From the BridgingApps Team: Holiday Notes 2023

Happy Holidays from the BridgingApps team! Enjoy this collection of our favorite tips and traditions.

Cristen Reat, Co-Founder and Program Director:

Growing up in rural Pennsylvania in the 1970’s, I remember spending hours looking through the Sears catalogue for toys I wanted. The Baby Alive doll (and the commercial jingle advertising it) particularly sticks in my memory. It came with food packets you could mix with water and then feed to the doll, whose mouth moved.

Today, my favorite things to eat in December are traditional Christmas foods, especially homemade cookies like peanut blossoms, snickerdoodles, sugar cookies, and my grandmother’s special recipe for Sand Tarts sprinkled with cinnamon sugar.

For entertainment, my family loves singing songs from the Wee Sing Christmas booklet, and watching Christmas movies like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Elf, Noelle, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Favorite holiday apps include:

  • Pandora for creating holiday music stations. Everyone in our family can have a station made to their taste.
  • The Jacquie Lawson advent calendar: I put one on an iPad so my son Vincent [who has Down syndrome and autism] can use it independently.
  • The Cozi calendar for keeping track of things. I love using the list feature for gifts, groceries, and to-dos.

And my favorite Christmas service is midnight mass on Christmas Eve.

Amy Fuchs, Program Manager:

My family’s Christmastime traditions include:

  • Giving the kids one present each to open on Christmas Eve.
  • Watching Elf, the Santa Clause movies, A Christmas Story, and—on Christmas Eve with hot cocoa and warm fresh-baked cookies—The Polar Express.
  • A seafood boil for Christmas lunch. Instead of “traditional” holiday food, our typical menu includes crab legs, shrimp, garlic biscuits, and seasoned potatoes. 
Nostalgia: two Fuchs children with their first iPads, circa Christmas 2012.
Nostalgia: the Fuchs family unwraps their first iPads, circa 2012.

When preparing for the holidays, we use Apple Notes to share wish lists with one another. I create a “locked” list of purchased items—including costs, pickup dates, and who gets what—to keep things organized. We also have Smart Plugs from Amazon, to turn the tree and outside lights on and off at scheduled times. 

Amy Barry, Digital Marketing Lead:

Christmas PJ’s are a family tradition. The kids open one gift each on Christmas Eve, and it is always matching pajamas.

The Barry family (Mom and five teens, with long-haired little white dog) in red-plaid Christmas PJ’s
The Barry family in Christmas PJ’s

We love baking together during the holidays, and get many recipes from the Tasty website and app. Their Sugar Cookies are a family favorite.

A game app we enjoy is Heads Up: charades with a twist and a smartphone. Provides hours of laughter and entertainment.

Katherine Swarts, Digital Content Writer:

For me, the music is the best part. I could never choose a single favorite song, but these are top contenders:

  • Favorite traditional hymns: “The First Noel”; “O Holy Night”; “O Little Town of Bethlehem”
  • Favorite contemporary religious song:The Star
  • Favorite “Santa” song: “Here Comes Santa Claus”
  • Favorite celebration songs:Almost Christmastime”; “Christmas in Chicago” (apologies, Houston—Chicago is home to the biggest house in our extended family, where we hold Christmas get-togethers)

Marjorie Reichard, Project Manager:

My kids [Olivia and Maddy] have more than enough stuff already: their cluttered bedrooms are evidence.

So this year, I declared a “season of experiences.” Some things we’re doing:

  1. As gifts for each other, we’re creating homemade “coupons” for shared outings and other experiences. Half the fun is seeing what requirements we come up with for coupon use!
  2. Scheduled and completed family activities:
    Decorating together  
    Volunteering with the homeless community
    Nauticus holiday lights and the Battleship Wisconsin
    Busch Gardens Christmas Town in Williamsburg
    Christmas on the Beach, Virginia Beach
    Norfolk Grand Illumination Parade
  3. The kids still talk about Houston five and a half years after moving to Virginia. So we’re planning a family trip back to Houston at the end of January. (It helped that United Airlines had airfare on sale.)

Alejandra “Ale” Gonzalez, Digital Navigator:

This year I am making it a priority to spend time with my mom and get her to write down all her Mexican food recipes for me. As any Hispanic person will tell you, it’s traditional in our culture to learn cooking with measurements such as “add a dash of x” or “a handful of y.” Unfortunately, in our family this has resulted in my cooking never quite matching up to my mom’s. So this time I’ll be using the Umami app to store all those delicious recipes, with exact measurements. Super excited for this holiday season!

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