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Keeping Holiday Traditions Alive in a New City

Written by Savannah Marie, Community Blogger | Dec 18, 2013 11:01 AM

The holidays are an exciting time, with parties, presents and pretty much no down time. But they can also be trying for someone who’s new to a city, as I am to the Harrisburg area. I’m starting to feel nostalgic for holidays past. There are traditions that I enjoyed in my old hometown that I’d love to recreate in my new one. While my surroundings may have changed, my favorite holiday pastimes will find a place in my new home.

Here are some of my favorite holiday traditions that travel with me wherever I go. I’m excited to try these out in Harrisburg this year.

1. Deck the Halls

Christmas decorating has always been one of my favorite things, to steal a phrase from Julie Andrews. I love to decorate in a way that reflects where I live. This year, that means finding ornaments and décor related to the Harrisburg area.

I’ve already picked up a Hershey’s Kiss ornament from Hershey’s Chocolate World and a Harrisburg Senators program that I incorporated into a Christmas wreath. These traditions remind me of my family back home, since local ornaments and homemade decorations were a staple at Christmastime.

2. Go to a Tree Farm

Forget about the freezing temperatures. Cutting down your own Christmas tree is an annual rite guaranteed to put you in the Christmas spirit. There are a number of tree farms in the area, including Cassel’s Tree Farm and Strathmeyer Christmas Trees. Make a whole day out of it: Go pick out the tree early in the morning, bring it home, and have a decorating party for family and friends. You’ll enjoy telling the story of how you found your special tree, and kids in the family will absolutely love showing how they helped out. Check out my Christmas tree:

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3. Volunteer for a Good Cause

The holidays are a great time to give back to the community. An added bonus is that this will help you connect with people in your new city who share your same desire to help others in need. This year I volunteered at Project SHARE, a local food bank in Carlisle, with my coworkers at WebpageFX. Here are a few great places to volunteer your time:

  • The Central Pennsylvania Food Bank is always looking for volunteers and/or donations as part of its annual holiday turkey drive.
  • Do you sew, knit or crochet? The Binky Patrol, a charity that collects homemade blankets for kids with chronic diseases or born into substance abuse problems, is always looking for new items.   
  • Caitlin’s Smiles collects arts and crafts kits for children in local hospitals fighting life-threatening diseases. They also hold regular sessions to put together packets for ill children.

4. Go Ice Skating

Nothing says “holiday season” to me like a trip to the skating rink. Whether you have the grace of Michelle Kwan or Andre the Giant, ice skating is a fun seasonal activity. Check out Twin Ponds East and West in Harrisburg and Mechanicsburg, or journey over to the Lancaster Ice Rink or Regency Ice Rink in Lancaster.

4. Make Your Own Ornaments

Making ornaments is as much of a holiday staple as baking cookies in my family. Each year my mother would pick an ornament craft, and we would all sit down at the table and create. Whether you choose to make a garland, buy a make-your-own-ornament kit or gather up some supplies from nature, like acorns and pine tree branches, your tree will look ten times more festive with that personal touch. My tree is full of personal ornaments that I’ve created over the years. Making your own ornaments creates wonderful family memories.

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My Christmas cookies this year

5. Bake Christmas Cookies

OK, let’s be honest, the best part about this tradition isn’t the baking, it’s the eating. Surely you have a favorite cookie recipe that’s been in your family for years. Cook up a batch to eat on your own, or better yet, invite some friends over for a cookie exchange. That way you get a variety of cookies and you get to spend some time with others in your new city.

6. Take a Trip

There are so many fun holiday-themed destinations around Harrisburg. Chocolate World in Hershey is decorated for Christmas, complete with a life-sized gingerbread house. Elizabethtown’s public library has a train display that’s a good time for people of all ages. And a number of midstate churches hold caroling events open to anyone who wants to come.

No matter where you decide to go or what you decide to do, remember that it’s up to you to put the fest in festive, whether you’ve been in your new city for three weeks or 30 years. 

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