Hallmark: My Favorite Christmas Traditions

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I don’t think I really understood the importance of holiday tradition until I became a mom. My grandparents–the authors of many of our Christmas traditions–passed away just months before Brett and I got married, and Lainey was born just a little over a year later; so 2007 was it for me–my daughter’s first Christmas and my opportunity to instill years of favorite memories into my own little family. Some of my favorite childhood traditions have long passed, preserved only in my mind. Others live on, their memories rekindled with perfect accuracy by my own children who reenact similar stories from my past. And some are just beginning—new ideas that we’ve created for our own family.

A Few of my Favorite Holiday Traditions:

Chocolate Covered Cherries: Christmas Past

How this tradition began, I’m not sure, but it lasted for as long as we shared Christmas with my grandparents. It was reserved for only the women of the family—the four wives of the four sons, but soon grew to include granddaughters when they reached the age of chocolate covered cherry initiation. We had big Christmases every year with my dad’s side of the family. We called our celebration “The Holidome” which referred simply to the hotel where it was hosted but represented far more than that—aunts and uncles gathered around the pool, little cousins running from room to room, big cousins staying up into the wee hours of the night to tell stories, and food spreads that always included ham-wrapped pickles with cream cheese. Every year at a given point in the evening, we gathered in one of the hotel conference rooms, a giant circle of chairs uniting us all. Grandkids played recital pieces on the hotel piano, the uncles sang carols in harmony and made my grandma cry, and Grandpa stood in the middle and prayed, giving thanks for the family he loved and for all we were blessed to experience that year. When teary eyes opened, the real ceremony commenced—money envelopes passed out to every grandchild, gifts exchanged, fruitcake handed out to the boys and then the chocolate covered cherries. The aunts’ names were called first, one by one, and everyone watched as each received her box of chocolate cherries and returned to her seat, smiling. And then we waited to hear if any new names were called—if Grandpa had deemed a new granddaughter ready for her rite of passage. There was no age requirement, no explanation for how you were chosen, but when your name was added to the chocolate covered cherry list, you knew you were no longer a child in Grandpa’s eyes. I remember the year my name was called. I remember smiling as I walked to receive my prize while cousins laughed and hollered “she’s a woman!” from the sidelines. And while I don’t particularly like drugstore Marciano cherries covered in milky goo and chocolate, I buy them ever year. I’m a woman, and it’s tradition.

Follow the String: Christmas Past and Christmas Present

Again, I don’t know the origin, but for every childhood Christmas I can recall, the last “big gift” we opened always began with the end of a string Santa left for us to follow.  It led us in circles, in and out of bedrooms, around the kitchen table, up the staircase and ended in a room where that last special present was hiding–a new cocker spaniel one year, the Cabbage Patch Kids we thought we’d never get, another.  This is a tradition I’ve insisted on repeating.  Watching my girls unravel the string and following its twists and turns toward their gift, their anticipation building as they get closer–it brings back all the magic of those early innocent years.


Reindeer Runway: Christmas Present

Brett started this one a couple years ago, prompted by his obsession of never letting Christmas lights go to waste.  With a few unused strands, he decided Christmas Eve that they were the perfect length to light our driveway for Santa’s sleigh.  So he and Lainey carefully arranged them to create a reindeer runway, a path to guide them to our home.


The creation of the runway belongs completely to Brett and the girls–I’m not allowed to touch.  So I take pictures while they straighten the lines and Brett stands back, directing Lainey:  “A little more to the right.  Straighten that side out.  A little more space between ’em…perfect.”  Secretly, I think this satisfies his never ending little boy obsession with planes and flight and airports.  Either way, it makes for a great family tradition, one that hopefully lives on for years to come.

I love our holiday traditions.

Christmas Eve, Past and Present:  New jammies and kids sleep in the same bed.
Christmas Present: The Annual Santa Photo (we have yet to do this year’s).  And that’s totally a real beard on this thirty-year-old Santa.  No really, it’s not from Party City.  It’s real.

Christmas Past and Present:  Fireside Movies; Sister pouting, optional


Christmas Present: Santa’s cookies devoured and a note left to the kids

What are your favorite family holiday traditions?   Any unique rituals that have withstood the years or new traditions you’ve started with your own family?  Hallmark and I would love to hear your response.

To see other Hallmark posts on this blog, click HERE.


Leave a Comment
  1. I think that in my family,the most common would be the Chocolate Advent Calendar my mother always buys for us (i am 22 and my brother 18),the fact that we go to see a film over the cinema on the night of the 25th,every year (this year we are planning on the Hobbit),the fact that we always put up our Christmas tree and decoration on the first weekend of December (unless something goes wrong) and that would be basically that.Small traditions but with a lot of meaning.
    I hope i can have as many as you and your kids one day,with my own family.I may be 22 but i will always be a kid at heart during christmas (or any other time of the year).

  2. Our favorite tradition started when my husband and I were dating. We weren’t able to be together on Thanksgiving or Christmas, so we decided to create our own holiday, Thanksmas!!! This is a time when I cook a vegetarian holiday dinner and we invite our closest friends over for dinner (usually about 8 people). We love spending real quality time with each one of them. We always recant our favorite holiday memories and traditions. After hours at the table, we clear it off and play board games as a group. At the end of the night my side always hurts from laughing so hard! It truly is a magical time! This year we celebrate our 11th annual Thanksmas!

  3. I INSIST on decorating the day after Thanksgiving, so tradition #1 is me waking matt up to make him get out the decor. We have a huge party the Saturday before Christmas, and the Santa photos are a new favorite.

  4. We always went to church together on Christmas Eve and then got to open one present. We lived far from our cousins and aunts and uncles, but my parents always made it a very special day.

  5. Traditions are SO important. I’m lucky that mine meshed well with my husbands, but we are still finding that we do things our own way! Merry Christmas to you and your family!


  6. I am in total agreement of the importance of Christmas traditions! Unfortunately, everything I ever tried to make into a special tradition never really evolved into one. But I do love reading about yours :)

  7. New pjs in the one present baby girl gets to open Christmas Eve. Going to see the Christmas lights at one of two huge light displays we live between if we are really lucky we get to see both. Reading the story of the birth of Jesus Christmas Eve. And my family is always Christmas breakfast at my grandparents house. We have waffles, and eggs, and sausage, and bacon, and grits, syrup, and special strawberry syrup my grandma makes. Then stockings and gifts. We moved and I have missed it the last few years, so this year my hubby is making me biscuits and gravy, Christtmas morning and we are going to have our own little breakfast.

  8. I love the magic string.
    The kids and I watch Christmas Vacation while we put up the tree. It’s always a big production. Something like- “I’m pressing play on the movie!! Let’s get this tree up!
    They also each have a toy truck, one wooden, one tin. The tops come off, and in the days leading up to Christmas they find treats there.
    We always make a paper chain to countdown the days.
    Best time of the year.


  9. Our Christmas ornaments. Now yes it would be wonderful to have a perfectly coordinating tree, maybe we’ll do that as a bonus one year. Our tree is pretty tacky looking. We started collecting ornaments on our honeymoon (NYC, 2 weeks before Christmas) now we pick them up whenever we go on vacation. It’s so fun to pull them out and remember the fun trip we took. We won’t stop this tradition. The kids LOVE it.

  10. A couple traditions we started with our daughter’s first Christmas (she is 17 months right now!): PJ’s for Christmas eve, cookies & milk for Santa & Santa photos!
    We didn’t have too many traditions while growing up but some include watching every cartoon Christmas movie known to man, along with White Christmas, new PJs every year, opening one gift on Christmas eve! So excited for Christmas this year :)

  11. Tamales! My grandma always made them every Christmas Eve for as long as I can remeber and once I was old enough, she taught me the secret recipe. Now I make them every year and have been for 13 years. My dad comes over to help and when Arya is ready, I’ll let her help too.

    This is our third Christmas as parents and you’re right, everything changes when you have kids. So far, we keep the Santa present unwrapped, put together in front of the tree and have an open house on Christmas Day for all of our friends and family. We also go visit some family Christmas Eve and have breakfast Christmas morning at my inlaws. I’ve been doing the Christmas Eve celebration my whole life and the Christmas morning for the 14 years I’ve been with my husband.

    I hope to incorporate other fun things as the years go on. I like the pj’s idea, as well as a letter from Santa. We’ll see! :)

  12. Everything I love about this time of year is so rooted in tradition. I think the one tradition that is uniquely “my family” is our annual Christmas Eve dinner at Outback Steakhouse. I’m not 100% sure, but I think it started one Christmas Eve when my brother and I were little and my mom just didn’t feel like cooking. We just happened to end up at Outback Steakhouse. For some reason, it stuck and became a tradition; now it’s just not Christmas without some Outback :). Random, but I love it.

    I love the picture of Nella with a little lip while sitting on Santa’s lap- too cute. Merry Christmas, Hampton Family!

  13. oh kelle, thank you so much for this post! i’d love to share my own traditions:

    christmas past: singing carols while my grandma helen played the piano (we had little songbooks and everything!)

    christmas past and present: reading the story of jesus’s birth on christmas eve – read aloud from the same cloth book every year; drink my mom’s homemade hot cocoa; drive around and look at christmas lights in our home town; decorating the christmas tree as a family.

    christmas present: this year is our son’s first christmas; he is six months old. traditions that we will begin for him this year include donating a toy to charity; watching a christmas movie; reading a christmas book; making holiday cookies; and leaving food outside for the reindeer, as inspired by you and your family :) we also plan to leave a letter from santa to our dear boy!

  14. We visit the same Santa every year, bake Christmas cut out cookies with Grammy and then we host Christmas Eve where family from both sides join us and we watch the kiddos open gifts, after everyone leaves we snuggle up and read the night before Christmas. We make something yummy for breakfast and sing Happy birthday to baby Jesus in our manger. Then enjoy a relaxing Christmas watching the kids play with all their new things. (We also go to church before everyone comes over on Christmas Eve where they have live animals in the manger)

  15. The first of many traditions that comes to mind right off the bat is the craziest: we get up at a ridiculously early time to open presents. It truly is barely even the actual Christmas Day when we patter downstairs, turn on the tunes, get the water heating for the cocoa and start the fun! One year…1:00 AM. For the most part it is usually about 3:00 AM now. It’s pretty crazy, but it’s ours! :-)

  16. Love the runway idea! The more lights the better.

    My main tradition is Bach’s Christmas Music. Has to be done. And hanging a particular set of wooden ornaments on the tree. My sister and I both loved them so much that recently my Dad got his brother, a carpenter, to copy them so that we could both have a set – I now have half old, half new and all wonderful.

  17. I loved reading about all your traditions- I don’t know why but the cherry story made me tear up and Nella’s pouty face is the best I’ve seen! In our family we always drive around and look at Christmas lights- this year I’m going to spice it up by giving my 6 yr old a ticket to ride, cook up some popcorn and hot cocoa for the ride! I also might make a Santa sleigh runway- I only have one maybe two years left with my daughter before the inevitable doubt seeps in :(

  18. We drive around and look at Christmas lights the week before Christmas. We make homemade pizza for dinner with our immediate family on Christmas Eve after spending all day with our extended family and give each child one present from mommy and daddy. Then we bake homemade brownies for Jesus’ Birthday Cake that we have for breakfast the next morning!

  19. My little ones are 17 months old, and so far the traditions we have going on are leaving milk and cookies for Santa and every year (I’m 31 and my parents still do it!) under our Christmas stockings on the fireplace hearth is a wrapped present from Santa – a new pair of pajamas. So we carried that over and do the same thing at our house, too. Christmas Eve my side and my in-laws all go to mass and then come back to my house for dinner. Christmas morning we open at home- presents first then stockings- then meet up with my brother and his family at my parents for more presents, stockings and breakfast, come home to rest a bit, then off to the in-laws for dinner and presents.
    I LOVE reading what everyone else does!!!

  20. I was just thinking the other day of how much I cherished getting to eat drugstore chocolate covered cherries at Christmas time. I don’t know what was so special about them, but I’d beg mom for them, and sneak a few extra when she wasn’t looking. I don’t even know if I could eat them now… :)

  21. I love how popular new christmas jammies on christmas eve are! That is the one tradition we started when my daughter was born. We now also attend church christmas morning, daddy makes us a yummy breakfast, the kids help me decorate the tree the first weekend of december and of course setting out cookies for santa and carrots for the reindeer. Love the christmas season!! thanks for sharing your traditions.

  22. Every year we get a silver bell engraved with the year and with the most memorable or “big” event from that year from my Mother in law. Her Mother in law did it for her and it is something I will do with my boys once they are grown. The first bell for everyone is their wedding bell with their wedding date engraved on it. I remember being at my husband’s house when we were in high school and admiring all his mom’s bells, reading each one and secretly hoping I married him so I got my own bells one day. We open our bells on Christmas Eve and always love speculating about what will be on everyone’s bell that year.

  23. We have a faux camp out after Christmas when we are taking the tree down. That way the kids get excited about taking the ornaments down instead of sad. We watch a movie with hot chocolate and popcorn in our jammies in sleeping bags, and sleep under the undressed tree.

  24. This makes me so excited! We are expecting our first child in May and have so many Christmas tradition ideas. I’m very curious to see what all we wind up doing this time next year, and in the years to come when he/she is more aware!

  25. I thought of another special one :) We have a real tree every year-most years we cut down our own. We saw the bottom 2 inches or so off our tree’s trunk and save it. We use a wood burner to write the year on one side of the log and on the other glue a photo of our boys in their Christmas pj’s (red and white striped Hanna’s every year) in front of the tree. I set up all our logs on the mantle with our bells and they are my absolute favorite Christmas decorations.

  26. Uh you get mommy of the year for a note that long from “Santa”…wow! Our favorite treat/tradition is to make a donut run in our jammies. We NEVER get donuts, so it really means a lot. We take forever picking them out. Then we come home, stick a candle in one and sing Happy Birthday to Jesus.)

  27. Our whole family spends the night together sister in-law, niece, 2 nephews, husband, 2 sons, and me all at my mother and father in-laws house. On Christmas eve the kids get new matching pj’s and decorate cookies for Santa. Once the kids are in bed my sister in-law and I wrap presents and chat over a few glasses of wine. Then on Christmas morning we all get to see the 5 kids open presents and spend the day playing with all the new toys. We started this 4 years ago after my father in-law was diagnosed with ALS. His diagnosis has allowed us to see how important traditions together as one big family should be. A new tradition I started this year was inspired by your North Pole party. This Saturday each of my 2 boys is having 3 friends over to make crafts and cookies. Thank you for inspiring what I am sure will be wonderful memories for years to come.

  28. Oh boy am I a sucker for holiday traditions! We always are sure to have lots of carpet picnics and movie nights, with every blanket in the house piled high under the lights of the Christmas tree and a fire blazing in the fireplace. I always do a new book and pjs on Christmas Eve night, and my most recent favorite is a drive to look at Christmas lights in pjs, Bing Crosby on the radio, and a stop at Perkins afterwards for apple pie and chocolate shakes!

    Love this!

  29. First…I love, love, love the Santa pic with Nella!!!

    We decorate the tree together as a family. Hailey even “helped” this year. Our ornaments are a collection of where we have been…vacations, babies born, hobbies. I date each one. Each child receives a new ornament every year. It generally is a hobby or something they are “into” that year. I date those, too. They get a new ornament on vacations, too. It is always a trip down memory lane as we decorate our trees. Also, as each child leaves to go on their own, they will have an entire collection of ornaments of their own…their story…their childhood.

    We always make a gingerbread house together that Santa “takes” to Mrs. Claus (the boys never wanted to throw it away and it was the only way to keep them from crying!). We go to a friend’s church’s Christmas program every year, baking cookies and make ornaments for their friends and family.

  30. I am in love with traditions. We have the new pj’s on Christmas eve that started when my sister and I were little. We also do Christmas cookies and a drive through our Celebration of Lights. Christmas morning the first one to find the pickle ornament on the tree gets to open the first present!

  31. My family has always celebrated Christmas Eve Eve and it’s just that: the eve of Christmas Eve! Every December 23rd we choose a fancy restaurant to eat dinner at and then after we finish our meal, we drive all around our county and look at Christmas lights while listening to festive music. Then we finish the night off by exchanging a present or two (obviously keeping the rest of the surprises for Christmas morning). My family and I have done this ever since I can remember and it’s definitely something I will pass on to my children one day (:

  32. My favorite tradition is that we always eat cinnamon rolls and drink chocolate milk – the good kind, the kind you buy at the store already made. It’s weird but we have always done it and i love it.

  33. Every year since our grandparents moved away, my sister and I have stayed up late on Christmas Eve to watch Muppet’s Christmas Carol together. Several years ago, we broadened our special Christmas Eve traditions to include me reading the Christmas scenes from the Little House books to my sister as she knits or bakes in the kitchen. I got married last year and my husband joined the tradition. Another tradition we have in our family is when Opa (our grandfather) would come in dressed as Santa Claus and pass out envelopes to each grandchild. This will be our first Christmas without him, so it will be hard but we have wonderful tradition memories to sustain us and make us smile.

  34. Santa hides gifts. Until I got married and left the house, I had to search for my gifts with my brother. Santa hid them in twos (one for me, one for bro), and we’d take the gift back to the living room, unwrap it (taking turns), then move to the next one. Now, with my kids, we tell them Santa (St. Nicholas) hid their gifts, and they have to be like the magi searching for baby Jesus. They love this! It prolongs the morning, lets them seek gifts, and lets us pay real attention to their reception of the gifts.
    We also buy alternative gifts and started our new tradition of giving the kids a certain amount of money to buy things from them (not just as alternative gifts for people, but as plain ol’ Christmas gifts to people who need it). The kids have picked things like giving chickens, vitamins, and mosquito nets to other kids who need them. (See fh.org for a great gift list!) They get so excited to see the catalog in the mail!

  35. I discovered your blog today and I jsut love it. Your writing is great and your kiddos are so cute. You’ve gained a new regular reader!

  36. This is my first Christmas as a mom. Whenever I imagined what this time of year would be like with little ones I pictured lots of baking, crafts, christmas movies & stories, Christmas sweaters, silly reindeer hats, etc. so the tradition I started this year was to prepare a little bag of Christmas goodies for my daughter to enjoy for all of December. She opened it on the morning after we put up the tree. It had Christmas jammies & a onesie, books & a Christmas rattle. we’ve been reading the books every day & dressing up in lots of red!

    We also watch Christmas movies & bake a lot too. We did Santa photos this year & will continue doing that.

    When my daughter is old enough, I would like to go to the nutcracker ballet with her & my mother every December.

    I really love the string idea! Thanks for sharing.

  37. I’m eighteen and my two younger brothers are teenagers now, so we have “big kid” traditions by now. By far, my favourite is that instead of writing actual tags for the presents, we fill out the “To” correctly, but in the “From” space, we put something related to what the present itself is. (For example, “To Dad, From Levi” if it’s a pair of jeans, although none of us are named Levi, or “To Brother, From Rory” one time when it was a stuffed dinosaur [Rory = Roar-y…get it?]). It’s fun to look at the present and try to guess it before opening it. (We’re also one of the families who opens all the presents one at a time, instead of having a heyday where we all just go at it.)

  38. Love all the traditions! We have to watch “It’s a wonderful life.” We have moved away from family, but this tradition holds true…it’s just not Christmas without George Bailey :) Merry Christmas!

    Ps…love the cherry story

  39. When I was a kid our church had a Caroling Party every year – we would divide up into groups and go sing for the elderly church members at their homes. Afterwards there was always a pot luck and we kids made elaborate (completely homemade) gingerbread houses for center pieces. The gingerbread house tradition went on for YEARS – even in college we would come home for Christmas and get together to make gingerbread houses. I think I’ll start it up again next year…

  40. Just remembered where the gingerbread house idea came from. Every year my mom’s cousin hosts the (don’t know if I’ll get this quite right) “Hot Dang Ding Dong Ping Pong Christmas Tournement”. Something like that. It’s a FULL house with ping pong and gingerbread houses and even a full out homestyle Christmas pagent in the living room.

  41. My family has some traditions that have been going on forever. My mom always makes potato soup and ham sandwiches for xmas eve dinner. My brother and I had an ornament every year that we either made or represented us (they go on my parents tree) and I always got macadamia nuts in my stocking while my brother always got those Queen Anne cherries you talk about in your blog. This year, things will be different though. It’s my daughters first christmas that she’s really aware of things (she’s 2.5) and so we’ll have to see what traditions we begin with her. And, my brother passed away in a car accident this past spring………so I’m not sure how things are going to be. But I’ll be paying him a visit sometime over the holiday, and I’ll take him some cherries. It’s going to be rough, but we’ll get through. I love your blog, and happy holidays to your family.

  42. We love the lead up to Christmas and have fun advent traditions you can see here http://ourcrazyfunloudhome.blogspot.com.au/2012/12/spreading-some-advent-cheer.html

    Thanks for sharing yours, I really love the magic string and runway for santa ideas, absolutely perfect xx

  43. We have found that Prancer doesn’t care for cookies or reindeer food. He likes a nice banana. I don’t know how this story started but every year my grandchildren leave a banana out for picky Prancer. Last year he showed his appreciation by pooping on the front porch. Some adults may have
    thought that reindeer poop looked a lot like sculpted tootsie rolls, but the kids were convinced otherwise!

  44. Skype is quickly becoming a tradition. I haven’t made it home for a few years because it’s just so expensive and I have much young sisters that I desperately miss. I’m 30 and they are 11 and 8. When they get up mum gets Skype happening and they call me to get me up. I log in while the girls go ecstatic over what’s there and demand I hurry up. I’m in a different time zone so last year at 5am my time (6am their time) I watched them open their presents. This year they are in another state so it’s going to be a 4.30am Skype call for me and 6am for them! Once it’s over I go back to bed haha!

  45. The string game sounds like a lot of fun. We have birthday coffee cake for Jesus on Christmas morning at my house.

  46. We make my Grandma’s sugar cookies and decorate them together. My kids never got the chance to meet her, but they know her cookies and enjoy frosting them and seeing how many sprinkles can be put on one cookie !

  47. Your chocolate covered cherries brought back memories of what I HATED! My grandparents always drove out from the city to visit us Christmas Day in the country. My grandmother always had a box of assorted Whitman chocolates she gave my mother and I never could figure out how to find the dark chocolate ones under the wrappers. I always bit into the wrong one….oozing sticky sweet cherry syrup..YUCK! Funny how certain memories never fade. Wishing the Hamptons a wonderful Christmas!

  48. I loved reading about your traditions. We’ve always gone to the late Christmas Eve service at our church. I love that it’s packed, families huddled together singing Christmas songs. Everyone lights a candle and the room puts off a gorgeous glow. I love seeing all the kiddos in their special outfits, girls in velvety dresses and boys in ties. Parents lugging tired kids over their shoulders afterwards…

    Another thing we’ve done with our kids, I take baby Jesus out of a few of the nativity’s we have set up. On Christmas morning, before the mayhem of wrapping paper flying to and fro, each kiddo unwraps a baby Jesus. I want them to remember that He is the best gift of all and the reason we celebrate to begin with!

    Merry Christmas to the Hampton’s!

    Angie from Ohio (angiepics on Instagram)

  49. My sister and I used to sleep together on Christmas Eve too! I loved that. Every Christmas Eve we would do Christmas with my grandparents (my dad’s parents). My grandpa always made oyster stew for my parents and him and my grandma. He always cooked my sister and I chicken nuggets and he would make homemade french fries. I miss those memories so much! We still go to Farmville and celebrate Christmas with my dad’s sister on Christmas day. My dad sister and I always plan a night to go “Christmas shopping” and go out to eat, even if we just go to Roses! Great memories :)

  50. Every year the kids and I go shopping for “their” paper, and then all their presents are wrapped in it. I don’t have to bother with tags and they love seeing how many are wrapped in the paper they picked. I keep a little snip of it every year too to remind me what they liked. This year my five year old picked “weenie dogs wearing sweaters, mama!” and he tells everyone he meets.
    We also do Christmas morning like a birthday party- sing to baby Jesus and have cupcakes before opening presents.
    And every Christmas Eve we do a huge fondue and invite all the family and friends.

  51. My grandpa got a box of chocolate covered cherries with a toothpick taped to the box every year from the youngest grandchild. But at some point in a young life grandpa will teach you the proper way to eat a cherry. You take the toothpick and make little holes in the top of the cherry, drink out the creaminess, pull out the cherry, then eat the chocolate. Grandpa died a few years ago but whenever I see a box of chocolate covered cherries my heart swells a moment with the memory.

  52. One of my favorite traditions comes from my husbands side of the family….and I could totally see you loving this one. Each year his parents write letters to all the kids. It’s just a special letter telling each kid how much they love them, things that the parents noticed and admire about their kids, etc. Even now his parents mail letters to all the kids (except now it’s to both their children and their spouses–1 letter). And my husband and I write letters to our kids, put them in an envelope and place them on the tree and we write a letter to each other. I love these letters. My husband treasures his letters from his parents. I’ve got a couple binders for keeping the letters year after year. There’s something about taking the time to write a long, loving letter to those who are most precious to you.

    My other favorite is enchilada’s on Christmas eve. My family has zero hispanic heritage, but somehow this became our thing.

  53. Our kids make a count down to Christmas chain. We get out the holiday paper and cut strips. Then, they write their names on them so we know whos turn it is to take on off.

  54. We always decorated the tree while watching A Christmas Story,,, and yes, they did get a Red Ryder BB gun when old enough. And nobody shot their eye out! We always baked a cake for baby Jesus and sang Happy Birthday on Christmas morn. On Christmas eve,we drove around to see the lights while singing to Dolly Parton/Kenny Rogers cd. I actually did the magic string one yr because I didn’t know how to wrap 2snowboards! We enjoyed torturing the kids while slowly getting our coffee ready while they waited in their bedrooms to come downstairs to see what Santa brought. LOL!

  55. Um, where do I start? Mind if I go to town on this one? Dad and I always go to this old motel on the side of the road that sells trees and guns. Yeah. I asked dad just now if mom could come this year and he said, “that would violate all traditions ever.”

    Older sister, now 31, fights to put up the first ornament and then reads on the couch and ignores the rest of the tree decorating, even as little sister, me, now 27, begs to to be involved so that it can feel more magical and youthful.

    Favorite cousin and I always make something elaborate, the past few years it’s involved marshmallows and caramel (homemade.)

    Mom reads the night before christmas on the night before christmas i dont care that i’m almost 30 damn it she will read it till the end.

    At 10 o’clock on christmas eve we listen to the vienna choir boys begin their concert, starting with the one brave boy who sings “once in royal david city.” I always always always tear up with joy.

    And always, I find a way to come home to vermont for a ridiculous 2 weeks to make sure each christmas is better than the one before it.

    your partner in christmas manic,

  56. The whole family goes to Christmas Eve Candlelight Service together, then we go back home and have dinner together. All the girls get matching pajamas and all the guys get matching pajamas…from littlest to biggest! and then we take pictures for what feels like hours of all the matching people…Fun Traditions!
    Merry Christmas from Texas~

  57. Oh how I love this season. I’m counting down the days until I’m with family. I love walking back to Grandma’s after Christmas Eve mass. We all gather to eat dinner and have a few drinks, and just laugh and enjoy our family. My favorite part of the night is helping my Grandma light her bayberry candles that are held by the angels. So simple, but one of my first memories of Christmas time.

  58. Love this entire post! We used to have neighbors who had a “Santa landing strip” on their front lawn. It was blinky and gaudy and terrible–yours looks much prettier! :)
    My favorite family Christmas traditions are picking out/decorating our tree, frosting cookies, and attending the Christmas Eve service. Christmas is so much more magical now as a parent!

  59. Growing up Christmas breakfast was a big deal – Not so much the food but the gathering of my entire extended family at my Grandparents house, always early. Sometimes the food differed year to year but there was always my mom’s coffee cake. I started making it when we had our son and stopped traveling for Christmas (none of our family lives where we do)and we eat it as we open gifts. I wasn’t sure it had sunk in as a tradition until my five year old was telling my mom how “We ALWAYS have coffee cake on Christmas and Mommy makes the BEST coffee cake!” Warmed my heart. Such a small thing but so great!

    We also have started a new tradition of giving my son a new ornament every year, and we give it to him on the day we decorate the tree. It usually fits in with his interests and likes for that year. Last year it was Spiderman, the year before that Toy Story. This year Dr. Suess the Cat in the Hat reading a book b/c my son loves Dr. Seuss and has been reading like crazy this year, so it fit…

    And yet one more tradition we have carried on is stockings – my mom always did a great job of filling our stockings when we were kids and I always make sure the stockings are full :)

  60. We also leave Santa cookies…and a beer :) Non traditional but Santa loves it :)

  61. I have so many holiday traditions. Some are just for me and others are family things.

    The first sunday of Decemeber was always a cookie party at my godmothers house where all the kids decorate cookies. It started off with just her two nieces and her godchildren(2 of us) and now that she has her own kids, its like 15+. One year it was 30. I miss those parties so much.

    On christmas eve, we go to look at christmas lights as a family and open one gift when we get home.
    Then when I go to bed, I put on my headphones and listen to this christmas cd that I have had forever.

    We decorate the tree as a family as well. Sometimes that is on Christmas eve when we are all home together.

    My own special tradition is on the snowfall at night, I make hot chocolate and sit by the deck and watch the snow fall as my favourite songs play in the background.

  62. Oh, I love that cherry story. So special!

    Trying to create traditions now that I’m married and my brothers and I are mostly separate over Christmas now… I miss them.

  63. Despite having 6 children, my mother insisted on making the holidays magical. We did not put up the tree until Christmas Eve. In fact, Santa magically dropped the tree in the backyard on Christmas Eve, despite all of us watching closely for any activity. We were allowed to put the tree in the stand (always perfect!)and my father would put on the lights. We then hung our stockings, and went to bed. We were not allowed to come back downstairs.
    Early in the morning, while it was still dark, we 6 kids would sneak down to the living room. The magnificent tree would be all lit us and there were presents everywhere. It was the most thrilling experience, year after year.
    One year, when my mother had many underfoot, Santa left a note for my older sisters. It was on a scroll, burned around the edges and tied with a ribbon, and written in calligraphy and left in the fireplace. Santa asked the big girls to help decorate the tree, because so many more children were good that year. It was the only year he asked for help.
    I have tried in the past to duplicate putting up the tree on Christmas Eve. It is impossibly hard with 2 children. I don’t know how she and dad did it with 6 children.
    To this day, I hate decorating the tree and I only open gifts when it is dark in the room. I need the magic!

  64. Absolutely LOVE the first picture with the girls on the bed!!!!



  65. This is such a lovely post. This is only our second Christmas together, but we listen to Michael Buble while we decorate our tree..and take little romantic dance breaks. But I love the string idea, which I’d love to do when we have children :)

  66. Loved this post! The story about the chocolate covered cherries is so nice! Brought a tear to my eye! Everything about the holidays makes me all weepy- in a good way!
    My traditions are few but special. Ever since I was a little girl I would wake up early on Christmas and excitedly wait for my mom to get up to start presents! Now that I’m older the early part is not happening but I still get that excited jolt when I open my eyes and remember what day it is! Now I’m excited to be able to give back to my mom who is a single parent and has done so much for me! I love being able to spoil her! (When I can..) When we wake up we put on an Elvis Christmas cd in honor of my grandmother who is no longer with us and sing around the house! After presents we have a big breakfast with my grandfather and then hang around the house looking at our new stuff. And we finish off with a family dinner at my aunt and uncles where we exchange presents with everyone! Always a magical day and night! But I can’t wait until I have children to start my own traditions.
    Thanks for making me think about all this magic Kelle! It warms my heart! I sincerely hope you and your family have a wonderful and magic filled holiday!

  67. Our son is just getting into the age where Christmas is pretty exciting every year (3.5). We’ve been trying to do new traditions as well as throwing some old ones that fiance and I grew up with.

    So far we have:
    Photos with Santa
    PJ’s being opened Christmas Eve
    Staying at Grandma and Grandpa’s Christmas Eve into Christmas morning

    Every Christmas Eve growing up, we always played board games, usually Yahtzee. We do that still even though my brother and I are all grown up. It’ll be fun to have son in on the games this year though.

  68. We have lots – Christmas Even candlelit services followed by the Christmas jammies, a cake for Jesus, a Christmas pickle on the tree, etc.

    But my favorite is from Christmas present. My kids were getting older and asking for more and more expensive gifts and I felt like we needed more reminders about the giving generously part of Christmas.

    So we now do a “Random Acts of Kindness Countdown to Christmas” – we bring Gatorade to road workers, put dollars in the dollar store toy aisle for kids to find, make a meal for a widow, sneak surprises to teachers, etc…one RACK a day for 24 hours a day. I LOVE watching my kids get into it and this year the items they asked for were small and meaningful.

  69. we are still in the process of creating new christmas traditions.

    i love the idea of the string, maybe when AOI is bit older we can start that one :)

    happy holidays

  70. We do the Elf on the Shelf…I know its becomming more and more popular. My kids LOVE it and its fun for them to search for him every morning! Hes always doing something to get into trouble, lol! Another thing we do is buy a new Hallmark keepsake ornament that will hold our family picture for the year. These are my most treasured oraments. I love them so much and even though I have only been doing this for 4 years, its already neat to see the older pictures!

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  74. Lordy, I am playing catchup. Finally. I love this post. It makes me think of what both Ben and I bring to the “family table” of traditions. We are crazy over Christmas. Tis the reason for the season, right?

    We still use Ben’s advent calendar that his parents used for him and his siblings back when they were children. He takes so much pride tying up every little gift; magic. Love. And Alex helped me set up the nativity set that my parents had; I have so many memories helping my Dad year after year. Hanging up the poor angel whose wings have broken a good dozen times. Those glue marks bring character!

    The handmade stockings. The tradition of cookie baking and making gifts for others. Making gingerbread houses with my dear nieces. Oh, this makes my heart swell with so many warm thoughts.

    Love this Kelle. Thanks for sharing your heart.


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