Traditions in Life and Writing

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about traditions and how my family traditions have changed over the years. Similarly the pathway to publication has evolved.

As a child, the holiday season was filled with traditions surrounding food and family gatherings. My mother is a baker and a chef beyond compare. Every holiday season, the women in the family – Aunts and cousins – would gather and bake. My Great Grandmother’s Italian Cookie Recipes all started with 5 lbs. of flour. That is a LOT of cookies! My contribution to these cookie baking nights was the famous and often shared story of the time I knocked over the 5 lb. bag of flour when I was five. A true indication of my love for all things domestic to come!

The Traditonal Family Italian Cookies

The Traditional Family Italian Cookies

My favorite family memories as a child were that of my family – My mom, dad and brother. We were together always, and there was a lot of laughter in our home. Christmas Eve, we would make the rounds, first on my father’s side of the family for dinner – family and food, then to my Great Grandmother’s house for more family and food. We were LARGE in numbers back then. I only remember that it was fun…and at times we drove through snowstorms to get there. Have I mentioned I grew up in Buffalo where A White Christmas was a given? The snow did not stop us from seeing family, nor from missing Midnight Mass. Christmas Day was filled with more family and food. Mainly I remember a long day filled of playing with my cousins. Those were beautiful Camelot-like days.

As I got older, into my teens, the traditions began to shift. My Great Grandmother had passed away, and that last stop which included big bowls of Tripe in her sauce and extended family came to an end. Some of my Aunts and Uncle’s moved out of town. We still baked, but that 5 lb. recipe had been drastically reduced. We still gathered, yet our numbers grew smaller. And still, the magic and love of the holiday did not dim.

Not exactly Italian Cookies

The not exactly Italian Cookies I make with my family

When I entered into my adulthood and became a mother, I initially grew distressed during the holidays. How could I possibly re-create the magic of my childhood traditions for my children? I had moved far away from my family and everything was different. While I put my best effort into baking cookies, that little girl who knocked over the 5 lb. bag of flower whispered words of doubt into my ears. We had lovely gatherings with our NJ family, but there were no big bowls of tripe following a snowstorm at the end of the night to share with my husband and children.

Finally, I realized it was IMPOSSIBLE to recreate the magic of Christmas from my childhood. Instead I had to create NEW traditions for my family. This realization came to me the same night my beautiful baby girl came into the world. We drove to the hospital on Christmas Day in the middle of a snowstorm! Yay! I got my snowstorm on Christmas AND a little bundle of joy – to this day, the best Christmas present of my life! She arrived nearly three weeks early in a sense to tell me it was time to embrace a new pathway of traditions.

A gingerbread house - new tradition

A gingerbread house – new tradition

For anyone who has read any of my Hero’s Journey blog posts, you know I like to equate my personal journey to my writing journey. For years, I held on to the belief of the traditional Authors path. Write the book, enter contests, get an agent, a get a print deal with a big NY house. I refused to step outside of that path, until I looked around and realized other Authors had done just that with great success. In this day and age the number of “Hybrid Authors” is on the rise. These are Authors published in any combination of small presses (like my own, The Wild Rose Press), self-published, and published in the traditional NY houses. For years I held on to the safe, tried and true traditional path, but authors like Laura Kaye, who started with my same small press publisher and is now a NYT and USA Today Best Selling Author, opened my eyes to other possibilities. Instead of continuing to wait for NY to get around to reading my manuscripts (sometimes they don’t, you know!), I choose this new path. Just like I now embrace new family traditions, I’m embracing what I now view as this Author’s NEW traditional path.

Hybrid Cookies - What my holiday cookie trays look like today

The Hybrid Cookies – What my holiday cookie trays look like today

How have your traditions changed over the years? Do you have a hard time embracing the new?

Happy Holidays!

Leave a comment


  1. I think life is all about moving forward, so change is inevitable. We can celebrate the old traditions through storytelling, and at the same time, create new ones for our young family.
    You did a fabulous job with those cookies! Yum!

  2. I was just speaking about this topic with a friend yesterday! We both baked up a storm for years, now she’s limited herself to just three favorite recipes and I don’t bake at all. Still search out a stollen for Christmas day, though – and still decorate the house.

    Happy holidays!

    • RoseAnn DeFranco

       /  December 16, 2013

      Hi Ashantay. The importance is to keep the spirit of the season alive. Sounds like you’re doing just that.

  3. So very true about forging your own traditions. I’ll never be able to recreate my traditions from growing up, which was one side of Catholic Italians and one side of Southern Baptists. But I do the best I can!

    Now you’ve made me want to go home and bake cookies!!

    • RoseAnn DeFranco

       /  December 16, 2013

      I like to think my daughter will one day find her own way as well into her traditions.

  4. Like most things, traditions evolve. Holidays aren’t exactly the way they used to be. Thanksgiving has gotten quieter over the years. Christmas Eve is still crowded, but there’s less and less family. While I do try and keep up with some of the same traditions-baking also being one of them-there isn’t as much a need to as when I was growing up. We literally went to another family member’s house every day between Christmas and New Year. And we saw the same people at many of the places. Every day, my mom brought a tray of cookies.

    For years, I used to take days off from the day job and bake. While I did a little baking already, I’m not doing as much this year. I’ll bake a couple favorites for my kids and that’s it. We’ve started other traditions like going into NYC to see the tree in Rockefeller Center or going ice skating (they skate and I ice-fall). I think the important part is spending time with loved ones. Merry Christmas!

  5. Very true about recreating traditions. My mother was an excellent Armenian cook. She never followed a recipe. When she was alive, I once asked her how to make a certain dish and she would tell me “a handful of this” and “a pinch of that.” Years later when I tried to recreate her dishes they never turned out exactly like hers. My “handful” must not be equal to hers. But some of the food tastes good and my kids eat it. What else can a mom ask for?

  6. Jenna Blue

     /  December 17, 2013

    RoseAnn, life has changed a lot since we grew up, and so, yes, we must find ways to infuse a little magic and togetherness into today’s uber-busy lifestyle. I know you are doing a great job forging paths both in your career and at home. Your family will make and hold their own new memories!

    • RoseAnn DeFranco

       /  December 18, 2013

      So true, Jenna. I think this year is especially tough because this is the first year my girl doesn’t believe. She is a Christmas baby and this is HER time of year. She carried the spirit of Christmas with her all year. I’m looking to find ways to keep the magic alive for her.


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