Islanders share their special holiday traditions

Time-honored celebrations bring family and friends together on the Vineyard.


The holiday season is a time for family, friends, food, and merriment. It’s a time for us to give thanks for all that we have, and cherish the warmth of the holiday spirit or a steaming cup of cocoa. 

The Island does the holidays right — sparkling lights, parades, and celebrations that bring folks around a roaring fire in their puffy coats and winter hats.

But the real joy of the holidays can be found in living rooms and around dinner tables, where families and friends laugh and listen to festive playlists, and siblings race one another to the table just in time for a belt-loosening meal.

The Times wanted to hear about some holiday traditions that Island folks look forward to all year, so we took to the streets and got some pretty great answers.


What are some things you look forward to during the holidays?

We always love having all our family come together, sometimes from far away. It is really nice to have everyone together in one space, just laughing and enjoying themselves. We have a tradition where we wake up early on Christmas morning and eat fruit salad and Scotch eggs [a hard-boiled egg wrapped in sausage, coated in bread crumbs, and fried]. 

–Melanie Bilodeau, Oak Bluffs

Is there a tradition that you do every year during the holiday season?

For many years, my family has crammed into the car on Christmas Eve and driven around through the towns to see all the pretty lights that people put up; we call it a “light ride.” We always drive over to the Gatchells’ house and donate as many canned goods as we can so the Island Food Pantry can help people who are struggling during the holidays. 

–Donna Maurice, Oak Bluffs

What are some things you do that bring people together during the holidays?

Well, I always say it’s all about family, family, family — that’s where the real joy is. I have five grandchildren who always make fun complements, like place settings and centerpieces to bring to the dinner table. Setting the table is a celebration by itself; everyone plays a part in putting together a great meal. My family is Jewish and Catholic, so we really have lots of fun with both — I get the best of both worlds. 

We also play family games like cards and board games that bring everybody together, and we just have fun with it. And of course there’s football games with good food. Family, food, and football.

–Dawn Warsofsky, North Marshfield, Oak Bluffs

What are some celebrations that bring you joy?

I love decorating the tree, of course. The smells this time of year are so unique, and something I enjoy and think about a lot. The fresh pine scent of a Christmas tree, the sweet and tart smell of cranberries, those are things I definitely enjoy and look forward to. The Island is different during the holidays; people are more caring and generous than in other places I have lived, they have more joy in their hearts. I really like the ambiance of the Vineyard during the holidays, it’s just so cozy and nice. 

— Jennifer Baird, Vineyard Haven

Your favorite thing about the holidays?

The holidays are my favorite time of year. Everyone’s hearts are full of joy, and you can really feel it in the air. For me, seeing how happy all the kids are singing Christmas carols and taking pictures with Santa Claus, it makes me happy too. I always get my Santa hat and walk around, sometimes I play Christmas music for the families and kids that are going around town. The holidays make people smile, and a smile is like a magnet, it attracts people and draws people together. I’m always smiling, no matter what the season. 

–Anthony (“Junior”) Mendes, Vineyard Haven