12 Christmas Traditions From Our Childhoods That Deserve a Comeback

Updated: Mar. 15, 2024

My fellow Community Cooks share their most beloved childhood Christmas traditions. With a focus on family, special dishes and generosity, these traditions deserve to be continued today. Add one to your holiday celebration this year!

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Christmas tree ball; Shutterstock ID 34108219; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): TOH

A Special Ornament

For R.D. Stendel-Freels of Albuquerque, New Mexico trimming the Christmas tree always began with the “hanging of the grapes,” when his grandfather would hang a delicate ornament made of purple, glass “grapes” deep in the tree. Over the years the ornament was lost, so R.D. searched for—and found—a similar glass grapes ornament to keep this tradition alive.

This is what it means if you see a spider ornament on a Christmas tree.

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Santa Claus sharing smart phone with children in Christmas atmosphere; Shutterstock ID 514808041; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): TOH
Lucky Business/Shutterstock

A Visit From Santa

For two generations, Santa has made a Christmas Eve appearance for Kallee Krong-McCreery of Escondido, California. He even brings the bag of presents to leave for the children. A different family member takes on the role of Santa each season, which means that Santa has had various heights and looks from year to year!

Psst! Santa loooves these cookie recipes.

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Traditional French Corsican fish stew with mussels and garlic baguette as top view in a pot; Shutterstock ID 1060620911; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): TOH

An Italian Christmas Eve

A large family gathering was the Christmas Eve tradition for Shawn Barto of Winter Garden, Florida and Susan Seymour of Valatie, New York. Both families had Feast of the Seven Fishes-style celebrations with seven different seafood dishes—plus other Italian foods like manicotti and wedding soup. They both recall houses filled with extended family enjoying loads of homemade food and wine.

Have you heard of the Feast of the Seven Fishes? Here’s how to create your own Italian-style Christmas Eve feast!

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Hot apple cider traditional winter season drink with cinnamon and anise. Homemade healthy organic warm spice beverage. Christmas or thanksgiving holiday decoration on vintage wooden background.; Shutterstock ID 337633124; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): TOH

Hot Cider on the Stove

For Heidi Pepin of Sykesville, Maryland it just isn’t Christmas unless there’s hot apple cider waiting on the stove! Her grandmother began and still continues this tradition, and Heidi even convinced her in-laws to add hot apple cider to their Christmas day gathering, too. Free up precious stovetop space with this slow-cooker cider.

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Three generation family are doing door-to-door carol singing. There is a senior woman at the door, appreciating their singing.; Shutterstock ID 672017275; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): TOH

Cards & Caroling for Seniors

Every year Marina Castle-Kelley of Canyon Country, California would have her Girl Scouts troop make Christmas cards and cookies to bring to nursing homes and senior centers in their town. The girls would visit the residents to share the treats and spread cheer, finishing with a round of carols.

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Homemade Steak and Lobster Surf n Turf with Asparagus; Shutterstock ID 684750115; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): TOH
Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock

Surf & Turf

Every Christmas Eve Lori Stefanishion of Drumheller, Alberta and her husband would have a lavish meal of steak and lobster after their kids went to bed. As the kids got older, they joined in on the late-evening feast. Lori’s kids are grown and married now and the whole family continues the steak and lobster tradition!

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Angel food cake, or angel cake, is a type of sponge cake made with stiffly beaten egg whites with no addition of butter.; Shutterstock ID 451955008; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): TOH
Hans Geel/Shutterstock

Reasons for the Season

To celebrate the true meaning of Christmas, Glenna Tooman of Boise, Idaho and her family would enjoy an angel food birthday cake for baby Jesus after Christmas dinner. Ann Marie Eberhart of Gig Harbor, Washington says her father made tiny gold doves as cake toppers for their birthday cake—one for each family member—and she continues this tradition today.

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Christmas garland of pine branches.; Shutterstock ID 1218796891; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): TOH

The Gathering of the Greens

To celebrate the first Sunday of Advent, Holly Balzer-Harz of Malone, New York remembers that her entire family would go into the woods after church to cut boughs of white pine. They would bring the boughs inside to decorate the mantle, crèche and every doorway, followed by a scripture reading and lighting of the first Advent candle.

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New Year celebration, beautiful girl opening presents with dog, smiling woman in warm sweater and Santa Claus hat playing with dog and gift near Christmas tree, winter holidays concept; Shutterstock ID 774321469; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): TOH
Volodymyr Hlukhovskyi/Shutterstock

A Doggone Christmas

R.D. Stendel-Freels shared another special Christmas tradition, this time focused on the family dogs. The pups got their own gifts under the tree to tear open, which was very entertaining to watch. There were also special bags holding the collars of their departed dogs, in a special display to honor and remember them.

If you need some gift ideas for your four-legged friend, we have a few to suggest!

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Friends In Festive Jumpers Celebrate At Christmas Party; Shutterstock ID 623112506; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): TOH
Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock

Open-House Party

Teri Rasey of Cadillac, Michigan shared that her parents would throw a big party on Christmas Eve, open-house style, with friends and neighbors coming and going throughout the evening. Everyone brought food and drinks, and Christmas presents for Teri who would be upstairs in bed—waiting to hear “Santa’s bells” so she could come down to open the gifts.

Throw your own open-house party with these 40 easy-to-make appetizers.

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Young mother and her two little daughters opening a magical Christmas gift by a Christmas tree in cozy living room in winter; Shutterstock ID 212733760; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): TOH

A Quiet Christmas Eve

In contrast to large gatherings, Patricia Prescott of Manchester, New Hampshire enjoyed quiet Christmas Eves home with her family. Her mother would place little plates of Christmas cookies around the house for snacking and they had a big ham dinner in the evening. The kids were allowed to open one present that night—often new pajamas to wear the next morning.

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christmas star decoration on a marketplace in november south german historical city near munich and stuttgart; Shutterstock ID 761558416; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): TOH

Moravian Celebration

Susan Bickta of Kutztown, Pennsylvania grew up in nearby Bethlehem, also known as “Christmas City.” Susan remembers many Christmas traditions rooted in her Moravian heritage (Bethlehem was founded by Moravian missionaries) like the Advent Lovefeast—a service that includes singing hymns and sharing sweet rolls and coffee.