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Visions of Holiday Traditions

With the arrival of the holiday season, we asked several Baltimore-area personalities to share memories of their favorite holiday traditions, from holiday lights and music to Christmas cookie baking.

Christina Napp

Christina Napp
Co-founder and Company Manager of Charm City Players
“When I was 5 on Christmas in 1990, my uncle, who was a Marine, was away at sea and everyone was a little sad because he wasn’t home for Christmas. We come from a very German family with very German traditions. That year was hard because a member of our family wasn’t home. We suddenly got a knock on the door and it was Santa Claus, but behind Santa was my uncle, and it was pretty magical. I’ve taken that feeling with me through adulthood, and I still believe in the miracle of Christmas. I tell my son—whenever he doubts Santa—about the time Santa brought home Uncle Chip. Getting to see the magic of Christmas come alive in his eyes as well as my now 3-year-old nephew’s eyes on Christmas morning is probably the biggest highlight of the season for me.”

Kelly Swoope

Kelly Swoope
News Anchor, WMAR-TV 2
“Christmas 2014 is when my parents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. They wanted to do something different. They didn’t want a big party; they just wanted to spend the holidays together with the family since the holidays are such a big deal for us. We all went to Hawaii, and when I say we, I mean my family, my sister’s family, my husband’s mom and my aunt with all her grandchildren, so it was a huge group of us. We spent the holidays in Hawaii, and it was absolutely amazing—beautiful weather, and it was an experience you remember for a lifetime. I think the fact that that’s how they chose to celebrate their anniversary, instead of having a big party, turning it into a family celebration, to me, that’s what family is all about. This year is going to be different, but it will still be about cherishing time with your immediate family and creating new traditions that will keep us connected to family that is far away.”

Torrey Snow

Torrey Snow
WBAL NewsRadio Host
“Believe it or not, I look forward to the cold weather most. Being raised in Idaho, I’m accustomed to the cold, dry climate, and winter is the closest thing we get to that in Maryland. I look forward to bundling up in scarves, coats and gloves. I love sharing delicious hot beverages with my wife while we try to make progress on our streaming backlogs. Music is also very important to me, so holiday music is also a highlight of the season for me. It will be different this year, but I’m hopeful we’ll see some level of community camaraderie restored after a highly contentious election cycle.”

Anthony Parker aka ‘Wordsmith”

Anthony Parker aka “Wordsmith”
Artistic Partner with Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
“You know as you get older, you love the presents, but you look forward to the food. Honestly, I love candied yams, but I don’t get to eat them that much because they’re fattening, but every Thanksgiving and Christmas, I know that my mother is going to make candied yams, so I look forward to that so, so much. When I was a kid, my grandparents used to live in Hampstead, New York, and we used to travel up there every Christmas and it would just be one of those houses where your whole family comes to that one house, had dinner and opened some presents. You know—good memories, good times. I miss that. Everything is still vivid in my mind of how everything looked and how much family came together to celebrate the holidays.”

Will Holman

Will Holman
Executive Director of Open Works
“I most look forward to gathering with family. Last year, we hosted 17 for Thanksgiving in our Charles Village row house, setting up a second table in the living room. We are mourning the loss of that this year with social distancing measures—Zoom-giving it is! My favorite memory would have to be how last year was my daughter’s second Christmas, but the first where she was aware of what was going on, opening presents and participating in some of the traditions like family meals. It was so great to see how much joy she brings her grandparents and how excited she was.”

Christine Dietze

Christine Dietze
Chief Operating Officer, Baltimore Museum of Art
“I always look forward to extended periods of quality time with friends and family, which is something we will have to do differently this year. My mother and I always carve out a day for me to help with her annual cookie baking, which is quite the production as cookies bare given to everyone! I am not much of a baker but always look forward to being the sous-chef and spending time with her. Something else that I always look forward to and will miss this year is being able to celebrate the holidays with my colleagues at the Museum and their families. We traditionally have a holiday party at Gertrude’s, and those of us who have been there for a long time have watched our colleagues’ children growing up, and I look forward to seeing them each year.”

Chef Brigitte Bledsoe

Chef Brigitte Bledsoe
Executive Chef, Towson Tavern
“I used to make sugar cookies with my mom. That was like a big thing in our house—this sugar cookie recipe that had been passed down from generation to generation in my family. It was always fun doing all the decorations, the red and green sprinkles and all that fun stuff. Personally, I’m not a baker. For me as a chef, baking is too precise. I like just throwing stuff together and seeing what you get. But that’s one thing I know I can do really well: Christmas cookies.”

Laura and David Alima

Laura and David Alima
Co-owners of The Charmery
David: “There is something magical about Hampden for the holidays. My family and I love going to see the lights on 34th Street. It stands as a passage of time for our family. I remember taking our now 6-year-old daughter Maggie for the first time and  seeing how her eyes lit up. Now we go as a family of four, and both Maggie and Max (now 3) are so happy. Laura and I challenge ourselves to do all of our holiday shopping right from The Avenue … going to Trohv, In Watermelon Sugar, Atomic Books, along with more shops. Getting gift cards to all the amazing restaurants usually keeps everyone thrilled! I love the holiday playlist in our shops and all the Christmas lights. I love our Rye Whiskey Eggnog Ice Cream  and our Jelly Donut Hanukkah Tribute
flavor. I love the magic in the air and how Hampden seems to have an energy and life all of its own.”

Randi Pupkin

Randi Pupkin
Founder and Executive Director of Art with a Heart
“One year, I had a woman who worked at the mayor’s office who rented a space at Art with a Heart for her team’s holiday party. One of our students from our workforce development program was with me at the holiday party and they asked him to say a few words. At that time, he was homeless, and he spoke beautifully about what the organization meant to him. The woman who rented the space wound up having the young man spend the holidays with her and her family. That really is something that I’ll never forget.”

Rabbi Mitchell Wohlberg

Rabbi Mitchell Wohlberg
Beth Tfiloh Congregation
“My favorite holiday tradition takes place 12 times a year when my entire family—parents, children and grandparents—gather in our home to celebrate each individual member’s birthday. Before the cake comes out, each person in the room has to tell the birthday celebrant what they love about them. Of course, this makes some members of the family cringe! But it also gives the birthday ‘boy’ or ‘girl’ an opportunity to hear positive things that are often taken for granted and rarely expressed. It definitely makes for a HAPPY BIRTHDAY!”

Compiled by Michelle Aguirre and Ceoli Jacoby 

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