One of my favorite things about being a parent is experiencing the holidays through the eyes of my children. Since the three (now teenagers) were infants my husband I have created traditions my kids love and look forward to each year, and living in the Berkshires has made this easy. Whether you reside here year-round or are just visiting for the holidays, I’ve got some tips for creating your own traditions and lasting holiday memories in the region with your family.
1. Give back. You don’t have to live here to give back to the community. In fact, around the holiday season there are ample opportunities to share your good fortune with others. Local food drives take place throughout the county beginning in November and the annual Giving Tree at the Berkshire Mall is one of our family’s favorite ways to give a child in need some warm clothes and a special gift. It always leaves my kids with a feeling of pride and accomplishment that lasts well beyond the holidays (contact the Berkshire Community Action Council to learn more). Need some other suggestions on where to give? Some of more favorites of ours include Moments House; the Elizabeth Freeman Center; and church food pantries.
2. Attend a local Holiday Walk or Festival: I mention these every year, but these local walks are a great way to get to know the community you live in or are visiting, experience some local history, and instill memories for your children that will last a lifetime. A few favorites include Light Up the Holidays in Dalton, The Williamstown Holiday Walk, Main Street Stockbridge at Christmas (it’s a weekend-long celebration), the annual Hanukkah Celebration and Menorah Lighting at the Berkshire Mall, and the Holiday Stroll in Great Barrington.
3. Find gifts for each other: Since preschool our kids have taken great pride in their aptitude for picking out the “perfect gift” for each family member. Whether they created it themselves or saved up their spare change and purchased something at a local discount store, they reveled in the reactions of those who received these heartfelt presents. Some ideas of where to shop and/or create: Berkshire Paint and Sip; Berkshire Grown’s Holiday Farmers Market; IS183 Art School of the Berkshires, local library crafts, DIY Kids Workshops at the Berkshire Co-Op Market or Berkshire South’s Marketplace Menagerie.
4. Attend a holiday concert/show: Be it the local school band concert or the annual community production of “A Christmas Carol” at the Colonial; holiday concerts and productions are in abundance in the Berkshires and are the ideal way to get into the spirit of the season. Some suggestions: The Mary Verdi Christmas Show, Holiday Children’s Extravaganza and the aforementioned “A Christmas Carol” at the Colonial; The Albany Berkshire Ballet’s “Nutcracker” in Pittsfield and Sheffield; the Berkshire Concert Choir at the Berkshire Museum; and Berkshire Children’s Chorus’ Holiday Concert.
5. Watch a holiday-themed movie together: Sometimes we snuggle up on the couch at home for a holiday classic with our PJs on, nosh on popcorn and sip hot chocolate. Other times we head to a Berkshire movie house or cinema for a screening of a new, just-released holiday movie or classic. Recommendations: The Triplex, Images and Beacon cinemas; and this year’s screenings of “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “Home Alone” at The Mahaiwe.
6. Attend a Festival of Trees: Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, annual Festival of Trees celebrations are not to be missed. The creative assortment of trees decorated by various members of the community create a festive atmosphere and leave a lasting impression on all who experience them. Local festivals include both the Berkshire Museum’s “Westward Ho, Ho” Festival of Trees and the Bennington Museum’s annual festival.
7. Read Together: Even before my kids could understand the concept of reading our holiday advent tradition of reading a book a day with the last being “The Night Before Christmas” on Christmas Eve was a hit. Even now with teenagers, the kids ask where the books are if I’m late in getting them wrapped and placed in our special advent basket. Part of this tradition includes a new book to add to the collection each year, and the there is no lack for books and stores to buy them in the Berkshires. Suggestions: The Bookstore and the Norman Rockwell Museum Store.
8. Visit Santa: For those who celebrate Christmas, I couldn’t forget this last one, and it’s more of a tradition that I remember from my childhood than one I’ve celebrated with my children. Stop by Ward’s Nursery in Great Barrington during the month of December, browse through the shop and holiday décor, feed the animals and, of course, snap a photo of your kids with Santa. After all, it would be Christmas without a visit with Santa.
Happy Holidays everyone, from my family to yours.