Family, Friends & Experiences: What Makes the Holidays Special for You?


Retail stores have their big, splashy displays with fake snow and greenery. Holiday offers are in your face everywhere, and commercials feature big, sleek, luxury cars with a gigantic red bow on the top. All try to tell you that the holidays are about getting (AND receiving) that perfect gift. With all the circus-like promotions, it can be difficult to focus on the experiences you would really like to have, and what the holidays truly mean for you, your family, and your friends. 

Take a moment for yourself and think about what makes this season of holidays and cheer special for you. Is it the long dinner tables, heavy with homemade dishes, everyone gathered around with their faces lit by candlelight? What about walking through the neighborhood to see the creative lights that adorn all the houses in your community? Or an animated game of charades by the fire, mugs of hot cocoa nearby? Is this the time of year when you see friends and loved ones that you don’t get to see every day, when you can reminisce and share stories about growing up together? Do you make time to reflect on the year behind you, remembering those moments you don’t want to forget, and making note of the things you’d like to change, improve, or do differently in the coming year?

We asked a few of our Viome teammates this question: What makes the holidays special for you? We’re sharing their answers here with you in hopes of spreading the cheer and maybe giving you new ideas for rituals, traditions, and experiences that could become part of your yearly holidays to come. 

Jim Dermend

Senior Program Manager/Agile Coach


“Well, I am so much looking forward to those magical moments, that I am ready right now. The holidays mean quality time spent with my closest friends and family. It is sharing festive meals and stories, cozying up in front of the fireplace, going skiing and having hot chocolate, and our family trademark: pajamas party day!”

Cristina Julian

Principal Scientist, Biomedical Research


“This holiday is special to me because I get to share it with people I love and cannot see very often. I go back to Spain where I grew up and part of my family and friends live. One tradition I enjoy and miss when I am in the US is the Nochevieja (New Year’s Eve) ritual, where we stay home till midnight, and at midnight people eat twelve grapes (I am lucky enough to have them as one of my Viome Superfoods), one at each stroke of the clock. This is supposed to bring good luck, prosperity, and happiness in the New Year. It is always fun to watch, imagine people hugging and kissing with a mouth full of grapes!”

Momo Vuyisich

Chief Science Officer and Founder


“Besides spending time with the family, the holidays are a good time to reflect upon the previous year and set expectations for the next. This includes personal and professional achievements and developments. The most abundant feeling is gratitude for the people that surround me and the opportunity to Change the World.”

Helene Vollbracht

Head of Communications & Brand Experience


“Every year, I go home to see my family in Kansas City. Time with family and taking some vacation time off is non-negotiable for me. I've always felt that no matter where I live or what work needs to get done, I would go home and make sure my mom is never alone for Christmas. Every year I also end up digging through old boxes looking for treasures. Either my old toys or old family photos/things that belonged to past family members or my parents. Since I am only in KC for this long during the Christmas holiday, it's the only real time I get to do it! My dad passed when I was 4, so looking through old boxes is like putting together who he was a little bit more every year. I also always drive by the house where I was born and then my house when I was in high school, to remember. I am very nostalgic.”

Steven Chappelle

Employee Support Specialist


“What I do to make the holidays special is focus on quality time with friends and family. We'll usually do a large family gathering and cook up a big dinner, people bring their specialty dishes and then we do a chaotic white elephant gift exchange that results in a ton of laughter.”

Jenny Lee

Graphic Designer


"My family has a tradition of taking a family photo in front of the Christmas tree on the morning of Christmas after opening up the presents. If anyone in our family couldn’t come on that Christmas, we photoshop that person in the picture (lol). Also, eating lots of good food with people I love is how I make my holiday special!"

Amanda Chalmers

Senior Customer Support Specialist

Amanda Chalmers

"I make the holidays special by decorating my house inside and out. From bows on my kitchen cabinets, poinsettias in every room, and snowflake decals on the windows; I even decorated an extra tree to look like a gnome this year! All of this is best enjoyed while having family and friends over to celebrate or sitting on the couch after a long day of work surrounded by all of the Christmas magic."

Sushant Raut

Senior Software Engineer


"Winter, for many of us, brings up feelings of coziness, warmth, and lots of reunions. It is a merry season, filled with love and family gatherings, festive moods, and delicious dinners. We are planning for a get-together with friends and family and cooking delicious food."

Lisa Shomo

Senior Manager, Content Marketing


"While it is harder to have the full house holidays that we used to now that we live across the country in Washington, I’m attempting to recreate those past traditions within my own household. Growing up in Kansas, we held “Victorian Christmas” with my family, aunts and uncles, cousins, and grandparents. We dressed up in long, flowery dresses with lace collars, button-down shirts, corduroy breeches, suspenders, and newsboy hats. The kids would create and put on skits, complete with song and dance, with my Aunt playing piano. After the show, we would sit down to a lovely dinner, then hold a thunderous and animated round of Charades, usually boys against girls. I just pulled out some pictures the other day and was once again reminded of the fun, food, and family."


Anu Jain

VP Community Relations


The holidays bring so much joy and happiness as it is the one time in the year when we get to spend the longest time with our three adult children along with extended family. It is a time of bonding, sharing, laughing, and having daily competitions of tennis matches, ping pong, backgammon, and chess tournaments against each family member.

This year our son, daughter, and nephew all got engaged in October, November, and December, so the holiday season is going to be extra special as we make plans for the three weddings and celebrate with the addition of new family members.


Another favorite Holiday Tradition that I started in 2003, is keeping a New Year Celebration journal, where on New Year’s Eve, each family member is given a sheet to fill out, listing our highlights, lowlights, and resolutions for the upcoming year and reviewing our last year’s resolution to see if they had been met. This has been such a fun experience as we go around the table sharing our year!


We wish everyone a beautiful season filled with loved ones and cheer, and a very Happy New Year.