My love of holidays started during my childhood because my parents made them special. Halloween was my dad’s shining moment. He would sit each year crouched in the bushes by our front porch wearing a sheet with eyeholes and his professorial, wire-rimmed glasses, ready to jump out and scare little trick-or-treaters.

That tradition came to an abrupt halt the year a rotten little boy kicked Dad in the face full-force, breaking his glasses. Both Dad and the little ghoul ended up thrashing around in the rhodie hedge. In future years, my father opted for the safer job of candy distributor.

Christmastime was always spent traveling from Eugene to Baltimore and Philadelphia to see my grandparents. As my mother wasn’t keen on flying, we often took Amtrak trains, usually on the northern route, through icy winter landscapes.

Those trips were full of fond memories — playing Memory and learning how to crochet while sipping hot chocolate in the dome car; looking out at the twinkling Christmas lights on houses zipping by in the night; and sleeping spoon-style with my mom in the cramped bunks of old trains.

When I was seven years old, the unspeakable happened — a blizzard delayed our train, and we were forced to spend Christmas Eve on the train instead of cozied up at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. I cried about Santa not being able to get into a train, and was astounded to find that he made it anyway when the sun rose the next morning.

So, now I have two kids of my own, and I try each year to bring our own family traditions alive. My husband is a lunatic, admittedly, and that helps make for exciting traditions. He and my son adorn the front yard with fog machines and black lights shining on zombies and ghosts every October. Although we spend the other 364 days of the year trying to stamp out pediatric obesity, on Halloween, we give away up to 500 jumbo candy bars to the hoards of little trick-or-treaters.

So, this year as our holidays start again, let’s all pledge to let go of some of the craziness and focus on the best part of the holidays: special times spent with our kids.