Disclosure: Patrice Sosoo is the Senior Vice President of Brand Marketing at Dotdash, The Spruce’s parent company.
Patrice Sosoo and her family of four celebrate Christmas at her mother’s house every single year. Her mom, Angela, loves Christmas and has hosted since Sosoo and her two siblings were little.
“It’s a lot of work,” Sosoo said via a Zoom interview. “I don’t know how she did it with three kids.”
Because Sosoo has never hosted Christmas—her family even spends Christmas Eve at her mother-in-law’s home—she and her husband Kalvin have never done much more in the way of decorating than put up a tree. “We just knew we wouldn’t spend it at home,” she recalled thinking, “so why get crazy about it?”
In 2019 that changed when her family spent six weeks filming the premiere episode of Holiday Home Makeover With Mr. Christmas for Netflix, which debuted in November 2020. Suddenly Sosoo found herself wading through uncharted territories—getting an over-the-top Christmas decor makeover, trying to establish traditions for her own family, and hoping to get her mom’s blessing to host that year.
It would take a Christmas miracle.
Angela wasn’t going to pass the Christmas hosting baton easily—she was going to have to be wowed. That meant Mr. Christmas (Benjamin Bradley) and his team of elves were going to have to go big.
And that’s what they did.
In Their Episode, 'Not Your Mother’s Christmas!'
In three days, Bradley and his team transformed the Sosoo’s Tudor-style home into a life-size gingerbread house. We’re talking lights galore on the outside, with hand-painted reindeer (courtesy of Patrice’s and Kalvin’s moms), luminary paint buckets along the walkway, and more giant candy canes and peppermints than you can count.
Inside, Bradley and team added multiple trees at Patrice’s request, an over-the-top dining table arrangement—”no one touches this until Christmas,” Patrice proclaimed through happy tears during the reveal—the coziest living room setup with a knockout mantel focal point, sweet (and thrifty) homemade decor items, family photos-turned-tree ornaments, and more. A lot more.
By the time the Sosoos and their family took it all in, Angela had given her daughter the green light to host, and Patrice couldn’t be happier. It was a heartwarming moment filled with joy, hugs, and happy tears.
3 Biggest Lessons
After filming for six weeks—or what Patrice estimates was about 80 to 100 hours of footage—she picked up some useful tips for future holidays. Here are the three biggest lessons she learned.
Create the Traditions
The Sosoo family has started a few new traditions since filming, including:
Building gingerbread houses
"The kids loved this last year, and they love it even more this year. It’s really, really cute," Patrice said. "They’re talking about the candy, the colors of the icing they want on their homes, and comparing them, which I thought was hilarious," she said.
Building the gingerbread houses was a good bonding experience, she said. "We put the phones away. And when we were finished they were just so happy, and I remember my son saying, 'I love family dinner.' He calls anything we do together family dinner. If he says that, it means we’ve done a good job."
Having Christmas breakfast
"French toast, sausage, biscuits, jam, it’s a whole spread. It’s just lovely that we get to come downstairs on Christmas morning in our matching pajamas and have breakfast. And then we let the kids open the presents, which is the most fun part," Patrice said.
"We love it because the kids want to run downstairs and rip open the presents, and it’s like no, let’s have this civilized moment where we get to sit and talk about Christmas and what it means and why it’s important."
Decorating (two) trees
"We have two trees now—the big tree where we put their gifts and then our kids' tree. Their tree is filled with ornaments that are kid friendly," Patrice said.
Patrice has also started letting the children pick out an ornament for their tree. "My goal is every year going forward they can pick out one new ornament each to put on their tree. They feel really proud that they did something themselves," she said.
Small Children & Tree Ornaments
"I'm not too precious about the tree. And that's a motto for our home... We are a hands-on house," Patrice said. "This year they don’t even touch [the main tree]... I think my daughter attempted to and my son said, 'CeCe, Santa’s not going to like that. Put that back'. They’re more protective about their tree than my husband and I are."
Make Every Moment as Special as You Can
"My biggest thing is we live our lives waiting for anniversaries, birthdays, promotions, just these big moments," Patrice said. "We spend like 95% of our lives chasing after these 5% life moments when we should be living in the ordinary and making the ordinary exciting." Her question is: How do you elevate the ordinary?
This plays out in a variety of ways in their everyday lives, Patrice said, but for Christmas, the Sosoo family is really going over and beyond.
"We don’t have an official advent calendar, but we’ve been trying to do things with the kids every single day. My husband is calling it Patrice’s Advent Calendar of Experiences. The family has had a holiday dinner party, made little origami stars for the tree, and made s'mores.
Make the Effort and Go the Extra Mile
"All the things you do for the holidays is work. No one ever talks about that. They just post their beautiful Christmas tree," Patrice said.
It's a labor of love to decorate for the holidays. "It took me three freaking days to put up this tree," she recalled. "I was complaining the whole time... and we were so spoiled last year, because we had Mr. Christmas and his elves, and they just turned our home into a magic wonderland, and now i’m trying to do that for the kids and it is work.
"But when I finished and turned on the Christmas tree lights, it was worth it. I will go through all the drama and complaining again so I can see their faces when the tree lights up," Patrice said.
All this decorating can be a bit of self-care at some level. "I like to say I'm doing this for the kids, but I do it for myself, too. I need some joy this year," she said.