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Published November 24, 2012, 11:35 PM

Stay grounded during the holiday frenzy with tradition

FARGO - The Sannes family ends every Christmas singing “Silent Night.” Lisa and Doug Gigler spend a Saturday between Thanksgiving and Christmas in their pajamas watching a classic holiday movie while drinking coffee with Irish cream.

By: Anna G. Larson, INFORUM

FARGO - The Sannes family ends every Christmas singing “Silent Night.”

Lisa and Doug Gigler spend a Saturday between Thanksgiving and Christmas in their pajamas watching a classic holiday movie while drinking coffee with Irish cream.

Carol Neisen and Pat Scholar used to pick up Christmas trees from boulevards and prank one lucky friend with a yard full of used trees.

Kirsten Frantsvog eats lutefisk on Christmas Eve in remembrance of her father.

In a world that becomes more chaotic every day, tradition is especially important, Frantsvog says. Frantsvog is a chaplain for Hospice of the Red River Valley and has spoken about the importance of ritual and tradition.

“It keeps us grounded,” she says. “With everything changing around us, it’s good to have family rituals or traditions.”

The Sannes family’s tradition of singing carols after Christmas dinner started 25 years ago when Fargo resident Becky Sannes Czichotzki and her two siblings were in their 20s.

“It’s pretty neat to see us all together under one roof,” Sannes Czichotzki says. “Singing carols creates memories for us.”

Sannes Czichotzki says the memories her family takes away from the tradition will hopefully be carried on for generations to come.

“Each and every Christmas together is precious to the Sannes family, and we hope for many more years of singing, giggling and loving,” she says. “As our family ages, I hope we still get together.”

Family traditions shift when family dynamics change, such as when loved ones pass away, get married or move. Starting new traditions, Frantsvog says, is a natural part of life.

“Good or bad change can cause new traditions to emerge,” she says. “When you’re missing that person at the table, it’s time to change that tradition.”

Changing a tradition can be as simple as having Christmas dinner at another family member’s home or eating different food.

Her personal tradition of eating lutefisk on Christmas Eve helps her honor her father who passed away 12 years ago.

“I can’t imagine not eating lutefisk during the holidays,” she says. “I grew up eating it on Christmas Eve, and my dad loved it. It brings up good memories of him.”

The Giglers of Fargo started their tradition of Irish crème-infused coffee and classic holiday movies six years ago as a way to slow down during the busy holiday season, Lisa Gigler says.

“My husband started it, and it just became our thing,” she says. “I’m very into creating memories because I have such great memories of growing up. It’s fun to create your own traditions.”

Neisen and Scholar created their own tradition in the early 1990s by surprising an unsuspecting friend with a yard full of used Christmas trees. They used to collect Christmas trees from boulevards and “plant” them in a friend’s yard. Scholar’s father had done the same prank, and the two friends wanted to carry on the tradition.

“It was an innocent prank that created some good memories,” says Neisen, a Mahnomen, Minn., resident.

The friends haven’t pulled the prank for many years, but it still makes Neisen laugh.

For most people, tradition keeps happy memories alive and encourages people to talk about their loved ones who have passed away, Frantsvog says.

“Ritual and tradition have a lot of power,” she says. “They allow people to remember and reflect.”

When the Sannes family sits down this year to sing “Silent Night,” Sannes Czichotzki says she’ll be counting her blessings.

“I’m a lot like my mom, and just seeing our whole family together makes me happy,” she says. “We’ll be doing this for many more years.”

Do you have a holiday tradition you’d like to share? Email your story to Tracy Briggs at tracybriggs@forumcomm.com. She’ll post them in our Seasonal Memories blog at www.holidays.areavoices.com.

traditions to create this year

FARGO – Holiday traditions don’t have to be elaborate to create memories.

We searched the Web for some fun, meaningful and easy ways to spread joy and create holiday traditions.

1. Ask for recipes from relatives to keep your family food traditions alive. Learn how to make those recipes from your grandma, aunt, uncle, etc.

2. Organize a cookie baking party. Invite friends and family over to bake, and have everyone bring their favorite cookie recipe to share. Or, have everyone bring pre-made sugar cookies and then decorate them together.

3. Check out holiday lights. “Holiday Lights in Lindenwood Park,” 1905 Roger Maris Dr., can be viewed from 5:30 to 10 p.m. Dec. 1 through 31. Admission is $6 per car, or $5 with a canned good to donate to the local food pantries, and $10 for buses and limousines.

4. Deliver Christmas goodies to people in your neighborhood, the local fire station, hospital, police department, etc. Lots of people will be working on Christmas, why not make them smile?

5. Pick out a Christmas tree with your family. Decorate it together, too. Take time to talk about the history behind handmade or old ornaments.

6. Set aside one night each week leading up to Christmas to watch a holiday movie.

7. Create a holiday playlist for the car or home, or listen to your favorite Christmas radio station.

8. Write a letter to Santa, or make a list of all the things you are thankful for.

9. Volunteer at the Salvation Army to ring bells during the holidays or serve a meal. To sign up, call Laura Spahr at (701) 232-5565, ext. 310.

Local retirement and nursing homes often need volunteers at holiday time to write cards or help residents shop for gifts, too. Volunteering anywhere is a great way to build a tradition of giving back.

10. Start a gag gift tradition. Give a funny gift to a family member, and each year, pass the gift on to someone else.

11. Have a holiday party with your friends, complete with a Secret Santa gift exchange. Plan to have a different friend host it each year.

12. Go out for brunch with family and friends the day after Thanksgiving or Christmas.

13. Have your children put on a Christmas skit, and create a video. You’ll cherish watching the videos for years to come.

This list was inspired by ideas from www.cozi.com and www.defrumpme.com.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Anna G. Larson at (701) 241-5525

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