America has always been seen as a "melting pot" of cultures, with a unique blend of customs and traditions. Of course, these can be seen in the different Christmas traditions that take place across the country, as well.
Whether you're hosting an open house, caroling, or gathering with loved ones, these traditions have become a part of your family. While families across the country begin their baking and shopping, Taste of Home readers also begin their special family traditions.
A Meaningful Journey
Field Editor Kay Curtis Guthrie, Oklahoma
In the town of Guthrie, Oklahoma, Dan and Field Editor Kay Curtis have participated in an annual 'Journey to Bethlehem' for the past several years. On an evening in December, eight live scenes depict the Biblical story of Christmas. "Folks from the two small churches my husband pastors combine their efforts to put on the manger scene," Kay says. The travelers arrive by hayride at the stable and are greeted by a friendly guide. With enthusiasm and excitement, the guide tells the travelers that the Messiah has been born.
Families gather around to see the baby Jesus and a soloist's angelic voice rings through the cold night air. Live animals patiently wait to be petted by the visiting children. "In the rush of the holiday season, the Journey to Bethlehem gives people the opportunity to pause and reflect on the true meaning of Christmas," Kay says. "Participating in this annual event has become one of the most meaningful traditions of the Christmas season for our family."
Festival of Lights
Field Editor Nancy Larkin, Maitland, Florida
In Field Editor Nancy Larkin's Maitland, Florida neighborhood, a 'Luminary Walk' takes place in early December. The neighbors place white bags with a votive candle inside along their properties at the edge of the street. On the evening of the walk, neighbors bring card tables to their front walkways and serve food and drink to their friends. Some even set up record players and play Christmas music to add to the festive atmosphere.
"It's really a beautiful evening event, and the neighbors take time to stop and chit chat with each other as we sample the delicious goodies," Nancy says, "I always try to put out something special for the kiddies, like hot spiced cider and cookies."
Here We Come A Caroling
Field Editor Ruth Hartunian Willimantic, Connecticut
Each December for the past 8 years, Field Editor Ruth Hartunian and her family have been caroling in their Willimantic, Connecticut community. Inviting friends from various venues, they walk their neighborhood taking musical requests at the door. "We always sing 'We Wish You a Merry Christmas' before we go," Ruth says. "People in the neighborhood have enjoyed our music and the celebration of the season this way."
Ruth also offers a special gift to those who join her merry band of carolers. "I prepare a meal for everyone afterwards," she says. "It's served buffet style off of our 12 foot long dining room table." Many Taste of Home recipes fill the serving platters. "We enjoy fellowship, food, and a time of relaxation and warming up after a cold, winter walk!"
A Holiday Surprise
Field Editor Edna Hoffman Hebron, Indiana
"I am in a cookie exchange each year," Field Editor Edna Hoffman of Hebron, Indiana says. With some local friends, dates are chosen and rules and invitations are passed out. Each person then makes a half dozen cookies for each participant, and places the cookies on a decorated plate with the baker's name and the type of cookie. Then the cookies are placed in a big decorated box for each participant. "The woman in charge makes a cookbook of all the recipes and gives it to each participant. We not only get the delicious cookies, but we get the recipes too!"
Field Editor Jill Evely Wilmore, Kentucky
In the town of Wilmore, Kentucky, Field Editor Jill Evely hosts an annual Christmas Cinnamon Roll Open House. The welcoming aromas of cinnamon rolls, coffee and spiced cider fills the air. "No meatballs, no cheese balls or other fancy items. I bake 10 dozen cinnamon rolls that day," Jill Evely says. The Evely home smells fabulous and is a cozy retreat for their friends. "It is not stressful because I only have to make one thing—and everyone, from little kids to octogenarians love homemade cinnamon rolls!"
Field Editor Tammy Kuehl Loup City, Nebraska
In the quiet, rural community of Loup City, Nebraska, Field Editor Tammy Kuehl immerses her family in the local community. "We have a very active 4-year old daughter. During the month of December we take every opportunity to include our daughter in the festivities," Tammy says.
With a very community-focused Chamber of Commerce, the holiday season is all about the kids. Loup City kicks off the season with a soup supper and silent auction at the community center. "Santa comes riding in on a horse-drawn wagon. Each child gets their turn on Santa's lap and a bag of goodies," Tammy says. While the kids are waiting for their turn with Santa, even volunteers offer childcare with fun holiday activities. This gives the parents an opportunity to do a little Christmas shopping.
Mary James, Olivette, Missouri
Mary James of Olivette, Missouri has 5 children, and 22 grandchildren. Each Christmas her 32 member family somehow manages to stuff themselves into her small condo. "At first I didn't think it would work," Mary says, "Just how am I supposed to fit all 32 of us in my house?" With smiles, laughter and rumbly bellies the James gang gathers around three tables to share in a delicious Christmas meal. "Everyone brings a dish. My son Tom always makes the mashed potatoes, and my daughter-in-law, Mariann, always brings the desserts. That woman can bake! I supply the much-loved 'Mimi' dinner rolls. They're my grandkids' favorite."
While the adults visit upstairs in the living room, the grandkids are always in the basement. The little ones are running around showing off their new toys, while the older ones play card games. "I love seeing my family together. I always tell my children not to get me any gifts, because the best gift is seeing everyone together for the blessed holiday."
Have your own Christmas tradition? Share it with us!