12 Christmas Traditions From Our Childhoods That Deserve a Comeback
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!
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.