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N.J. family reads messages they wrote to themselves years ago as holiday tradition

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

NPR's Rachel Martin this week will be taking us inside some of our listeners' favorite holiday traditions. Now, today, we hear about little time capsules with messages from the past to your future self.

RACHEL MARTIN, BYLINE: Every year, Matt Solomon (ph) of Montvale, N.J., opens up a box. Inside isn't a gift, but a message that he wrote to himself years ago.

MATT SOLOMON: There's some that are just - we took a great trip to Hawaii - and some that are really a little bit more, you know, emotional.

MARTIN: Solomon is Jewish. His wife was raised Catholic. When it came time to decide how they'd celebrate the holidays, he said they didn't want to have to choose one tradition over the other.

SOLOMON: And we knew we didn't want to just combine elements from both of our backgrounds, that we really wanted to do something that was unique to us.

MARTIN: They settled on what they call holiday boxes, small chipwood boxes that they paint with images to remember the year they shared.

SOLOMON: So normally, I would do one, and my wife would do one. And then I remember one year, very specifically, she was so pleased 'cause I agreed to take dance lessons with her, that there's a special box that she drew of the two of us dancing.

MARTIN: But it's what's inside that turns each box into a time capsule.

SOLOMON: Within each box, we put a message that would represent what was happening at that point in time.

MARTIN: Solomon, his wife and their 19-year-old twins write about what they'd like to remember - happy moments, like family trips or getting a driver's license, and somber ones, like the loss of a loved one.

SOLOMON: Certainly, you know, it can be a little bit vulnerable, you know, 'cause you are sort of being asked to create something that speaks a little bit to yourself and who you are at that moment.

MARTIN: Once they finish writing and decorating, they set their boxes aside and begin what Solomon says is his favorite part of the holidays - opening older boxes and revisiting messages they left themselves in years past.

SOLOMON: The topics that inspire you and that you write about obviously change quite a bit as you go from a newlywed to a new parent to now an empty nester.

MARTIN: Those memories fill the roughly 100 holiday boxes Solomon and his family have created since the tradition began.

MARTÍNEZ: That is NPR's Rachel Martin.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Rachel Martin is a host of Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.