Holiday Traditions

Each family has a set of holiday traditions. What is a tradition?

a belief, principle or way of acting that people in a particular society or group have continued to follow for a long time, or all of these beliefs, etc. in a particular society or group.

Depending on the country where you were born, family heritage, and other factors, we all have different Christmas traditions.

Opening presents vary from family to family. Some open family gifts on Christmas Eve, creating room for the gifts arriving from Santa Claus to be opened on Christmas Day. One family I know open gifts on Christmas Eve with all the family, then feast and games on Christmas Day. My family has always opened gifts on Christmas Day, until everyone left home. The day of opening gifts at our home was scheduled when family members were able to come over to celebrate Christmas.

This year, my husband and I have made another change, we will open gifts on Christmas Day. We are not having a Christmas celebration with other family members at our home. So, we will go back to the original tradition we were both raised with, opening gifts on Christmas Day. Then we will go for a short visit and food at my daughter’s house, provided my husband and I are not sick.

The timing of putting up the Christmas tree. Most of the family put the Christmas tree up the day after Thanksgiving. I was raised with a Christmas tree being harvested and decorated the day after Thanksgiving. But when I started my own family I changed the date. My birthday is in the first part of December. I was tired of Christmas crowding my birthday. Hence, I decorate the Christmas tree after my birthday. Those of us who had the opportunity of being born in the month of December, have a lifetime of sharing our birthday with Christmas decorations and traditions combined and often over powering our own celebration.

Gingerbread houses, beautiful creations of decorated cookie structures. I do not know the origins of decorating gingerbread houses, but their beauty has always drawn my attention and fascination. As a child, we never decorated gingerbread houses, but on occasion would make gingerbread cookies. When my children were little, we did not decorate gingerbread houses. Not until my youngest daughter was a freshman in college, I purchased a kit, and we decorated gingerbread houses. From that first start, my other children started buying kits to decorate gingerbread houses. Now, every year each of my children’s family as well as myself decorate gingerbread houses for Christmas. A new tradition in our family we all enjoy.

Photo by Goran Grudiu0107 on

Hanging the stockings with care. Growing up, we hung our stockings on a bookcase, as we never did have a fireplace. My children when they were small, their stockings were hung on the dining table on Christmas Eve, as I did not have a place to hang stockings. We moved several times, and the place in the different homes changed, sometimes stair banisters, bookcases and a few years from an old piano. What went into the stocking never changed. I would place in each stocking : an apple, an orange, peanuts, then some chocolate Santas and always a peppermint candy cane, a new toothbrush, socks and lastly a penny for good luck in the coming year. I have stopped putting peanuts in the stockings as it is too messy. When family comes to visit for Christmas I add travel size lotion, hand sanitizer, or a loofah into the stocking instead of socks or a toothbrush.

I always make the cinnamon rolls, chocolate chip cookies and church window candy rolls. Some years I bake more. But those three items are always made at Christmas. The years I have the time and energy to bake more, I give the extra cookies and baked goods away to friends and family. With the baking and cooking I do at Christmas, one our New Year’s resolutions is to always lose weight. The first few months of the New Year we are on a diet to lose the weight gained at Christmas.

The way we celebrate our Christmas traditions change with the stages of life we are in. When my children were young we did many more family traditions of playing games, watching certain movies and cooking together. Today, there are only two of us at home. I no long spend three to four days baking and cooking with my children. I cook the standard three recipes that in my heart have to be made for our celebration. Under the Christmas tree looks lean as there are not many gifts compared to when I had four children at home. To fill the emptiness, I decorate under the Christmas tree, with a Christmas town or train or reindeer. The traditional turkey dinner with all the fixings is a little too much food for two people. I have sent invitation to have others join us for Christmas dinner, only they have their families or friends they spend the day celebrating with. Instead of the traditional turkey dinner, I fix something special such as rib eye steaks, or cornish hens, a special dinner for two.

Traditions change as families merge. When my children married, their spouses had family traditions as well. Each family had to merge the family traditions they were raised with and form their own traditions carrying forward some traditions from each.

Regardless if you have passed down through generations traditions or create new ways of celebrating the holidays together, it is important to celebrate with those you love and create memories. Make each day you have be special.


Gifts at Christmas

This year my budget is small for Christmas gifts. I would love to be able to buy gifts for each and every grandchild. Having fifteen grandchildren, gifts for each is quite expensive. Instead I purchase a gift for the family. Christmas should not be about gifts only, but memories as well.

There is the phone calls to talk to each grandchild on or before Christmas Eve. Christmas day is so busy for the families, it is best to talk before the family Christmas festivities start. Connecting and letting each one know we are thinking of them while miles apart.

The gifts I have sent this year are to the whole family, games. Yes, my children and grandchildren love to play board games. The challenge is finding a game they do not already own. I find games that fit the age and number of children in the family. Playing games together helps to build memories and family bonds as well as teach children to win or lose graciously. Some games are memory games others strategy or role playing games.

In today’s technology era where digital games are common. It is still nice to sit around a table, no television or phones, and play a board or card game with family.

My children grew up without television. We had a VHS and some VHS movies and cartoons. I think my children learned the scripts to all of them. We played a lot of board games. First our Christmas board games started with Candy Land and Sorry. As the children grew up, our favorite was Monopoly. Monopoly is a very competitive game, taking us a week to complete one game since I would have to take breaks for cooking and cleaning, plus sleep. Then there was Risk, turnly a cutthoat time war game especially if alliances were formed. But not all games were as competitive.

We also put together jigsaw puzzles. A new puzzle each Christmas. First the puzzles were easier, few pieces. Until the finally years the puzzle was 1000 pieces with intricate pictures to form. These puzzle would be placed on a table out of the way of traffic and worked on as each of us wanted. Before the children would have to return to school, the puzzle would be finished.

Card games were popular such as Uno or Skipbo. We went through several decks during the years. Each Christmas I would get a new game of either Uno or Skipbo depending on which game cards were most worn.

Today, the families still enjoy Uno and Skipbo, but also Phase 10. The grand children are also learning to play poker. I am not good at poker as I am not good with having a poker face.

The important part of Christmas is spending time with family. Talking, sharing and having fun in creating memories.

Make memories this Christmas.


Cards and Letters

Remember getting glitter decorated Christmas cards in the mail? Or perhaps you are one of those “old fashion” type person who still enjoys sending a Merry Christmas message to family and friends. For over a century people have sent the once a year letter and Christmas message to friends and family, especially if they lived beyond visiting distance.

The first Christmas card was created by Henry Cole and J.C. Horsley in 1943 according to the Smithsonian Magazine. I first learned of the first Christmas card while watching a show, “Victorian England” on Netflix. One episode went into the history of the Christmas card, or what we would term a postcard. The first Christmas card was created to ease the work of writing a letter in response to letters written to Henry Cole. It was considered very rude of a person to not respond to a letter they had received. Henry Cole being very busy, yet not wanting to be rude was struggling with writing letters. Henry Cole developed an idea of a picture on stiff cardboard to send in place of a handwritten letters. J.C. Horsley created the picture, they had it printed and the first Christmas card was invented.

I was raised with the tradition of sending a card before Christmas to every family member and friend wishing them Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. I have kept this tradition and my children have followed with keeping the tradition as well.

Today, we could just send an email for a newsletter, or a text message saying Merry Christmas. But there is something special when a person receives a card, with a handwritten message inside. The card shows time and thought was taken to send a simple gift of a card. Receiving the card makes the person feel special and not alone. We can read a message in a text. We can read, touch and smell the message in a card.

Each year, I send Christmas cards with a letter telling of the year’s events to family and friends. I used to write a short summary of the year in each card. About ten years ago I stopped writing the summary inside the card as I was getting writer’s cramp. I opted for a computer generated, decorative letter to place inside each card I send. I still hand sign all the cards. Thirty years ago I would send out fifty to sixty cards a year ( now you can understand the writer’s cramp), taking me a week to complete the task. Today, I finished addressing, signing and getting ready to mail thirty cards. Years have taken names and address out of the Christmas card list.

This year I had big ambitions of creating Victorian style Christmas cards to send instead of purchasing cards. I was able to create ten cards for family and friends. I punched holes in lines to form an outline of the object being created. During Victorian times, this was an inexpensive method used by the lower classes to send Christmas cards.

The instrument I used to punch the many holes per card is a tool used in quilling paper. One end is needle like, allowing me to punch holes through the paper. The other end is used to make shapes using stripes of paper called quilling. It is a long process of punching holes to create a card.

With time running short, I did purchase some Christmas cards to send to family and friends. I wanted them to receive a card, even if it was not handmade. Next year I will get the handmade cards done, hopefully to be mailed.


Christmas In July

Photo by Brett Sayles on

Christmas is my favorite holiday to celebrate. I enjoy decorating the house for Christmas. Each year I create a new item to add to the decorations for my house. For me, I need to start early in creating the new item as I have a busy schedule.

One other tradition I started when my children were small is Christmas shopping. I start in July. By starting in July I have time to make unrushed choices in the gifts I purchase for family and friends. I have the time to research and make quality choices in the gifts I purchase.

Another benefit to starting my shopping early is the ease on my bank account. I am able to spread the cost of Christmas gifts over six months, instead of three or four weeks. By spreading the cost over several months, I have a larger budget for Christmas shopping.

Another option for those who love to fight the crowds on “Black Friday” is to have discipline to start early and save for the purchase of gifts. I personally do not like the large crowds in the stores on “Black Friday”. And there have been times I waited hoping for a better price on “Black Friday”, only to not be able to find the gift to purchase. Starting in July, I may not have the lower price, but I do have the item to wrap and give.

I like to wrap the gifts to look special. I am able to spend time a creatively wrap the gifts for each person. Creating name tags and bows unique as the person receiving the gift.

Christmas cards are started in July. I pick out the card and address the envelopes using Calligraphy. In December I will write the Christmas Letter to place in each envelope, seal and mail. Most people receive junk mail and bills in the mail, I keep an old fashion tradition of giving Christmas cards to send cheer in an unexpected place, the mailbox.

I do go shopping in December. I pick out the next year’s Christmas cards as they go on sale. I also buy wrapping paper and supplies when those items are on sale in December. Stocking stuffers are purchased along with peppermint candy canes and candy that is only around during the Christmas season.

After Christmas is a shopping time with every store wanting to get rid of all things related to Christmas. Three years ago I purchased a six foot tree for $25.00 on sale, regular price was over $100.00. There are good deals after Christmas, although the selection is very meager.

Each year when I put the tree up, for a short time there are numerous creatively decorated presents under the tree, until I package and ship.