Rituals make the season meaningful for many of you.
We’re in the final weeks of the year, the rapid unfurling of the end of the spool. For many of us, it’s a time of reflection and of ritual, marking the season with annual practices that give meaning to the moment.
Last weekend, I asked you about your holiday rituals, those specific things you and your family and friends do in the waning weeks. I was rather surprised at how many Times readers watch all the Harry Potter movies between Thanksgiving and Christmas, less so at how many treasure annual viewings of “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.” I admired many of the rituals and wondered if it was somehow cheating to adopt some of them as my own. I don’t think so, and I invite you to do the same. Here are a few:
“Every December, I make a new cookie recipe each day for our family to try. I pass around the extras to our neighbors and my co-workers, so the wealth is shared.” — Stephanie Pak, Cocoa, Fla.
“I review my clothes closet, diningware, serveware for things that I am ready to part with. There’s a calm with owning less, plus a new resolve to not add more things.” — Esther Emma Audrey, Torrance, Calif.
“Holiday blues used to afflict me, and the sappy holiday background music helped bring me down. Now, instead of dreading the songs, I make a sport of mentally noting my Top 5 least favorites.” — Robert Brandt, Nashville, Tenn.
“Our holiday ritual involves stretching buñuelos over cheesecloth on our bent knee. We use a secret family recipe that my older sister has yet to share. Everyone is involved in an assembly line according to expertise, mixing, forming testales, rolling out perfectly round tortillas, stretching, then frying to a golden color!” — Elma Cadena, San Antonio, Texas
“My family and I burn a yule log on the winter solstice. We find a weirdly shaped or very large hunk of wood, decorate it with twigs, berries, foliage and other items as we see fit, then we fasten a note or make a marking on the log indicating some intention we have for the coming year.” — Candace Abraham, Newport, Wash.
“I carry around one $100 bill to tip someone randomly. I go about my business and when I find that person who needs a pick-me-up, I plant the big bill as I normally would: in the hand of the hair dresser, jar at coffee shop, billfold for server. And don’t stick around for the reaction. Let them enjoy their surprise privately!” — Jackie Shapiro Brooker, Greenville, S.C.
“My husband’s family’s 20-plus-year tradition of a Christmas Eve dinner we call ‘mishy mashy.’ There is one rule: Every person must bring or make one food item that they want to eat. Anything is game, and no judgment allowed. Soft pretzels? Yum! Oyster soup? OK! Cheese shaped like reindeer that you just bought? Looks good!” — Jen Bowerman, Traverse City, Mich.
“When I was in my early 20s, we lost my 22-year-old brother to cancer just before Christmas. As a means of coping, my mom and I took a class where we constructed a gingerbread house completely from scratch. Over 40 years later, I continue to make one every Christmas season with my daughters.” — Beth Q. Reynolds, Hopkinton, Mass.
“I grew up in a postwar building in New York City. We had no fireplace, so my mother hung our stockings on our doorknobs. I raised my daughters in a farmhouse in Connecticut. Despite having a large stone fireplace, I have always hung their stockings on their doorknobs.” — Evan Pepper, Wilton, Conn.
“We dedicate one night of Hanukkah to a visit to Waffle House. We tend to be loud, and it’s OK to be loud there!” — Sarah Fishburn, Fort Collins, Colo.
“I have a couple of traditions I like to intentionally save until after the holiday season: One is going ice skating, and the other is making homemade marshmallows. The winter months can feel long, and having rituals like these helps me keep the post-holiday blues at bay.” — Kathryn Braisted, Brooklyn
From The Atlantic, “Families’ Weird Holiday Traditions, Illustrated.”
A Christmas tree truck piled high with dreidels, a blue wreath adorned with snowflakes and Stars of David: How retailers try (and sometimes fail) to get in on Hanukkah traditions.
As we age, our family traditions do, too.
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THE WEEK IN CULTURE
Prince William and Princess Catherine of Wales traveled to Boston this week. Locals were unimpressed.
Debate about the mix of fact and fiction on “The Crown” has shifted focus from the tawdry saga of Charles’s and Diana’s marriage.
The first White House state dinner since before the pandemic stretched into an unusually late evening, by Washington standards. Check the guest list.
Jill Biden wore Oscar de la Renta, a staple for first ladies at state dinners.
What makes a movie the greatest of all time? A once-a-decade poll shows how what is valued onscreen has changed.
We’re out of movie stars and running out of memorable roles for them, The Times’s Wesley Morris argues.
Sped-up remixes are a staple of TikTok. The trend started with two Norwegians.
The Indianapolis art scene is embracing Black artists two years after a racism outcry.
Amber Heard is seeking a new defamation trial against Johnny Depp after losing her case.
Kanye West’s deal to buy the social media service Parler, which courts a conservative audience, fell apart.
THE LATEST NEWS
Ukraine’s allies reached a deal to cap the price of Russian oil while trying to avert a global energy shock.
U.S. employers added 263,000 jobs last month, a show of continued demand for workers.
Donald Trump approved a key part of a tax fraud scheme orchestrated by executives at his family business, prosecutors said at the company’s trial.
China faces new Covid risks as the authorities ease restrictions: Its vaccines provide weaker protection than others.
The number of same-sex couple households in the U.S. surpassed one million.
Alex Jones filed for bankruptcy, which could delay his payments to families of Sandy Hook shooting victims that he lied about on his Infowars shows.
🎬 “Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio” (Friday): Yes, I know that one film version of Pinocchio was already released this year (Disney’s remake of its classic, a live-action version starring Tom Hanks), but this one is quite different. Directed by Mark Gustafson and Guillermo del Toro, this striking stop-motion animated film — which will be released on Netflix — leans hard into the sometimes sweet, sometimes macabre tone that del Toro has perfected.
📚 “A Private Spy: The Letters of John le Carré” (Tuesday): Earlier this year I listened to the audiobook version of “The Pigeon Tunnel,” the fascinating memoir by the peerless British novelist John le Carré in which he traces his journey from young British spy to the supreme fictional chronicler of Cold War espionage. So you can be certain that I will be dipping in and out of this collection. The Times’s Sarah Lyall described le Carré as “one of the last great practitioners of the increasingly obsolescent art of letter-writing.”
RECIPE OF THE WEEK
Baked Fish With Sesame and Ginger
After the excesses of Thanksgiving are over but before the sugar fest surrounding the holidays begins in earnest, let us take a moment to cook something light. You couldn’t do better than David Tanis’s flavorful but lean baked fish with sesame and ginger. Use any firm, white-fleshed fish here, like cod, halibut or rock fish, then simply rub the fillets with grated fresh ginger and sesame oil, and throw the whole thing in the oven. A sprinkle of black sesame seeds after baking adds crunch, and some pickled ginger on the side is tangy and sharp. Served with a salad or some sautéed greens, it all makes for a thoroughly satisfying dinner that will set you up nicely for the weeks ahead.
A selection of New York Times recipes is available to all readers. Please consider a Cooking subscription for full access.
Holiday decorations: Designers display greenery, macarons, antique Czech ornaments, gumdrop trees and more.
Renovation: Should you paint your hardwood floors? Soledad O’Brien did.
What you get for $750,000: A colonial revival house in Villanova, Pa.; a Spanish-style home in Phoenix; or an Edwardian house in Wilmington, N.C.
The hunt: A couple with a baby on the way wanted a Brooklyn brownstone. Which one did they choose? Play our game.
Solar panels: Are they a good investment?
Skiing: Resorts are investing in faster lifts and beginner-friendly slopes.
“I want my body back”: What it really takes to breastfeed.
Shabbat: More young people are celebrating.
Holiday stress: Exercises can help.
Universal flu vaccine: If it works, it could help prevent another pandemic.
ADVICE FROM WIRECUTTER
We’re in a golden age of budget TVs, which is especially helpful in the thick of holiday shopping and “Is that a deal?” season. Modern televisions look much better than those from 10 years ago, and they cost much less. The options that Wirecutter recommends have advanced technologies that trickled down from higher-end models and are designed to robustly boost colors and heighten screen contrast. You can often get a great one for less than $500. — Lee Neikirk
GAME OF THE WEEKEND
United States vs. Netherlands, World Cup: The U.S. has one of the youngest teams in the tournament, so green that many thought this year would simply be a warm-up session for the 2026 World Cup in North America. Instead, the Americans fought through the group stage, never losing, giving up only one goal (on a penalty kick) and even drawing with a heavily favored English team. Now, in the knockout stage, they face a Dutch squad trying to find redemption after failing to qualify for the previous World Cup. The key to the match for the Americans may be stopping Cody Gakpo, the Netherlands’ star forward, who has three goals in three games. 10 a.m. Eastern today on Fox.
World Cup news
South Korea scored a late, dramatic goal against Portugal to advance to the knockout round.
While the U.S. team is notably diverse, the sport still lacks diversity at lower levels, The Times’s Kurt Streeter writes.
Why all those twists and turns? A team fitness coach explains pregame warm-ups.
NOW TIME TO PLAY
The pangrams from yesterday’s Spelling Bee were triviality, trivially, and virality. Here is today’s puzzle.
Take the news quiz to see how well you followed this week’s headlines.
Here’s today’s Wordle. After, use our bot to get better.
Thanks for spending part of your weekend with The Times. — Melissa
Lauren Jackson, Ian Prasad Philbrick, Tom Wright-Piersanti and Ashley Wu contributed to The Morning. You can reach the team at email@example.com.