When it comes to the holidays, 200 local residents say, they’re all about family. But traditions vary widely on how to spend that special holiday family time.

Reporter Newspapers surveyed 200 residents, conducted by 1Q.com via cellphone, about their holiday traditions. The results are not scientific.
More than half the respondents said they expected to be home with their loved ones this year during the best parts of the holidays.

“The key is being with family,” a 44-year-old Atlanta man commented when responding to the cellphone survey of 200 adults who live in communities served by Reporter Newspapers and INtown Atlanta.

The second largest percentage of respondents, 36 percent, said their favorite part of the holidays would take place at the homes of friends or family members. Five percent looked forward to dinners at restaurants and 3 percent said the best part of the holidays would come at church or another religious institution.

Respondents may have agreed on who they wanted to be with during the holidays, but they differed on the best way to spend that family time.

One 52-year-old looked forward to his family’s annual “famous ‘Turkey Bowl’ football game prior to Thanksgiving lunch. Others planned to watch football on TV. Still others wanted to go shopping on Black Friday or head to the mountains or to the beach for a holiday escape. “Our family takes an annual beach vacation over Thanksgiving as a way to escape the unpredictable Atlanta weather,” a 31-year-old Sandy Springs woman said. “This year we’re going to Mexico!”

But most of the respondents seemed ready to turn to homebodies. Asked for their special ways to celebrate the holidays, respondents said they looked forward to taking part in family sleepovers, going bowling, heading to church, looking at holiday lights, playing board games, doing community service and to joining a Thanksgiving-style “Friendsgiving” dinner with friends rather than family.

A 33-year-old Atlanta man wanted “conversation by the fire.” A 36-year-old Buckhead man summed up his holiday plans simply: “Eating turkey and ham, watching football and taking daytime naps.”

Food seemed to hold a special place on our list of holiday treats. One 24-year-old Atlanta man said he looked forward to simply “eating like there’s no tomorrow.”

And our holiday menu is nothing if not varied. Survey respondents eagerly awaited more than just the traditional standbys — turkey, green bean casserole, pecan pie — as their family traditions turn on hot chocolate, Christmas tree cookies, grilled cheese sandwiches, lasagna, spaghetti on Christmas Eve, hot pot and even a mix of Mexican and Korean foods. “We make paella for Thanksgiving,” a 44-year-old Buckhead woman said, referring to a Spanish rice dish.

More than one respondent looked forward to a special holiday trip to a Waffle House. “We go to midnight Mass, open presents and then hit Waffle House in our PJs,” a 47-year-old woman said. “We are on our 15th year!”

Movies seemed important, too, as some have made certain films into their own family holiday rituals. One family views “Home Alone 2” every year.

Another settles in to watch “The Lord of the Rings.” A 50-year-old Sandy Springs man said his family has an annual showing of “Pulp Fiction.”
A 37-year-old Brookhaven woman said Christmas Day brought chaos as her family gathered to celebrate each year “and we love it! All the kids (cousins) wear matching pajamas!”

Many, however, looked forward to more traditional holiday celebrations.

“We deck the halls inside and outside our home with Christmas decorations. We also go to one of our local churches to watch the ‘living nativity’ with animals,” a 37-year-old Atlanta man said. “I love to sit by the fire and drink mulled wine and cider while listening to old holiday classic music.”

Here’s what some other respondents said when asked, “What is your special way to celebrate the holidays?”

“The holidays are about being with family.”
– 64-year-old Atlanta man

“Church, football, food.”
– 70-year-old Atlanta woman

“I go out of my way to see as many family members and friends as I can since work and travel makes it difficult to see them during the year.”
– 27-year-old Atlanta man

“Shopping on Black Friday, experiencing the lights at a garden or shopping center, going to and/or binging holiday movies at home.”
– 47-year-old Atlanta woman

“Decorate a tree with ornaments purchased on each trip we take, light the fireplace, and partake in classic holiday food and drink from brunch to dinner, with leftovers for days.”
– 36-year-old Atlanta woman

“The whole family goes to church together. Then we all go back to my parents’ house, all 40-plus, and have appetizers, dinner and gifts. We all just relax and eat and drink and drink and it is just so much fun. My favorite tradition with my husband and kids is going to the Center for Puppetry Arts and seeing Rudolph every year.”
– 39-year-old Atlanta woman

1Q is an Atlanta-based start-up that sends questions and surveys to a cellphone via app or text messages. Respondents are paid 50 cents per answer, through PayPal, for sharing their opinions. Payments may also be donated directly to charity. Sign up to be included in our local community polls at 1Q.com/reporter or by texting “REPORTER” to 86312.

Joe Earle

Joe Earle is Editor-at-Large. He has more than 30-years of experience with daily newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.