Christmas This Year Brings New Traditions to Spread More Holiday Cheer

Everyone knows that this Christmas will look a lot different for many people who especially love to go overboard with decking the halls extra merry and bright. Yet, with limited indoor gatherings opportunities and pandemic-related orders put in place, one could easily feel that this holiday is not worth all the hassle. But for some, that’s not the case.

New traditions are taking place as old ones are temporarily put on hold. And residents like Larylea Smith, 30 of Detroit, has several reasons to smile just in time for the holidays.

Larylea Smith, center, sits with her husband and their children and is looking forward to celebrating the holidays in their new home and gathering around the family table for the first time this Christmas.

Photo provided by Say Detroit

Smith and her family received a new home on Huntington Road this month from Say Detroit and TCF Bank. She said that this year her family is doing something new for Christmas that many take for granted: having Christmas dinner at their dining room table and cooking together.

The Smith family’s new home.

Photo provided by Say Detroit


“My dream has always been once I get a suitable home was to host holiday dinners at my home,” she said, adding that even though not everyone can gather at her new abode, she’s still making traditions and memories come alive. This is especially after her grandmother passed away.


“She kept the family together like only grandmas can,” Smith said, adding that she wanted to take over that tradition of hosting but couldn’t in previous years. “I didn’t have a dining room [at the old house] and the kitchen wasn’t suitable; now we can eat as a family.”

Smith, her husband, and their five children [nine months old to 11 years old] will be able to gather ‘round their new kitchen [where there is more than enough space for the family] to make fun holiday recipes that she has always wanted to create.


The Smith family’s new dining room table.

Photo provided by Larylea Smtih


Smith added that her older daughter especially has asked her how to make certain dishes that her grandmother lovingly taught Smith before she passed.


“We are going to do dinner and kind of keep that thing going,” she said of making her grandmother’s famous fried corn and other delights like macaroni and cheese, a chicken-broccoli casserole, and more. “I’m so anxious to have my kids try these new things that I got to do as a kid that [I couldn’t do before].”

She added that for her holidays means being together, baking, cooking, and passing cherished recipes down.


“That will be very nice,” Smith said. “I’m just so looking forward to that experience now … I already planned to decorate cookies with the kids; I’ve never done that before — we never had an area to do that. We will also decorate stockings. We never did that and now have an area to do that in. I’m very excited. The kids don’t know. I think I’m going to surprise them with that.”


Novi resident Sondra Phung is looking ahead for years to come with her new Christmas tradition.

Sondra Phung, right, and her daughter, MacKenzie Phung, and her mother, Janice Williams, left, are adding new elements to their holiday festivities this year.

Photo provided by Sondra Phung


Phung asked her daughter, Mackenzi, 7, to interview her grandmother, Janice Williams, 63, [Phung’s mother] asking her questions about her life in a four-part series that starts on Christmas Day and ends in Black History Month.


“It’s called Black History Is My History,” Phung said, adding that the questions will take place over recorded Zoom meetings and shared throughout the family and revisited fo years to come. “What it is creating is an oral and written history of some things just to know your grandparents in a different way and keep as a keepsake for years to come.”


Phung said that her family recently did DNA testing and they are developing a family tree to add to the project to “put context of who we are and who we hope to be.” Her daughter has 12 nationalities represented in her, according to test results.


“That is a big project,” Phung said, adding that she took the idea from a close girlfriend who is doing the same thing.


Phung said that her mother, who is based in Georgia is looking forward to being interviewed, and though they are separated by miles and due to pandemic restraints, they are bonding over this unique holiday experience.


“Christmas is about traditions and being with the ones you love this year more than ever,” she said, adding that this Christmas is extra special after her mother contracted COVID-19 and thankfully recovered. “She’s fascinated by it all and loves that idea and thinks it’s a great opportunity. Given the fact that we can’t be together for Christmas this year, this is a great way for us to celebrate in a meaningful way and have a little joy.”


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