Hoda Kotb also reveals the tradition she's "not sure" fiancé Joel Schiffman "ever really liked, but he plays along"

By Jen Juneau
December 18, 2020 02:15 PM

Christmas might look a little different for everyone celebrating this year, but Hoda Kotb and her family are making the most of it — and focusing on giving back.

"The holiday season, to me, it reminds me of family and being peaceful. It's always the time we all get together — it's the one time of the year, actually," Kotb, 56, said on Friday's episode of the Today show about how she and fiancé Joel Schiffman usually ring in the holiday with their daughters Hope Catherine, 20 months, and Haley Joy, 3½, as well as Kotb's mom and sister.

The television journalist credits Schiffman, 62, with being the one to "get everything ready" at home, like getting the family's "stockings hung by the chimney with care." Hope and Haley even make their own ornaments, to hang on the family's Christmas tree.

Another tradition everyone (mostly) willingly participates in? "Wearing the exact same Christmas jammies," of which Kotb admits with a laugh, "I'm not sure Joel ever really liked, but he plays along."

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Hoda Kotb and daughter Haley
| Credit: TODAY/Twitter
Hoda Kotb's daughters Hope (L) and Haley
| Credit: TODAY/Twitter
Hoda Kotb's daughters' Christmas ornaments
| Credit: TODAY/Twitter
Hoda Kotb's family stockings
| Credit: TODAY/Twitter

Schiffman is a pro when it comes to holiday meals, though, even going so far as to go outside in the freezing weather to grill in flip-flops and shorts!

"I am amazed — even if it's snowing, the guy will go out in his shorts, his flip-flops and a hoodie thing over him ... he'll go out in the downpouring rain," Kotb says.

At Christmas, Schiffman "makes this big roast thing that is so good," the mother of two praises her fiancé, giving him further props for his "delicious" spaghetti and meatballs specialty.

"He spends all day in the kitchen. Thank God, because otherwise we would not be eating," Kotb says. "[The house] is filled with the smell of delicious cooking and Joel's got a bottle of wine, we have Christmas music on, stuff is happening."

She adds, "It just feels warm and cozy and happy."

Joel Schiffman
| Credit: TODAY/Twitter
Hoda Kotb and family
| Credit: TODAY/Twitter

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Like much of the U.S. population, "Christmas will be very intimate" this year for Kotb and her brood amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, with just her immediate family. And while it makes her "so sad" that she won't be able to see more of her loved ones, she is focusing on the positives.

"We'll do a Christmas morning on Zoom," she says. "I'm excited that we do get to sit with each other even though it's virtually, and I just realized how fortunate we are to have that."

"And it'll be more special because Haley — she's 3, so she's like, 'Santa's coming?!' She's writing all these [letters]; she wants to know how to spell 'Santa,' " Kotb adds. "It's fun because Haley now sees the chimney [as], 'Is that where he's coming down?' So it makes it more exciting."

She goes on to share that they will open one gift on Christmas Eve, and are focusing on "giving" rather than receiving during their "small" exchange that will involve "three presents from Santa."

"I feel like this is a time we should be thinking more about giving," Kotb explains. "Giving, giving, giving. And we've been trying to remind ourselves and our kids about that — that Christmas isn't really about all that stuff. It should be more about giving and generosity and kindness."