for celebration, saying that she “knows everyone’s birthday and every holiday and every wedding anniversary: any date that’s important.” She makes an effort to reach out to friends and family with the hope of making the occasion special, resulting in her sending out “over 300 cards.”
The Kleins’ home has been nicknamed “the festive house on the corner,” as it never fails to feature decorations that correspond with the given season or holiday. Over the years, the family has extended an invitation to Thanksgiving dinner to friends and relatives from out of town who happen to be alone and in the area over the holidays.
“When our children were growing up, especially when they were in college, we always said, ‘If you know of anybody who isn’t going home and has nowhere to go, you invite them here; they are always welcome,’” JoAnn said. “I can’t think of anything worse than not being home for Christmas or Thanksgiving, and then not going anywhere.”
Each year, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, the family goes around the table while eating JoAnn’s renowned English Toffee Torte—nicknamed Jimmy’s Delight, as it was the Kleins’ son Jimmy’s favorite dessert throughout childhood—and shares what they are thankful for.
And it would not be a Klein holiday gathering without singing and dancing: “After dinner, we push back the couch and put music on and dance.”
Lily Sind, Alphabet Streets resident and junior at Brentwood School, associates the holiday season with memories from her annual ski trip to Idaho each December.
In addition to the classic winter-time festivities many engage in as the holiday season approaches, Sind and her family have created their own tradition that they come back to year after year.
“Every year we get permission to cut down a Christmas tree in the woods,” Sind told the Post.
The multi-generational Sind family, including their dogs, set out for the woods in their cars, all geared up for the adventure. Hours later, they end up trekking on foot in search of the perfect tree.
When asked why she thinks so fondly of this time with her family, Sind said it is because she “feels very free” and “gets to hang out with family that [she] doesn’t usually hang out with.” The tree-cutting tradition, as well as the trip to Idaho for Christmas, have been, to Sind’s knowledge, a tradition in her family for generations.
After the tree is attached to the top of the car and driven slowly back to the family cabin, it is decorated with ornaments both new and old. Many of the ornaments displayed on the tree are keepsakes from Sind and her relatives’ childhoods, bringing together years of memories and tradition.
Ash Mailandeer, a senior at Palisades Charter High School, celebrates with her extended family.
Mailandeer spends Christmas opening presents with family and staying up late with cousins. They eat homemade peppermint bark and gingerbread cookies until two in the morning, often with a Christmas movie playing in the background. In fact, Mailandeer’s family loves to bake holiday sweets with traditional family recipes. Unfortunately, Mailandeer has been banned after almost burning down the kitchen one fateful year.
The Mailandeer family decorates a real tree with family ornaments, including ones that have been there for years. In a uniquely Mailandeer tradition, her family writes letters that they then hang on the tree. Later, they’ll mail these letters to family who aren’t able to make it.
Snowboarding is also a favorite tradition. They spend time with family in the mountains after the Christmas holidays, celebrating Christmas all over again.
Even in the mountains, the Palisadian spirit is kept warm with plenty of family time and even more peppermint bark.
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