Ten Cherished Pure Michigan Holiday Traditions

Are you ready for the holiday season in Pure Michigan? Today, our guest bloggers from The Awesome Mitten, plus a few of our Facebook fans, share their most cherished holiday traditions. 

As we move in to yet another holiday season, the staff of The Awesome Mitten thought it best to take a look back at some of our most cherished holiday memories and traditions. This special compilation would not be possible without the contributions of Team Awesome members Hayley Serr, Rebecca Calkins, and Rachell Weeks.

Rachell

Christmas has always been one of my favorite holidays. It’s also one of the few days of the year I wish for snow. My parents made the decision when I was a baby to relocate from England to the United States for work and we’ve been here ever since. Holidays have always been quiet for us, given that all of our extended family still lives overseas, but my parents did an excellent job of keeping with tradition; needless to say, I grew up with Christmases that were different from all the other kids.

Christimas Eve is hands down the busiest day of the year in the kitchen! Every year, we get up early, head to Meijer and do all of the food shopping for the feasts of the next two days. Once the mad dash around the store is finished, we head to Downtown Holland for some coffee at JPs Coffee House, and in recent years lunch at New Holland Brewery before stopping at the Holland Peanut Store to pick up chocolates for Santa.

Once home, we spend the afternoon prepping food for the next couple of days. In British tradition, this means a full feast of: Brussels sprouts, carrots, potatoes, sausages wrapped in bacon, dates wrapped in bacon, bread sauce, cranberry orange sauce, chestnut stuffing, sausage rolls, turkey, Christmas pudding, and mince pies.

Before going to bed, we make reindeer food (oats and glitter) and run around the yard scattering it everywhere. The glitter helps Rudolf find the food!

Hayley

In the Serr family, we have one tradition that many of my friends have never experienced: each year, we go to Niklas Tree Farm in Metamora to cut down our own (real) Christmas tree. Likely because we’ve done this every year for as long as I can remember, rumbling down the hill toward the fields of Christmas trees on one of Niklas’ tractors feels to me like the beginning of the holiday season. There is always some debate as to the tree (needs to be nice and conical, not too bushy or too sparse), but eventually, we always find “the one.” And after that perfect tree had been selected and cut down, we’d load it up on the top of the car and head for home.

Once inside and snugly in its stand at home, my dad would hang the lights, my mom the garland, and then each of us would open our box of ornaments (most wrapped in some sort of Christmas-themed napkins or tissue paper for safe keeping). As my two sisters and I got older, our boxes grew to the point that we began needing to cut down two trees just to fit them all.

Other bits of the tradition changed as we aged, as well—for example, we are absolutely not allowed to wake our parents up until 8 AM on Christmas morning, and are only allowed to LOOK at the tree with our presents underneath starting at 7 AM. But we still pile in the car every year to head to Niklas Tree Farm to bring home our perfect tree.

Rebecca

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I am a big fan of Christmas Lights. Even though my family was never the biggest of decorators, I love to drive around the neighborhoods that always took it to the next level. I remember piling into the minivan to drive through the Nite Lites at the Jackson County Fairgrounds; at a full mile long, Nite Lites is one of the longest light shows in Michigan.

We’d tune the radio to 106.9 Home.FM for “All Christmas Music All the Time,” programming that always starts on Thanksgiving Day (but let’s face it, in our house the Christmas Music starts playing right after Halloween). The van would slowly crawl through the grounds as we were ooo-ing and aww-ing at the newest decorations, laughing, joking and/or fighting about the silly lights. Is it a cat or a chipmunk? We were never really sure.

Then, we’d park and going into the American One Events Center for a hot chocolate and to stroll through the decorated Christmas Trees, each one decorated by a local non-profit. We would vote for our favorite tree with donations, usually just change from our mom’s purse. The littlest kids would wait in line to visit Santa or if they were lucky pet the live reindeer too. To this day it is an annual tradition that continues even if we don’t continue to stare with childlike wonderment. We have to visit our favorite chipmunk, right?

Each one of us has a holiday tradition that ties us back to home. Spending the holiday season in Michigan is one thing that so many of us have in common — that, coupled with our love for the Great Lakes State, helps us stay connected to one another.

IMG_0836Compiled by Erin Bernhard, Managing Editor at The Awesome Mitten. Erin considers herself a simple northern Michigan twentysomething who loves good microbrews, great wine, summertime grillouts, well-roasted coffee and Traverse City.

 

 

From Our Fans:

Our Facebook fans hold special holiday and traditions near and dear to their hearts. Check them out below. 

We have to watch the Lions on Thanksgiving with a traditional dinner and then turkey sandwiches with mayo on squishy bread in the evening! – Facebook Fan Carol DeVore

Hosting dinner for anyone we know without family in the area. my husband attends the Maritime academy, so we pack the place with anyone who needs a surrogate ‘home’ for the day or weekend. Guest beds & couches are always available & usually get filled! – Facebook Fan Whitney Fisher Miller

1497721_10152475224943289_675394493_nMine is a trip to Frankenmuth. A great dinner at Zehnders, and just enjoying the beauty of the town. -Facebook fan Kimberly J. Pachey

Church attendance and gathering with family on the holiday for a meal. – Facebook fan Rita Gerstheimer

Lions football is a tradition! Even after we were uprooted to the Chicago area, Thanksgiving is food, drinks, and Lions football. – Facebook fan Cait Stephanie

My folks had a hunting cabin on 40 acres in West Branch. Other than a pump in the sink there was no running water. Out house. Fire place, battery operated radio and comic books. My Dad was a meat cutter so he dressed out his own deer. There was always snow on the ground when we sent up and it looked like a Christmas Card. Thinking of it makes me smile! – Facebook fan Margaret Proulx

During hunting season, my mom and I always put up our Christmas tree and decorations when the men were gone and not under foot! -Facebook fan Vicki Goodwin Meisel

Where in Michigan do you spend the holiday season? What is your favorite holiday tradition?

Five Fun Ways to Celebrate “Fall-o-ween” in Pure Michigan

Today, our guest blogger Lyndsay Israel from The Awesome Mitten shares some seasonally-inspired ways to celebrate “Fall-o-ween” in Pure Michigan.

You may have noticed that we have hit the calendar jackpot for 2014!  Halloween on a Friday?  Does it get any better than that?  This year, plan your fall weekend celebrations right, including those leading up to the 31st- do, or see something new, take your kids somewhere fun, or win the prize at the Halloween party!  Check out these five ‘Fall-o-ween’ fun plans as you plot out the rest of your autumn months.

Fall Camping

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Photo by Lyndsay Israel

Yes, it’s already chilly, but you always sleep better when it’s cold out, right?  A lot of local campgrounds have adopted Halloween weekend events for their campers; these can include anything from a campsite decorating contest to a costume parade for the little campers!  Because the cold is unpredictable, many have moved this tradition to September, but call your favorite place and check.  I can at least point people to Harbor RV Resort in Monroe County, who celebrate Halloween weekly for all of October.  Head that way until the weekend of the 26th to check out their traditions.

Dress Locally

I always think of cool costumes at the most irrelevant times of the year.  If you share that curse, you forget your great ideas by the time you get your costume party invite.  What about going as a Michigan native?  Tim the Toolman Taylor (or Al, if you’re hairier), Kid Rock, Lucille Ball or Madonna all hail from the mitten state…and make for a fun costume.

Take a Drive

Photo by Lyndsay Israel

Photo by Lyndsay Israel

Peak color is happening any minute now but since it started so fast I anticipate a slow disappearance of the leaves…I am not an autumn expert but this is my opinion.  Check out the beautiful Tunnel of Trees from Harbor Springs to Cross Village (on M-119) if you’re close enough, or just find a park near you to appreciate the foliage before it’s replaced by frost.

Get Scared!

Tis the season to get lost in a corn maze or chased by a man with a chainsaw.  If getting scared is your cup of tea, check out The Haunt in Grand Rapids or ride the Junction Valley Spook Train in Saginaw County!  Take a Twilight Walking Tour in Sault St. Marie or take a Marshall Carriage Co. Ghost tour through local cemeteries.  There are no shortage of creepy options in Michigan, and for more ghastly ghosts, check out parts one, two and three of haunted places in Michigan from The Awesome Mitten.

Decorate

Photo by Lyndsay Israel

Photo by Lyndsay Israel

Decorating for Halloween can be a lot of work, but consider it a dry run for the winter holidays yet to come.  Even if you don’t transform your lawn into a spooky cemetery, pumpkins of all shapes and sizes can be transformed to showcase what your house holds dear.  For me, this means a giant football, but with a can of gold spray paint or black lacy tights, pumpkins can lend some class to your front porch.  Good old fashioned jack-o-lantern carving complete with a big candle to last the month is fun for the family, or decorate enough lanterns to line your driveway.  Use the neglected sand box to weigh down your paper bag lanterns, or send the kiddos on a scavenger hunt for rock weights.

For a comprehensive break down of fall fun in Michigan, check out michigan.org for a great list of even more Fall-o-ween to-dos. How are you celebrating “Fall-o-ween” in Pure Michigan this year?

Untitled1Lyndsay Israel is a life long Michigander currently in Traverse City. She has big ole soft spot for Grand Rapids, where she’s been the better part of the last decade.  Passions include writing about Michigan and Michigan craft beer. Future goals include making it through this Northern Michigan this winter, finishing her masters in secondary education at Grand Valley, owning a large dog, and reading as many books as she can.

 

 

 

Four Characteristics of a Pure Michigan Fall

Today, guest blogger Shannon Saksewski from The Awesome Mitten shares a few key ingredients of fall in Pure Michigan.

15reasonstolovefall1Seasons.  A stark difference between four distinct seasons.  This is one of the several reasons why, despite opportunities, I haven’t felt truly compelled to move to another state.  It’s always been difficult for me to imagine living in a place where I couldn’t, in a broad sense, measure time by looking at the leaves.

Fall’s my favorite.  Fall is a favorite for a lot of people.  You’ve likely noticed by now that large retailers agree, especially if you’ve ever walked through their aisles in August—and sometimes July—when they start offering Halloween goodies and autumn decor.  Let’s set the retail goods aside for now, though, and focus on what makes Michigan truly special in the fall.

Colors
Oh, the glorious colors!  People from around the country flock to the Mitten in the fall to witness the flaming reds, oranges, yellows, and even burgundies.  Peak color varies throughout the state, but generally falls between mid-September through the end of October.  As a general rule, the farther north one travels, the earlier colors will peak.

Color tours are a popular fall activity for many Michigan residents and visitors.  Residents need not travel far in order to experience the sights, sounds, and smells of Michigan’s technicolor forests.  Over half of the state is forested—that’s over 19 million acres—and most of that consists of northern hardwoods (the color-changers, like maples).  Want to get on the road to see what all the fuss is about?  Here’s a list of color driving tours.  Prefer to get out of the car and see the sights up close?  Try these hiking and biking tours.

Bangor apple festApples
With 9.2 million apple trees, Michigan is the second-largest apple producing state in the US—and we have serious love for our orchards!  It seems like almost everyone, especially people who grew up here, has a favorite orchard.  My personal favorite is Wasem’s in Milan, very near where I grew up.  I love that place for its crisp Michigan apples, sure.  If you talk to someone about their favorite orchard long enough, though, you’ll likely realize that they’re not in it for the apples alone.  Orchards offer a range of goods and experiences.  For example, I contend that Wasem’s has the best donuts, cider, and apple butter in the universe.  (That’s a strong statement, and I’d love to debate the point—and taste-test—with any of you!)

Orchards offer much more than edible goods.  In addition, they are often home to Halloween-themed activities like haunted houses, haunted hay rides, and nighttime corn mazes.  For those less inclined to be purposefully terrified, check out the decorative goods, historical surrounds, demonstrations, and much more.  A visit to the orchard could be a brief stop, or an all-day affair.  Check out an old favorite, or search for a future favorite.  Regardless, enjoy!

FordfieldFestivals
Clearly, there’s a lot to celebrate about fall in Michigan.  Colors! Apples! Pumpkins! Alpacas!  Oh, and beer.  Check out this calendar of Michigan’s fall festivals.  At least a few of these are on my must-see list.  Which will you visit?

Football
We tend to take football pretty seriously in Michigan—to the point where some of us use “fall” and “football season” interchangeably.  Whether you’re a die-hard fan of Michigan’s own Detroit Lions or a  particular university, or are just in it for tailgating fun (or both), it’s possible that you closely associate football and fall.  Not too interested in football?  That’s OK.  There are plenty of orchards to visit instead of tailgating, cramming into a stadium, and/or yelling at the television.

What do you think?  What other festivals, places, or traditions are characteristic of fall in Michigan?

shannon-293x300Shannon Saksewski is a life-long resident of Michigan. Professionally, she is a healthcare strategist focusing on consumer experience and marketing.  She was trained, and has experience in, psychology, social work, and business at the University of Michigan.  Outside of work, she enjoys cooking, traveling, writing, and experimenting with local beer and craft cocktails.  Connect with Shannon on Twitter (@ssaksews), or LinkedIn.