Naturally, they call this annual family gathering "New Valeastweengivingmas," a contraction of several holidays, and it is celebrated in July or August at her parents' house in Daytona Beach, Fla.
Just over a dozen family members, along with some family friends, travel from across Florida for this off-peak holiday rush, which dates to 2003.
"We weren't sure if we'd all be able to get together once we all had families," Puskas said, "so this is one tradition we make sure stays intact."
Modern family life has birthed a brood of custom holidays, often to preserve closeness while easing logistical and financial pressures on extended, blended and interfaith families separated by miles. Sometimes they honor sacred milestones (the date of a child's adoption, often called "gotcha day"). Sometimes, they're whimsical (the date a boat goes in the water after winter, christened "Cold Duck Day" by one family because the "really cheap" wine was all they had aboard to toast the launch the first year).
A venerable holiday twist for extended families involves shifting the celebration of Christmas to a few weeks before or a few days after Dec. 25 — which one family christened "Mockmas" — in part so that individual families can wake up on Christmas Day in their own homes. On the opposite end of the calendar is the old-fashioned family reunion in summertime when kids don't have school and travel conditions are more hospitable.
Even somber events can spin off annual celebrations. The family of Melissa Byers of Myrtle Beach, S.C., marks the date of her father's death.
"I know that sounds weird, but we go to his favorite restaurant, make his favorite dessert, etc.," Byers said. "We're on year three in March and the first two were festive, not sad. No balloons or anything, but time that we deliberately remember and enjoy the things he did. It's nice."
Birth of a complicated schedule
But, as Puskas said, it's the birth of babies that most universally redefines holidays for families.
"It's a time of complete reinvention in some ways," said Linda Murray, editor in chief of babycenter.com. Its recent poll found that 23 percent of respondents stayed closer to home after having a baby, with 44 percent describing the traditional holiday season in their home as "a reasonably low-key event with just a few gatherings and a handful of relatives. Fourteen percent described theirs as a "quiet event at home with just our immediate family."
Many new parents report that they initially travel more than they did before, introducing the baby to relatives. Once a child turns 2, constantly on the go and requiring a separate plane ticket, air travel declines, Murray said. Then the school years start, with new financial demands, hectic schedules and limited breaks.
But Murray cited a surprise in the babycenter.com poll: 92 percent of parents will pull their children out of school to travel with them "and not feel guilty about it."
She speculates that might be feeding alternative-holiday momentum.
It's a big world out there
"Parents tell us they have a real belief in life experience," Murray said. "The opportunity to see another place or learn something new or bond together as a family, they really value those things on par with traditional education."
That's why some families have turned volunteerism vacations into annual holidays.
Through the Globe Aware (globeaware.org) organization, Mark Edwards and his family have assembled desks for a school in Ghana, painted a school in Laos and built stoves in Peru. That was their first trip when their youngest of three daughters was 9 and their unheated hostel meant sleeping in all of their clothes to stay warm.