The holidays are rooted in tradition. Cultural traditions, family traditions, and religious traditions. Many held close to family, shared among friends, and celebrated in community. A tradition is a custom or belief that is passed down through the years, something familiar that you look forward to and come to expect each year.
I love a good tradition... to enjoy something enough that someone thinks, “We should do this again... and again.” Tradition to me, creates a sense of grounding. It creates a sense of belonging to something bigger and gives us a platform to celebrate the things that matter to us.
But something has felt different this holiday season. Many of the posts on social media talk about holiday dread, stress, and family issues. While I understand that the holidays are a trying time, I went searching to find what people have to look forward to. I asked friends, family, and colleagues to share their favorite holiday traditions.
I hope you enjoy their stories and take the time to think about your own favorite tradition and how you can honor and celebrate it this year.
“Christmas with my family means food. We have Swedish & Norwegian roots, and Christmas time really brings that out. We eat meatballs with egg noodles, pounds of lefse and pickled herring (it's gross but a staple). Sitting around the table sharing this tradition with my family is my favorite part of the holidays.”
“Every Christmas, we lounge around all morning in our matching pj's that my mom gets for us while we listen to Christmas music until breakfast is ready. My nephews open their gifts from Santa, and we all enjoy my grandma's famous biscuits with white gravy and mimosas. After we stuff our faces with yummy breakfast, we play board games and enjoy each other's company.”
“My mom and I plan our holiday baking all year. We both typically try to eat healthy but have a MAJOR sweet tooth, so when we find a particularly decadent recipe, we save it for the week before Christmas. We spend at least two days baking and trying out recipes. We usually make trays and baskets with all the treats and deliver them to friends and family.”
“Growing up, Christmas morning officially started when my Dad rang the antique sleigh bells that hung on the evergreen decorated newel post. The jingle bells and my Dad joyfully pronouncing, "Christmas gift!" was the signal that it was safe to come down to see what treasures Santa had left for us. The bulging stocking was first on our Christmas morning agenda. I was never disappointed with the plethora of apples, oranges, peppermint and whole walnuts that spilled forth freely from my stocking, as long as we eventually found the large jar of ripe green olives hidden at the bottom. Green olives were a holiday favorite for me and all of my sisters and my brother. I reveled in having an entire jar of olives to call my very own!”
“One of my favorite Christmas traditions is picking out the tree. My parents raised six kids, so spending money on a tree was unheard of. Therefore, every year my father would grab his axe, and we would load up in the pickup truck and head to one of our pastures full of cedar trees. It was sort of like a contest for us kids to see who would find the best tree. Christmas time was so much fun as a young child growing up on a farm and ranch in Central Texas. I’m 54 years old now with my own family, and we still live on the same farm where I grew up. We still pick out a real Christmas tree each year, although we normally just head to the local nursery and go through their selections to find the perfect one.”
"We did not go to church often when I was little, but we always went to a Christmas Eve candlelight service. As a child, I recall vividly the magic of watching a dark room slowly fill with warm light as the flame was passed from person to person. It is still my favorite thing and often moves me to tears. Now I bring my young ones and hope they catch a glimpse of just how powerful a light can be in the darkness."
“Christmas to me has always been the season of lights, music and beautiful festivities. The whole month of December filled with cold frosty weather and warm toasty fires around the family hearth. It is the time to listen to old French carols and bring color and magical light into the home during the darkest time of the year the winter solstice. I think of warm spiced cider and rich cups of chocolate.... almond crescent cookies and delicious butter spritz, lovingly baked for all to enjoy. Also, a fruited bourbon old fashioned just like my Daddy used to mix… and a savory bowl of gumbo prepared by my son on Christmas Eve.”
“On the night of Christmas Eve, all of my cousins, aunts, and uncles on one side of my family get together. 40+ people gather at my house, and we have a big party. It's great to see everyone, eat good food, drink some holiday spirits, play games, and just hang out with my family."
“When we were very little, as excited as we were, Christmas could not begin until my daddy put on his robe and descended the stairs to “check to see if Santa had come.” Mom would call down, ‘Dick, has he been here!?’ Dad’s voice cranked up the tension – ‘I don’t see anything yet! Let me check under the tree!’ By this time, the five of us were squealing and hopping around at the top of the stairs. When we finally heard him say that we should come and see for ourselves, we flew down the stairs like reindeer. We fell upon the gifts surrounding the tree and emptied our stockings, while daddy and mother sipped coffee and smiled. The excitement and joy were almost unbearable. Now, over sixty years later, we hear our grandchildren call from the top of the stairs, ‘Did he come? Has he been here?’ And I can feel my dad and mom still with me as I say, ‘Come on down and see for yourselves!’“
“I think as we get older, our traditions adjust slightly to the age and size of our family. While I was growing up, on Christmas morning my sister and I weren’t allowed to go into the living room (where the tree and Santa had been), so we would race into my parents room. We’d have to wait until my dad had the camcorder ready, and then we were finally allowed to start! This was always the beginning of Christmas Day. Now, being an adult and having lost my dad, we still honor this tradition of “no tree peaking.” But now my sister and I just wake my mom up, get coffee and wait for her to tell us that Christmas Day has started… and of course she has an iPhone out instead of that huge VHS recorder.”