December 17, 2018

AF CommunityCulture

My Favorite Things – AF Staff Holiday Favorites

By: Leah Nalepa

As I sit and write this blog, I’m listening to Kelly Clarkson’s rendition of “My Favorite Things” from her Christmas album, Wrapped in Red. Many of us are preparing to travel home for the holidays and finishing up some holiday gift shopping. To get into the festive mood, America’s Future Foundation staff wanted to share some of our holiday season favorites! While AF is based in the DC area, most staff are spread throughout the country. Check out some ways our staff celebrates the joy of this season!

Josh (Washington DC):
One of my favorite things to do during the holiday season is find an outdoor skating rink. They are so much fun and allow you to get outdoors during the winter months (if you live in cold weather!). If you’re in the DC area, there is a great rink located near the National Sculpture Garden.

I’m also a big fan of Christmas pop-up bars. The Miracle on Seventh Street pop-up bar in Shaw has incredible decorations and a really creative list of themed cocktails. Try it out before the theme changes!

Cindy (Washington DC and Pennsylvania):
I’ll be spending Christmas Day in DC before heading out to Pennsylvania for a belated Christmas with the entire family, so here’s some ways my husband and I make a smaller Christmas a bit more festive.

-It’s the 21st Century, which means we’ve trained Alexa to “Turn on Christmas!” and she’ll light up your tree and play a carol. It brings me endless joy.

-Visit the Kennedy Center, the Millenium Stage is doing a Messiah sing-along on December 23 and a Christmas Day Jazz Jam on December 25, both at 6pm for free.

-While you’re near Georgetown take a walk through the neighborhood to check out the light installations in Georgetown Glow (don’t forget to get a coffee, hot chocolate, or sweet treat at Baked & Wired).

-We’ve got a 5+ hour drive with my parents ahead of us. Help me choose what we’ll listen to! 1.Great Courses: History of Human Language w/ John McWhorter; 2. Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life – My Dad’s choice; or 3. Brene Brown’s Dare to Lead.

Really though, if you know me at all, I’ll be baking, and prepping for all the cooking I’ll do over Christmas and New Year’s weekend. I’m on cinnamon roll duty, and I’ll be trying my hand at these. As they say, it’s the most wonderful time of the year!

Don’t forget, as you finish up your gift-giving, consider purchasing through Amazon Smile. A portion of your purchase could be shared with your nonprofit of choice (cough, AF, cough).

Mary (North Carolina):
To celebrate the beautiful holiday season this year, some recommendations I have include:

-Visiting McAdenville, NC aka “Christmastown, USA” with my family. It’s one of the largest displays of Christmas lights in the U.S. – the whole town decorates their homes from top to bottom and all the trees around the nearby lake. I like it because it’s FREE, completely maintained by volunteers, and it’s an old tradition that was started in the 50s by an entrepreneur who owned the local textile mills and was the largest landowner and employer in the community. It’s a very fun family and community event!

-I love to go to the Holidays at Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens. This is a giant, beautiful garden in Charlotte and this time of year it’s completely decked out in lights. Every night, they have horse-drawn carriage rides, hot chocolate, local food trucks, model trains, and s’mores stations with a fire pit.

-Trader Joe’s has a whole host of delectable desserts during Christmastime, but their Dark Chocolate Covered Peppermint Jo Joe’s Cookies are the best!

-Last but not least, I most enjoy going to church with the family followed by eating too much good food, exchanging gifts, and watching It’s A Wonderful Life and The Muppet’s Christmas Carol. If weather allows we’ll end the night with a big bonfire in my backyard.

Leah (Washington DC and Michigan):
Some of my best memories happen during the Christmas season. Here are some of my favorite – new and old – traditions during this time of year!

-Christmas markets around town are always fun. They usually have delicious hot chocolate or savory treats. Some of my favorites that I’ve accidentally found exist in New York City, Washington DC, and downtown Detroit.

-A rather recent tradition my extended family started is making gingerbread houses from scratch! Despite the obscene amounts of candy I inevitably consume, it’s one of the most fun days of the season spent with family. We’ve combined the event with a long-standing tradition of watching A Christmas Story around a roaring fire.

-Every year when I return home, I attend The Christmas Carol play with family and friends. The first year I attended, I went with my dad as part of my 21st birthday celebration. It’s a memory I’ll always cherish.

-My family has always gone to Christmas Eve mass and then gone home to celebrate the holiday with family and friends. It brings so much peace and joy!

-Finally, I love the simplicity of grabbing coffee (or warm mulled wine) and walking around any metropolitan area with Christmas lights with my fiance and friends. DC is one of my favorites. But somewhere closer to home is The Big, Bright Light Show in downtown Rochester, MI. The lights are spectacular, and more often than not, there will be a holiday festival in town!

What are some of your favorite holiday traditions? Share with us by tagging America’s Future Foundation on Facebook or via Instagram at @affnetwork!