Read & Respond: Christmas Traditions

The holidays are hard to dislike.

Extra lights illuminating houses, yards, store windows, and bicycles—yes, even bikes…keep reading! Festive banners and garland don city streetlights and buildings. Red, gold, green, silver, blue. Warm smiles and warmer drinks. Even here in Florida, where I’ve broken a sweat on more Christmas Days than not, there is an undeniably festive buzz.

When I was a kid, Christmas Eve dinner at Grandma’s and church service led the way to the much anticipated morning of December 25th. Still in our pajamas, my older brother and sister and I would crouch on the stairs right around the corner from the tree decorated with miscellaneous ornaments.

Each year before Christmas Day, we would carefully pick out a new ornament to add to our personal collections. My sister would pick the cutest ones she could find, while I would go on a hunt to pick something that most accurately depicted my year. Maybe it’s the writer in me, but it had to be symbolic. For 3 years straight I had different breeds of horses added to the tree; in 7th grade I played a waiter in the musical Hello, Dolly!, so it was a reindeer with an apron and tray; just a few years ago, I chose a german shepherd dog to represent my new puppy.

But back to Christmas morning. As my siblings and I sat huddled together in the stairwell, we could hear my parents arranging the gifts and laying the stockings on the couch as the coffee brewed and the cinnamon rolls baked.

Years later, the anticipation is much less heightened, the gifts less in the spotlight, and our ornament shopping sometimes forgotten till after the season passes. My brother is states away, and my sister has a family of her own.  But the magic is still attainable. What reaches beyond the commercial celebration of Christmas is the connection that happens between family and friends. I’ve been blessed with a tightly knit family. This year was different from other prior holidays, but in the best of ways. I noticed growth and positive change. For presents, my family drew names and were able to really focus on the person we were buying for without breaking the bank. Our Christmas Eve dinner took place at my sister’s to relieve my grandma. My 16-month-old nephew brought a new element of complete joy and sweet entertainment that is often missed when a family’s children grow up.

Another new tradition I started this year was a “Lights by Bikes” event. My roommates and I threw a party for our friends where we decorated our bikes with garland and lights, then rode them around town to enjoy the decorated houses around us.

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Whether it’s a childhood time of wonder and glee, a teenage phase of apathetic participation, a stress-filled time of shopping, or a mellow month of reflection and thankfulness, for me, Christmas has always been a season of sweet details and evolving traditions.

Written by Emiley Jones.


What about you? What are some of your favorite holiday traditions? How have they changed over the years? What made this last season more special or more difficult than past years?

If you want to write your own response, go ahead and send it to us so we can feature it later this year!

Read & Respond: The Best Writing Advice You’ve Ever Received – A Story

Innumerable books, blogs, face-to-face conversations, articles, and advice pages are full of stories—stories of success and stories of frustration. The struggles that writers face often reach a personal level—why don’t I feel inspired? How have I let myself procrastinate this long? When will I write my masterpiece? How are my author friends getting published when I’m not?

While there are no tangible answers to these questions, there are solutions. The best way to find them is to hear about the successes of others. How did other people make it through the tough spots in their writing careers?

That’s where this writing prompt comes in: 
What was the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

Here’s mine.

I had my first language and literature classes in the 7th grade. I was homeschooled until middle school. Then I started taking the majority of my classes at a private school. We met in an outdated classroom— first door on the right of a hallway of full classes, which was attached to a church. It was there that I met Mrs. Gerrity, an encouraging teacher that let her wit and intelligence beam without excluding us or coming across as condescending.

I had always loved books, words and language had always fascinated me, and I’d written essays before, but it wasn’t until I tried my hand at poetry, during one of those long, three-hour classes, that the writer in me came to life. I started scribbling every day, taking photos to illustrate the poems, and compiling them into my own anthologies. I never turned back after that. I, unofficially, declared a creative writing major, while still in the 8th grade. Eight years later, I completed my studies as a literature major, with a minor in writing & rhetoric.

When I had discussed with Mrs. Gerrity just how much I was enjoying the class and learning to write, she gave me the best advice I’ve ever gotten. Disclaimer: It isn’t profound, and it isn’t framed above my desk. She merely grinned and said, “Keep going. Keep writing.” Every time I get overwhelmed by tasks or feel creatively dried up, I remember what she said and simply try to write something else.

Throughout college, I had countless conversations that went something like this:

“So what are you studying?”

“English Literature and –”

“Oh, so you want to teach?”

“Actually, I’m not planning on it. I really want to write for the majority of my job, but I’m open to pretty much anything. I love experiencing things that will influence my writing— whether I’m getting paid for it or not.”

“Oh, well isn’t that nice…” with a smile full of sympathy for my future.

While those conversations didn’t deter me from my academic focus, they did make me a little anxious about how I was would make it after graduation—the arts and humanities aren’t exactly the most stable, or high paying, careers. What would life look like? The thought of living in a studio apartment, eating hot dogs, and working odd jobs didn’t scare me as much as it could have, but I was acutely aware of how difficult finding a job in my preferred field might be.

The motivation to keep going and keep writing fueled me not only through my academic years, but also now in my professional life. I’m blessed to write for a living. Articles, social media posts, blogs, proposals— whatever the format—I’m still writing more than anything else! And strangely enough, those photographs I started taking to illustrate my middle school poetry developed into a deep passion for photography— and a side job.

While I probably would have never quit writing, even if I hadn’t gotten Mrs. Gerrity’s advice, I think it spared me from trudging through a lot of deserts of frustration and self-doubt. I’m thankful for the constant reminder that no matter how defeated I feel, I can always keep going and keep writing.

Now it’s your turn.

Tell us what piece of advice has kept your fingers dancing on the keyboard or your pen sprawling across pages. Share it so we can all benefit and be inspired.

  • Was it a profound thought from an academic essay? A moving moment from a speech? Or was it a simple encouragement, like mine was?
  • Who gave it to you—a teacher, author, friend, or reader?
  • Lastly, how do you remind yourself of this advice? Some people have a subtle object on their desk that helps them recall why they do what they do. Others have a beautiful poster to inspire them…

Whatever it is, tell us in the comments or write your own blog post about what piece of advice has kept you writing over the years.

Written by Emiley Jones.