Holiday Memories


I love the holidays! The movies, the music, the decorations, the giving spirit, finding the perfect gifts, the parties, and of course, the food. I mean, what’s not to like?? Besides the cost and stress. But let’s not talk about that.


Instead, I thought I’d share some of my favorite memories of the holidays, and hopefully make you smile and remember some of your own wonderful times throughout the years.  


Curling up with Family


I have to say my favorite Christmas movie is still White Christmas. I love the music and the dancing, and it can make me laugh and cry. Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye, Vera-Ellen and Rosemary Clooney—sheer perfection! At least in my opinion. My poor brother had to sit through this quite a few times with me, our mom and aunt. But we always had cocoa and cookies to make it go down even easier.

We also love the funny movies. On Thanksgiving night we felt it was officially okay to start watching the Christmas movies, and Christmas Vacation was usually the choice.


I have one vivid memory of being in the dining room with my mom and aunt, while my brother was downstairs watching Christmas Vacation. I have no idea why the three of us were being so slow to get downstairs, but that’s not important. All of a sudden, we hear my brother laughing hysterically. We all smiled because my brother has one of those really infectious belly laughs—even as an adult, I laugh if he laughs. We kept doing whatever, and he starts laughing even harder, so we start smiling and I start to lose it first. Even without watching a minute of the movie, we enjoyed it as we all started laughing. My brother comes upstairs and asked us what was so funny. That made us laugh even harder. And the best part, my brother’s sons have that same infectious laugh.


My husband and I continue the tradition with a lot of Christmas Vacation, Home Alone and Elf; laughing until we can’t breathe.


My husband aspires to be Clark Griswold when it comes to decorating. We are slowly accumulating more and more decorations. Slowly only because those things are expensive. His family and mine both went all out with decorating, so we definitely continue the tradition. And we have a house now, so I figure in about 5 more years we will light up the neighborhood.


But one of my favorite decorating memories is after the holidays, and I wasn’t even witness to it. My aunt and mom really did most of the decorating and take-down. It was a milder day so my mom headed outside with my brother to take down the lights. I guess that some of the lights got caught in the branches of one of our trees. It was just out of reach for my mom, who is 5’4” tall. So, being the independent woman that she is, she began jumping to try and grab it. But all she could do is brush it with her fingertips. She finally turned around to call my brother over to help; he’s 5’11”. She jumps a little as he’s right behind her with his arms folded. “Have you been watching me try to get that?”, she asks. “Yep. You didn’t ask for help,” he says. “Well, help me! Grab those lights.” He reaches slowly over her head, unhooks the lights and hands them to her.


I don’t think she was so amused at the time, but we still laugh about it almost 20 years later.


My family takes their Christmas cookies very seriously. They make a variety: bar cookies, chocolate chip, peanut butter, pitzelles, cruellers, cutouts, kolackies, pecan crescents and Italian knot cookies. I’m sure I’m forgetting some, but that’s the gist. We make trays to take to other people as a gift, and dessert for gatherings. We had what my mom called “Hooky Cookie Day” where she would take a day off work, call us out of school, and we’d bake together. It was fun, and we might have snuck a little cookie dough.


But, I have to say one of my most clear memories is bittersweet. Gram used to make the knot cookies—a dense cookie with a light lemon glaze that were great for dunking. After she passed, my uncle made them for a while. It brought back wonderful memories. One year, not long after Gram passed, I got a package from one of my cousins for St. Nicholas Day. Gram always sent us something for that day early in December.

I opened it up to find knot cookies and a note saying that Gram wasn’t here to continue the tradition, so she thought she’d send us all the cookies. I broke down crying. It was wonderful, and sad all at the same time.
These memories are important, and even though some of the family might be gone, they’re with me around the holidays.



Bethany Kochan started her fitness career at a local women’s fitness center at 19 years of age. This part-time job lead to a career that over 20 years later, she still loves. Bethany earned her B.S. in Exercise Science from Southern Illinois University Carbondale at the same time becoming certified as a group exercise instructor. After college, she pursued NSCA-CPT and CSCS, group cycling, mat Pilates and YogaFit certifications. In 2009, she and her husband made a big move across the country to pursue his dream job in the field of strength and conditioning. At this point, Bethany began writing and training online to be both with her husband and the fitness industry. Today, the Kochans split their time between AZ and CA, pursuing their passions and enjoying life together with their two rescue Weimaraners.