Holiday potlucks are upon us, folks. 'Tis the season! And as the holiday season unfolds, we are reminded that "tradition" is often in the eye of the beholder. So instead of sharing stats and figures to reflect the evolution of holiday traditions from Baby Boomers to Gen X to Millennials -- we went straight to the source. We sat down with a few of our favorite Millennials right here at Mitchell and let them tell you in their own words what holiday tradition really means.
Q1: Trends tell us millennials are celebrating traditional holidays a bit… nontraditionally – does that sound like you? Give us an example of how the holidays look different for YOU than maybe they looked for your parents.
Nihara: A group of my friends from high school have gotten together for a Friendsgiving celebration every November since we graduated. My best friend plans and hosts it every year, and she makes the Turkey (which never actually gets eaten). As we get older, the group keeps getting bigger with significant others and new friends included in the festivities. Since most of us no longer live in our hometown, we now rent out a house on Airbnb so that everyone can spend the night as well.
Nathan: I live one solid day’s drive from my parents and have two sisters still at home, so holidays this year will look pretty traditional. It’s a natural time to see family, and making the trip now lets me save that all-important time off for spring and summer. Senior year of college was a different story. With plenty of work to finish for my portfolio review, Thanksgiving travel was out of the question. Instead, I hosted Thanksgiving for several other stranded students like myself. We splurged and made steaks instead of turkey — well-seasoned, and VERY well-done — and played a rousing game of Settlers of Catan, followed up with a trip to the art museum nearby. Without the pressure of family ties or established traditions, each person came and left freely, contributing exactly what they wanted: no more, no less. It was a crazy conglomeration, but it worked! Maybe it only stands out because it was different, but it is without a doubt my most memorable Thanksgiving yet.
Caroline: I had Friendsgiving a couple times with my college friends before we all went home for the break. It was fun and allowed us to all make a meal together and talk like a family over that meal. I don’t think my parents would have celebrated a separate Thanksgiving with their friends, and if they did, they definitely didn’t call it Friendsgiving.
Ann: In addition to a traditional Thanksgiving I will participate in Friendsgiving before Thanksgiving. It gives us a chance to sit down, potluck style, and enjoy good food and good company. I also have participated in “The Thanksgiving Hop” where a bunch of friends and I have our family’s eating schedules mapped out and we’ll “hop” to the next house after we’ve finished at one. This was a definite pre-cursor to Friendsgiving and during college when we had no money but wanted food and a reason to leave awkward family settings fast.
Meredith: Our family are not big turkey eaters so for our Christmas meal we always do a totally different meal since we just had the turkey at Thanksgiving. In the past we’ve done Mexican, Italian, Cajun, Shrimp Boil, to name a few and this year we are planning on a hot dog roast with chili and smores.
Erica: Recently for me, that means taking a trip abroad every other Thanksgiving holiday instead of heading home to be with family. While domestic flights skyrocket during this time, international flights are quite reasonable, and this has become a more modern tradition for my boyfriend and I to share (it is also nice to only use 3 vacation days for a 9 day trip). My mom has been retired for a couple years and is just now starting to take advantage of travel, but encourages her kids to do it now whenever we can, because you never know when your circumstances could change.
Q2: Black Friday has changed a ton. It was once a single day of crazy shopping, now it arrives alongside counterparts like Cyber Monday and Small Business Saturday and Giving Tuesday. Do you shop on Black Friday? If not, what do you do instead?
Jess: I usually stay at home in my pajamas drinking mimosas. If I do any shopping, it’s all online.
Ann: Unless there is an amazing deal somewhere I don’t Black Friday shop. I feel like because the “deal” season is spread out over multiple days it seems less imperative. Also I usually have to recover from the food coma due to the day before. I do, however, participate in Cyber Monday. It’s amazing and I can do it from the comforts of my couch and pj’s. I also participate in Small Business Saturday not so much for the deals, but I enjoy the themes or parties that they have. I usually buy something because they put on a good, festive time!
Brantly: I don’t make a special effort to shop on Black Friday unless I know there’s something I really need/want that I can get a really good deal on. I’ll usually browse the ads and look around online to find the best deals.
Meredith: I do shop on Black Friday but in a different way than I use to. Before I was married I would get up with my aunts at 3 a.m. and stand in the lines and fight the crowds. I did it mostly to watch them make fools of themselves as they ran the shopping carts through the stores and threw elbows to get the last $10 crock pot. They always grabbed whatever seemed like a good deal. They would figure out who to give it to later. But now as a mom I usually get up and go to Walmart about 7 a.m. on Black Friday. By then the crowds are gone and I can still get most of what I want. In and out in 30 minutes, albeit way less comical but more efficient use of my time.
Nihara: I can’t be bothered to shop on Black Friday. There’s nothing I want badly enough that’s ever discounted significantly enough for me to spend a day off pushing through crowded stores and waiting in lines. I usually don’t bother with Cyber Monday either though. I think I’m generally more of a last minute shopper anyway.
Q3: You are the first generation to come of age in an e-commerce world, how does technology play into the holidays for you?
Lindsey: I do almost 100% of my holiday shopping online. I rely on my friends' and family’s online ”wishlists”. It is like getting to register for your holiday gifts. It may take the “it’s the thought that counts” out of gift giving because you are no longer giving gifts that you think they might want, you are giving them gifts they picked out (size, color, etc.). My grandmother never wanted to give us money or gift cards because she wanted to watch us open something but wanted us to open exactly what we wanted and it also had to be a surprise. Now what seemed impossible for her to accomplish just takes me a couple of clicks online.
Nihara: I think technology helps me the most when it comes to planning holiday meals and celebrations. I save all my recipes and décor ideas on Pinterest months in advance, and then I go old school and actually print out each of the recipes I decide on and put them in plastic sleeves in a binder to make it easier when I’m cooking. I also order most of the grocery items I need for these meals via our grocery store’s app and have them delivered to my house a week or so in advance. I prefer to get all the fresh stuff myself though.
Anna: I’m a huge fan of Pinterest. I love browsing ideas for Thanksgiving and Christmas decorations and DIY gifts. While I typically end up doing more browsing than actually implementing these ideas, I try to make a point of trying a handful of holiday recipes and craft projects that I find through Pinterest.
Brantly: If you don’t post a picture of your Thanksgiving meal, did you really even celebrate Thanksgiving?
Ann: Technology has revolutionized gift giving. I have endless ideas to get cool meaningful gifts for friends and family AND an easy way to curate a Christmas list with links to the stores (hello Pinterest!)
Meredith: I’m also a traditionalist in the fact that I like to get out and shop in the stores to get the full holiday experience. I want to hear Christmas music as I throw package after package into my trunk all while sipping on my red cup Starbucks Caramel Brulee latte. That puts me in the holiday spirit every time.
Q4: Be honest. How do you feel about family holiday letters?
Dru: As a kid, I loved them! I couldn’t wait to tell people (who I didn’t know) of all the awesome things I had done that year. Now that I’m the single one of the family, I’m so thankful my mom is too busy to write and send! I’m pretty sure my mom would write something like the following “Our daughter Dru will turn 30 in February and is still single, if you know of anyone send them our way!”
Nihara: My mom writes one every year – but it’s an email, and she usually never gets around to it until late January/early February. Not sure there’s a point anymore. Facebook usually has an app or feature at the end of the year that summarizes your activity from the year and lets you share it on your timeline.
Jameson: I don’t like getting them, but feel bad throwing them away.
Anna: I think family holiday letters aren’t as relevant as they used to be now that we have social media. Most of my friends and family see updates on my Facebook throughout the year. With that said, I think holiday letters can be a good option especially for extended family (such as grandparents) that may not be active on social media.
Ann: My mom never did one when I was a kid and I was super jealous of my friends and cousins that would have one. FOMO :(
Meredith: What are family holiday letters?
Q5: If you could change one thing about the way brands and retailers communicate with you during the holidays, what would it be?
Jameson: We need more reminders to chill-the-heck out. It is sad, in a way, business has become such a central theme to the Holidays, that we wind up having stressful seasons trying to get everything on our list instead of using the time to relax, reflect and be with family and friends. The list is not that important, it should not be, anyway.
Marco: It would be to maximize influencers. I stream TV and listen to podcasts to consume most of my media, so I personally don’t have a lot of touch points for advertising and paid media to reach me. I do; however, follow a lot of influencers that are authorities in design, clothes, technology and travel, and they usually give me inspiration for what I want to purchase for myself or others.
Ann: I don’t like the oversaturation and in your face of their ads. Also, can we not start showing Christmas ads on 11/1? Too much, too fast.
Meredith: Don’t double the amount of emails, texts or ads you send my way just because I’m buying more this time of year. If you are a trusted retailer of mine, I will seek out your deals. The more “spam” I get, the grinchier I become.
Q6: What is the #1 tradition from your childhood holiday celebrations that you’ve held onto for dear life? Anything you’re just not ready to give up on yet?
Anna: Growing up, Christmas music was the soundtrack in our household starting right after Thanksgiving, and to this day, I still love listening to Christmas music. I usually start in full force after Thanksgiving, but sneak in some in earlier November as well. Another family tradition I love is decorating sugar cookies on Christmas Eve. It was a family event that we all participated in, and I still try to keep this tradition alive.
Meredith: Watching Christmas Vacation with my brothers. We have watched that movie every year since it came out. It is by far our favorite movie of all time and we watch it together at least once during the holidays, mostly more. We can recite the entire movie, word for word, and every time we pray, no matter the time of year, somebody curls their hands and shouts “The Blessing!”
Brantly: As a kid, I was always the first one up on Christmas Day (but let’s be honest, what kid isn’t?). Even today, I always wake up early on Christmas morning. Even if I’m exhausted, my body won’t let me stay asleep past 7:30 AM on Christmas Day. I’ll get up, make some coffee, and sit by the Christmas tree until the rest of the family wakes up. The fact that I can never sleep in on Christmas Day is, somehow, proof to me that there really is something magical that happens on Christmas Eve.
Nathan: For years, my family has assembled in the kitchen on Christmas Eve, ready to tackle the challenge of Christmas Créme Wafers. For those unfamiliar, these are small and flaky pastry sandwiches filled with either vanilla or peppermint frosting. It takes our army of six about two-and-a-half hours from start to finish: rolling, cutting, forking, sugaring, baking, cooling, and frosting each delicate sandwich. If we’re all honest, quite a few sandwiches don’t survive much past the frosting stage, either. I can’t imagine Christmas Eve without these few hours of baking bliss, and all our favorite songs playing in the background.
Jess: I will never give up watching “It’s a Wonderful Life”. Jimmy Stewart is my all time favorite actor and there’s something magical about the movie that gets me every Christmas.
Marco: Every year I like to buy a dessert for myself that I don’t share with anyone. I’m the youngest of three in my immediate family and the youngest in my extended family as well, so always felt like the runt of the litter that needed to hoard whatever they could.
Who's ready for the holidays??