Holiday Stories

A Sweet Holiday Season with Zanna Roberts Rassi

A Sweet Holiday Season with Zanna Roberts Rassi
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It’s been a banner year for Zanna Roberts Rassi. Somewhere between styling shoots as senior fashion editor for Marie Claire, hitting red carpets across the globe as a style correspondent for E! News, and consulting for some of the biggest brands around, Zanna launched instant-hit Milk Makeup (“I can’t believe that was only this year!”) alongside husband Mazdack Rassi, co-founder of Milk Studios. She’s also watched her twin girls, Rumi and Juno, grow into two-and-a-half-year-olds with major personalities and opinions (“The growth is insane in one year”).

Needless to say, everyone’s looking forward to the holidays—including the girls, says Zanna. “This is really the first Christmas that they’re aware something is going on—and that it involves gifts and candy! You can already see the excitement in their eyes. It’s very, very sweet.”

We dropped by the family’s New Jersey weekend home for a little cookie-baking session and to see how the Rassi clan is celebrating the season. A hint: It involves spirited tree-trimming, a hefty dose of nostalgia—and more than a few sprinkles.

Zanna and the girls set to work around the antique dining table, which came with the home. “Goodness knows how old that table is!” Zanna says. “The lovely ladies who used to own [the house] said we could keep it because it felt right to keep it with the house.”

Zanna and the girls set to work around the antique dining table, which came with the home. “Goodness knows how old that table is!” Zanna says. “The lovely ladies who used to own [the house] said we could keep it because it felt right to keep it with the house.”

Our little girls are just two and a half, so this is really the first Christmas that they’re aware something is going on—and that it involves gifts and candy! You can already see the excitement in their eyes. It’s very, very sweet.

— Zanna Roberts Rassi

Making It Fun

Rumi and Juno love to be involved in the kitchen. At Christmastime, cookie decorating is a perfect way for little ones to get in on the action. “It’s such a fun activity,” Zanna says. “It’s very creative, it’s bonding, and we’re also getting something done! Well, hopefully—apart from the mess,” she laughs. She gives each girl her own cookie cutters (no sibling squabbles here) and suggests kid-size aprons—besides the cute factor, they’ll help keep clothes (a little) cleaner.

When baking with little ones, Zanna says, “you’ve just got to be prepared that it’s going to be a very messy experience!” Her tip: Invest in kid-size aprons.

When baking with little ones, Zanna says, “you’ve just got to be prepared that it’s going to be a very messy experience!” Her tip: Invest in kid-size aprons.

Red and white icing makes a classic topper for gingerbread cookies—with plenty of sprinkles, of course. The girls were “all over it.”

Red and white icing makes a classic topper for gingerbread cookies—with plenty of sprinkles, of course. The girls were “all over it.”

Open shelving displays some favorite finds of Zanna and her husband, who’s known simply as Rassi. Most are antiques picked up on their travels across the country. “We’re both quite little collectors of knickknacks,” Zanna says. Vintage enamel cookware, antique tins, and a decorative tray make for a charmingly nostalgic vignette.

Open shelving displays some favorite finds of Zanna and her husband, who’s known simply as Rassi. Most are antiques picked up on their travels across the country. “We’re both quite little collectors of knickknacks,” Zanna says. Vintage enamel cookware, antique tins, and a decorative tray make for a charmingly nostalgic vignette.

Savoring Treasured Traditions

Gingerbread is of course a classic—and a perfect canvas for little ones’ creativity. But when Zanna and the clan head to her parents’ house in England for Christmas, she’ll whip up a different treat: meringues. “My mom taught me this incredible recipe that we have every Christmas, with dollops of cream and fresh fruit on the top,” she says.

Along with time-honored recipes, Zanna’s excited to introduce Rumi and Juno to her favorite holiday traditions. On Christmas Eve, as they’ve done since Zanna was a girl, the whole family will sit around the fire and write letters to Santa. And on Christmas morning, everyone—Zanna’s grown siblings, kids, and all—will pile onto her parents’ bed to sing Christmas carols, followed by a big family meal and a walk to church. “Every year Christmas Day is identical to the last one,” Zanna says. “It’s quite wonderful.”

Built in 1671, the family’s New Jersey house is a cozy oasis away from the bustle of New York City—and for Zanna, who grew up in a 16th-century house in England, its historic charm was irresistible. “When I first walked in I was just like, Done! This is it. It feels like England,” she says. During the holiday season, that pull of nostalgia is even stronger.

Built in 1671, the family’s New Jersey house is a cozy oasis away from the bustle of New York City—and for Zanna, who grew up in a 16th-century house in England, its historic charm was irresistible. “When I first walked in I was just like, Done! This is it. It feels like England,” she says. During the holiday season, that pull of nostalgia is even stronger.

Restoring the home was a passion project for Zanna and Rassi. They refinished floors, revived woodwork, and revamped the kitchen, all using styles and materials authentic to the home’s time period. “It was really quite a bonding session, building something like that from scratch with someone,” Zanna says. “A lot of memories were built just by renovating the house.”

Restoring the home was a passion project for Zanna and Rassi. They refinished floors, revived woodwork, and revamped the kitchen, all using styles and materials authentic to the home’s time period. “It was really quite a bonding session, building something like that from scratch with someone,” Zanna says. “A lot of memories were built just by renovating the house.”

The snug living room is made even cozier through layers of textiles and plenty of plush seating. Built in the 17th century, the house is a prime example of historic Dutch architecture—so much so that the local historical society leads tours here several times a year.

The snug living room is made even cozier through layers of textiles and plenty of plush seating. Built in the 17th century, the house is a prime example of historic Dutch architecture—so much so that the local historical society leads tours here several times a year.

Embracing the New

Before heading across the pond for the holiday, Zanna and Rassi have been enjoying starting new traditions with their girls stateside—both in New Jersey and at their NYC pad. This year, the whole crew trekked through the rain to pick out a tree from a pop-up stall in the city. “I’ve got some very old antique baubles that I’ve collected for a long time—mercury-glass ones,” Zanna says. “The girls had loads of fun putting those up,” along with colorful lights and vintage Swarovski crystals hung on ribbons.

For Zanna, family is the heart of the holiday season: “I think you get to this point in the year and just look back with such fondness and thankfulness that everyone’s healthy and we’re all celebrating together.”

I think you get to this point in the year and just look back with such fondness and thankfulness that everyone’s healthy and we’re all celebrating together.

— Zanna Roberts Rassi

Zanna’s Holiday Favorites

From music to fashion to entertaining, here’s what’s inspiring Zanna this holiday season—plus a few of her top tips for celebrating in style.

What’s on your holiday playlist? “Oh gosh—the golden oldies! We’re all about Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, Miles Davis, and all that good stuff.”

Favorite Christmas movie? “My personal one is The Snowman. I don’t know if it’s something that’s just in England, but it’s the most beautiful film.”

What do you look forward to most this season? “Family, food, and friends. And rest!”

Favorite holiday meal? “It has to be traditional. In our family it’s equal to Thanksgiving dinner in America, so it’s turkey with all the trimmings.”

What’s your go-to hostess gift for holiday parties? “A beautiful leather journal. Can’t go wrong.”

If you’re hosting: sit-down dinner or cocktail party? “It’s more stress to do the sit-down dinner, but I think it’s completely worthwhile. Even to make everyone dress up and really go to town—I think it’s so much more intimate and engaging.”

Top tip for throwing together an easy holiday-party outfit? “Anything with sparkle and a chunky knit and you’re golden.”

Related: Inside Designer Lilly Bunn’s Kid-Centric Holiday →

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