Kelly Cruz's holiday home

How Does Aspiriant Celebrate the Holidays?

As the end of the year approaches, a sense of “out with the old, in with the new” starts to take over. But before that happens, many of us like to take ground in family traditions. The little customs and celebrations that you’ve taken part in every year since you were a child, or since a new beginning in your life such as a marriage or baby, become the living definition of the holidays and remind us about what’s most important in life.

We, too, at Aspiriant are getting ready for the holidays and New Year, celebrating together before taking time to be with loved ones. Here, some of the Aspiriant family share their own special traditions:

Marc Primiani, Aspiriant’s general counsel and a principal, enjoys spending the holidays with “family, friends and our animals.”

Lydia Walz, Associate — Wealth Management
Instead of a ham, on Christmas Eve my parents, cousins and grandparents would always gather around a fondue pot. The fondue came in three rounds — cheese to start, thinly sliced beef cooked in hot oil with dipping sauces as the main course, and then chocolate to finish. If we lost one of our skewered items at the bottom of the pot, we had to kiss the cheek of the person sitting to our right. When I went to college, I was shocked to discover that most families don’t do this!

Megan Olding, Administrative Assistant
Our tradition is to make Springerles cookies with my cousin, her mom, my dad and now my son. It started with my grandma before she passed away. Springerles are a type of German biscuit with an embossed design made by pressing a mold onto rolled dough. We make them for our whole family every Christmas.

Sherri Dorton, Director — Human Resources, Principal
Our annual family gathering is at Thanksgiving. All the family gathers at my house for a day of celebration with family members traveling from out of town and staying with us. This year we were able to include a brother, his wife and two children that we found through 23 and Me genetic testing, so we now have over 40 people celebrating together.

Cammie Doder, Director of Marketing, Principal
We all gather at the home of the matriarch of the family for Christmas brunch. This is our time for grandparents, parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins and children to be together, which is now very special since a number of the family have moved away. We enjoy homemade food and drink and, best of all, each other.

John Collins, Director — Investment Advisory, Principal
Four years ago, my wife Linda and older daughter Shannon were battling colds on Christmas. We got up and exchanged presents, and then the two of them went right back to bed. As my other daughter Megan and I were trying to figure out what to do with ourselves, I mentioned that we still had Super Bowl XLIX on the DVR, so we watched the game again. Thus, was born a new Christmas tradition of watching one of the New England Patriots’ five Super Bowl wins.

Mark Cecchini (left) celebrates a good year with a turkey.

Mark Cecchini, Senior Associate — Wealth Management
Every year my extended family gathers together outside of Rochester, N.Y., a few days after Christmas. We often have upwards of 50 people all together at one house! My favorite tradition is the deep-fried turkey we prepare outside in the driveway. Anyone who has had a significant life event during the year (weddings, babies, promotions, etc.) gets to help lower the turkey into the deep fryer to get things started! Believe it or not, the finished fried turkey is cut up and passed around as an appetizer to the main course buffet later in the day.

Kelly Cruz, Director — Strategic Planning, Principal
We celebrate by decorating the house (see photo at top) while listening to holiday music and watching festive movies all month long. Some favorite movies of ours and the kids include “Home Alone” (1 and 2), “Santa Claus,” “Elf,” “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” and “The Holiday.” It is our favorite time of the year.

Michele Melton, Assistant — Investment Advisory
My family is huge into villages. It started with my mom. When we were kids, she always transformed our entire house into a winter wonderland, having a tree in almost every room and a huge village in the dining room — train track and all. Now that my parents are older, my family has taken on the tradition of the village. We make sure to take videos each year to post on Facebook for everyone to enjoy. Seems to get bigger and bigger every year; this year we had to add another shelf!

Laura Boucher, Manager — Aspiriant Funds
I grew up in Lithuania with very different Christmas Eve traditions. Our Christmas Eve dinner comprised of 12 dishes (one for each apostle) that didn’t contain egg, milk or meat products — lots of fish, such as herring, biscuits, dumplings, mushrooms, etc. Everyone had to try at least a little bit of each dish. Uneaten food was left on the table for visiting souls at night. Christmas Eve was considered a time of miracles, where animals could talk and water turned into wine. We used to play games of prophecy, guessing who would live longest or who would get married next year. I hope I do a better job of incorporating these traditions with my family here.

Kathy Pederson, Director — Business Development
We celebrate St. Nick’s and Epiphany in addition to Christmas. When my kids were young, they would put a shoe by the front door before they went to bed on December 5. In the morning, they found St. Nick had left them some trinkets or small toys and a new VCR movie. They were so excited to watch their new movies over and over for days that they had no interest in TV, which in turn made me happy because they weren’t exposed to all the Christmas commercials and, thus, didn’t covet every new toy advertised. And the movies provided a gradual build up to Christmas. Now that they’re grown and have moved away, St. Nick sends them checks. Not as much fun, but practical.

Just like we celebrated St. Nick’s as a crescendo to Christmas, we celebrated Epiphany on January 6 as a decrescendo. The kids still had presents to look forward to because only Santa and relatives brought gifts for Christmas. Mom and Dad were able to buy gifts on sale after Christmas, so the whole family was happy with additional gifting in January.

Bret Magpiong, Chief Practice Officer
Every Christmas Eve, our kitchen turns into “Magpiong Central.” First, my wife pulls out her mom’s special coffee cake recipe and carries on her side of the family’s tradition of crafting a cake from scratch, the aroma of which always sets the evening right. That’s what’s going on at one end of the kitchen island. On the other end, my daughter (even in her 20s now) and I are getting dirty (literally and figuratively) blending together all the ingredients to make frosted sugar cookies, kneading and rolling the dough by hand, breaking out the once-a-year-used cookie cutters, baking everything to the perfect crunch, and then frosting and sprinkling with delight (including both ourselves and the kitchen table)! The result? — A coffee cake breakfast the next morning as starting pistol to the tearing into gifts … and cookies for Santa and his reindeer placed in front of the fireplace, which always seem to get at least half-eaten by some unknown Santa. Ho, ho, ho!!!

Gavin Neil, Manager — Wealth Management
After the excesses of the season, and quite possibly the night before, it’s great to start off New Year’s Day with a family walk. Although, having small children, the notion of a family walk is usually met by a chorus of groans and moans. I can certainly empathize with their complaints. Growing up, my parents had the same ardor for a New Year’s walk as I do now, and I know I would have much rather been at home avoiding all that the British winter had to offer.

The walk, however, serves two purposes. Getting out of the house and arranging to be the “first-footer.” A first-footer is the first person to enter the home after midnight on January 1 and is supposed to bring luck and prosperity to the household for the year. The first-footer traditionally comes bearing a selection of gifts: coal to keep them warm, bread and salt to keep them nourished, silver coins for prosperity, and a wee bit of whisky (for health, of course!). Ideally, for the most luck and prosperity, your first-footer should be tall and dark-haired. It’s considered unlucky to have a redhead as your first-foot. Being a redhead, I must apologize to all my friends for the years of bad luck I must have inflicted on their homes.

We keep our first-foot tradition going with our fellow expat friends, and it usually turns into an extension of New Year’s Eve celebrations.

Warm wishes

At the heart of all these traditions are the close connections we build with those who matter to us most. From our family to yours, happy holidays.