Note: This story was originally published in 2018. The cancellations and closures of 2020 give it a bittersweet ring, but the “togetherness” sentiment is still so very important.
When Abrey Francis and her six siblings were growing up, they could always count on one big outing during the holiday season. Their parents would take them to downtown Seattle to shop for Christmas gifts for each other, visit the Fairmont Olympic Hotel’s Teddy Bear Suite, ride the carousel and, of course, take plenty of holiday pictures.
Now Francis, 25, is a mother herself, and loves sharing these holiday traditions with her 18-month-old daughter, Kaia.
“I wanted to make sure that the holiday traditions live on,” says Francis, a flight attendant who lives in Bellevue.
In early December, when downtown is decorated with festive lights and the fantastical teddy bears are out, she and her daughter will join her parents and siblings’ families for this annual outing. The big group will take part in all of the same holiday activities the siblings did growing up, with one noticeable omission — one of their favorite stores, FAO Schwarz, has long since closed its doors.
Francis has added her own spin to her and her daughter’s holiday traditions. Later in the month, the pair will take a solo trip to downtown Bellevue to go ice skating, visit Snowflake Lane and take photos with Santa Claus.
“I want to make sure that Kaia understands that these holidays are meant not for the gifts, but for the gift of family and togetherness,” she says.
Francis’ parents emigrated from Jamaica, so they like to incorporate the island’s cuisine into their Christmas meals. She said they might cook a big turkey or pot roast, and pair it with escovitch fish (Jamaican fried fish) or jerk chicken.For Christmas Eve, the whole family reconvenes at one of Francis’ sisters’ homes. They’ll stay up most of the night talking, laughing and cooking a big meal for Christmas Day.
In the morning, Francis makes everyone a Christmas breakfast, which typically features a big helping of pumpkin French toast. Then all of the children open their gifts, followed by the adults. Later in the day, when all the food is prepared, they’ll end the festivities with an early Christmas dinner.
“Just by being all of us in a room together, eating and sharing stories and doing these outings, it just creates a sense of belonging, love and family,” says Francis.