Whether it’s sledding down Art Hill, visiting the botanical garden for Garden Glow or baking a favorite cookie recipe, the most magical things about this time of year are those special activities we do with family. With that in mind, we asked some local grandparents to share some of their favorite holiday traditions.

There is a lot Helen Jarrick loves about the holidays. With nine grandchildren, she has more than a few special traditions in place, including visiting family in Pennsylvania and enjoying a special stew with her grandson. “One year, my daughter read him a story about Santa eating beef stew instead of milk and cookies, and now, she prepares it every year for Christmas dinner,” she says. This year, the Gatesworth resident is looking forward to cementing a new holiday tradition: breakfast with Santa. She attended the event at the senior community for the first time last year with her three great grandchildren (pictured here), and she’s excited to do it again. Jarrick’s favorite part is watching the children’s excitement when Santa delivers a special gift to each of them. “We provide the present, but Santa gives it to them, and the kids are so excited about that,” she notes. “I love being with my grandkids and watching their reactions to the whole thing.”

When Nanette Williams and her husband, John, became grandparents, they knew they wanted to start some special holiday traditions. The Manchester residents (who are T&S editor in chief Karyn Williams’ in-laws!) settled on a gingerbread house decorating party after getting the idea from friends. “This will be our fifth year hosting, and the group keeps growing!” Williams says, adding that they started with two grandchildren and now have five ranging in age from 5 months to 11. “Each child who is old enough to decide how they want their house to look gets their own, and they also get to decide how much or how little help they need from the adults.” Williams says her favorite part is seeing all of the unique creations—and how different they can be! Some memorable constructions include a garage (complete with cars made of candy), a gel icing lake with a jellybean penguin, and a chocolate Santa on a shredded wheat rooftop. “Everybody gets involved, adults as much as kids,” she notes. “We’re all so focused on decorating that we actually have candy left over!”

When it comes to Thanksgiving traditions, a morning run probably doesn’t spring to everyone’s mind, but John Fitzgerald (brother of T&S’ own Patty Hannum) does just that. For about a decade, the 72-year-old, who goes by P with his grandkids (short for Papa), has been lacing up his running shoes to tackle the Kirkwood Webster Turkey Day Run with family. “My kids spend way too much time with my parents,” jokes Fitzgerald’s daughter Katie Sotiriou. “They truly enjoy each other’s company. Plus, the kids love pointing out the three other runners who are older than P!” Before the race, the family meets at the chair statue in Kirkwood for photos.

After Turkey Day, the Fitzgeralds enjoy another annual tradition: chopping down the family Christmas tree. Every Black Friday, John and his wife, along with their children’s families, travel to Festus to find the perfect tree, and bigger is definitely better—last year’s pick was 20 feet tall! They cap off the venture with a lunch at Buffalo Wild Wings full of laughter and reminiscing.