Like many Dish readers, I will be packing up and hitting the tarmac on Friday to head home for the holidays. While the evening of Friday, December 23, might not be the most pleasant time to visit one of the busiest airports in the US, it’s well worth it in this instance.

There are so many aspects of this annual December pilgrimage back home that I look forward to – returning to the house I grew up in, my mom’s decorations (which make my Christmas tree look very much like Charlie Brown’s), the inevitable mini high school reunion – but one of the things I look forward to the most is getting to visit the restaurants back home that I miss so much.

Returning to a well-loved, familiar restaurant where so many memories have been made is almost like seeing an old friend. I take this very seriously – it has become a routine now that every time my mom picks me up at the airport, we go straight to my favorite Mexican restaurant. We have done this often enough that the manager has come to know me by name and always remembers that I am home visiting from Chicago and always order the same thing.

It’s not just the food that I love about this tradition – although there are few things in life that make me happier than their bean and cheese burrito – but the great memories brought back by being there. I used to go there with my grandparents, it’s where my stepfather told me he planned to propose to my mom, and it’s where I took my best friend when she came to visit right before she got married. I remember each of those experiences vividly every time I dine there.

Slightly different but equally meaningful is the pizza place that was our high school hangout, where my two closest girlfriends from high school and I meet for dinner every December 23rd. This was our spot from the time we were in ninth grade, when we went every single Friday. It played host to our pre-Homecoming dinners, post-breakup comforting sessions, birthday celebrations and eventually, tearful goodbye dinners when we all went off to college. The pizza is good for sure, but I don’t think that is what keeps any of us coming back – we go because it’s a special place filled with memories, and it’s our tradition.

Even if you don’t live away from home, a favorite restaurant filled with memories is probably a part of your holiday tradition. Share some of your favorite restaurant-related traditions in the comments section below – and if you don’t have any yet, there’s always time to make a new one!