Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Holiday Season in Cleveland

5 Holiday Family Traditions I Can't Get Enough Of!
As the holidays creep up on us like Santa's sneaky little elves, I've been thinking about all the reasons why I really love this season (particularly in Cleveland). Take a few minutes and come up with a quick list of holiday traditions you can't get enough of. No matter how kooky, crazy, heart-warming, or totally vanilla your holidays are, you will be sure to relive some good laughs and memories.

5) Winterfest
I kicked off the holiday season with my family starting a new tradition, Winterfest. There was tons of activities, food trucks, live music, and the lighting ceremony of Public Square. (Kudos Big Sis!) Bonus factor, it was about 60 degrees that day! My favorite part, however, was going up to the observation deck in Terminal Tower. I've lived in Cleveland my whole life, and have never seen the city from this vantage point. One word: SPECTACULAR. Here are a few photos I snapped:
View of the West side

Key Tower, Browns Stadium, Rock Hall, Science Center

Once we ventured back down to Public Square, we watched the lighting ceremony. This year, the lights donated by GE were LED lights, and wowzer, they were bright! "The display this year will only consume about 21,000 watts, as opposed to 134,000 watts that incandescent string lights would consume." Read more here. Way to be green CLE! I highly recommend this holiday tradition that is fun for all!

4) Traffic
More this
Yeah, betcha didn't see that one coming! But seriously, my commute time is drastically reduced during the last two weeks of year. I want to thank the lucky-ducks who were smart enough to save up their vacation time and use it all at once. You have saved me numerous brake tapping, wheel smacking, head pounding, dead stop on the highway, road raging commutes because you have stayed off the roads. 
None of this
Less that

It's just me cruising along that glorious stretch of highway we know as 
I-90, listening to NPR, happy as a clam. 

3) West Side Market
The West Side Market is certainly a family tradition, and I've been going since I was a little nugget. The fresh meat, cheese, bread, hustle and bustle, chopping, cutting, sizzling, fresh-in-your-mouth-goodness make the West Side Market a holiday staple. Good people working hard to bring you the best food Cleveland can hand you. Our tradition is grabbing a brat from Frank's Bratwurst. My Grandfather, who has since past, was a jovial, talkative, straight from Italy, loved to market shop, and eat like a king kind of guy.  He always brought us to this stand for a brat, then we'd go up to the balcony to look out over all activity in the market and chow down. (He also gave me the gift of being a good eater!) Great memory, and I'm one of probably few people who stop at the crepe stand first, but get my Frank's Brat for dessert (at 10am). Gramps would be proud! 

The best stand at the market: Frank's Bratwurst

Speaking of delicious food...
2) Christmas Eve Dinner -Gram's homemade pasta
Once a year, my grandmother makes pasta from scratch. (Yes, she was married to the Italian, bratwurst loving, grandfather described above. She had to have awesome cooking skills!) She spends all day prepping in the kitchen, cranking out these spaghetti noodles old world style. I can't get enough of this stuff! Here's a picture of us making it as proof:
This lady right here-- heaven-sent pasta making skills
As our sprinkled snowflakes of parmesan cheese melt into that mound of carb-heaven plate of pasta, it's as if God is plump with that holiday spirit too and whispers, "Sweet Baby Jesus, this is good!"

1) Christmas morning mass
The church we grew up in closed a few years ago so we started going to Our Lady of Mount Caramel, little did we know last Christmas was that the mass time we chose was... all in Italian. It was awesome, even though none of us speak a lick of Italian. The message was universal though, because even as the Gospel was read, I was able to follow along since I've heard the story a few times before. I kid you not, during the homily, the only English word he said was... "donkey" -- we couldn't help but chuckle a bit in our pews. And, I learned how to say Merry Christmas in Italian:

Donkey though...I'm still not sure how to say in Italian....

Although the holidays can be a whirlwind, I encourage you to let your hair down and enjoy the sleigh ride. It's a time to enjoy your family traditions and create new ones with the ones who matter most. Spread that JAM! And sweeten up! It'll be over before you know it!

 Share your holiday traditions with me, I'd love to hear!

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