Jeffrey Vallis is a freelance writer and communications specialist living in Toronto.

Thoughts and reflections on my life and work.

Thoughts and reflections on my life and work.

Forging new traditions from old ones


No other time of year seems to showcase family traditions like the Christmas season. And since everything old is new again, my new favourite holiday tradition is fourty years old.

We stole the idea from my boyfriend Chris’s parents who started the trend on their first Christmas together in 1977, and we used it for our first Christmas together in 2016.

It involves a Santa, markers, and a group of intoxicated friends. No, this isn’t some college party prank or social media stunt. Just some good, clean fun with a festive guestbook—in the shape of a 26-inch Santa face cut-out.

For more than fourty years, his parents have put out a Santa face during the holiday season and asked guests that come over to sign it. Some sign in the same spot year after year, while others come up with an annual holiday pun or joke. When babies are born, they mark the Santa with a handprint. The collection of Santa faces become decorations in future years and are a time capsule of laughter and memories, friends who have come and gone, and a family that continues to grow.

I love this idea so much! We’ve done it for two years now and ask (insist) that our party guests sign Santa. I’m certain the most overused phrase at our Christmas party this year wasn’t “Can I get you a drink?” or even “Merry Christmas!” But, instead, “Have you signed Santa?”

My family has traditions of our own (cut to my dad trying to sell drinking as a family tradition), as does Chris's, and it’s fantastic to get to know and be a part of each other’s festivities. But it’s also really special to start traditions together (even if we have to borrow the idea) to use in our home and share with our friends.

What are some of your holiday traditions?