Motherhood

10 Wonderful Holiday Rituals

10 Wonderful Holiday Rituals

What are your holiday traditions? On Christmas Eve, my dad always busts out Trader Joe’s molten lava cakes, which are ridiculously delicious (and take only 45 seconds to microwave:) If you’re looking for ideas, here are 10 funny and inspiring holiday rituals from readers’ comments

Anna Rose Jones says: “For years, my seven siblings and I have slept around the Christmas tree. Luckily, there’s enough room in the living room for eight grown adults!”

Nichol says: “After moving to Southern California, we spent our first holiday away from family. To embrace our new setting, on Christmas Eve we made an epic pan of oven nachos (gooey cheese, homemade salsa and an embarrassing amount of sour cream). We loved it so much that the tradition has stuck. It’s nice to have something casual tucked in with the formal celebrations of the season.”

Rachael says: “My absolute favorite is that on Christmas I give myself a day off from everything — work, running, and all parental responsibility. We stay in our pajamas all day, everyone is gifted a box of their favorite cereal (the ones we only buy on Christmas because they’re too junky for normal consumption!), and then we just play with all the new stuff. I take a total mental break from worrying about meals, homework, music practice, nap time, etc. and let everyone do whatever they want. Last year, my husband and I spent six hours working on a 1,000 piece puzzle, and the kids trickled in and out helping with the puzzle/playing with toys/reading books. I went into the kitchen at one point and found my four- and two-year-olds sitting on the table, clad only in their underwear, and eating Jell-O salad with their hands… and just said, ‘Carry on, my dears,’ and walked back out. I am usually the most Type A and helicopter-y of mothers, so it’s a fun break for everyone involved.”

Sarah Beth says: “We’re Jewish, and we do normally do the movie-and-Chinese-food on Christmas Day thing. But the Chinese restaurants in our really Jewish neighborhood get insanely busy. Last year, with a one-month-old baby, we decided to try the only other open restaurant in town: a lovely Indian place. The food was delicious, there was zero wait, and it was the start of our own little family tradition! I’m already looking forward to this year’s Christmas Day samosas and matar paneer.”

Ashley Sawyer says: “I grew up in foster care, and thus haven’t had a lot of family traditions to rely on throughout my life. During my sophomore year of college, however, my best friend and I randomly spent Christmas Eve together. What started out as an evening spent eating snacks and exchanging a few haphazard gifts has now grown to become an all-out event that we both treasure. At thirty two years old, we’ve spent the last thirteen Christmas Eves together. We have a fancy dinner, a big tree, decorations and lots hugs. We’ve endured failed recipes as amateur cooks, the ending of relationships, graduate school and pets – it’s what I suspect many people experience with their brothers and sisters. I live a great life now and am so lucky. Creating this tradition with my best friend taught me that family and love is truly what you make of it. And, isn’t that what the holidays are all about?”

Maywyn says: “My small single parent family created the tradition: No arguing during the holiday season — December to New Year’s Day. A squabble starts… somebody says, ‘Oh, we can’t do that until January’… and that’s the end of that!”

Sabra says: “Hanukkah is the only time my family makes latkes at home. We light candles, gather a bunch of toppings (sour cream, applesauce, chopped chives, juicy red fish roe) and get all the kids involved in peeling potatoes and pushing them through the food processor. We serve them with roast chicken and a green salad. It’s always the best family meal of the year.”

Elle says: “We live by the mountains, so on Christmas Eve we hike in the snow with my nieces and nephews and all our dogs. We carry a bunch of sleds up and when we are about a mile up we hop on and sled down. There’s something so lovely about being outside in the cold and then all coming back home for a hot meal and festivities.”

Katherine says: “Margaritas on Christmas Eve. This year we’ll clink glasses in honor of my dad: He has Stage 4 cancer, but we just found out that both his tumors have shrunk and are now about half their original size. I’ll drink to that.”

Megan says: “My grandmother was from Mexico, and my family has been eating tamales every Christmas Eve for as long as I can remember. I hope our daughter finds herself writing about this same tradition on a blog post in the future!”

Thank you so much to all who shared their rituals! What are yours? Will you adopt any of these? (Find many more great ones in the comment section here, if you’d like.)

P.S. An ode to rituals, and the 2016 holiday gift guide.

  1. Molly says...

    It’s been so nice to read these comments after Christmas break–it’s lifted my spirits, for sure! My husband and I are really struggling with the holidays. His mother’s family has so many set traditions (that don’t feel like us at all) and my family revolves around my siblings’ kids. As a couple without kids, it’s hard to feel like the holidays are “ours” too. And JB, I’m with ya, I’m still trying to figure out how to get my MIL to loosen her grip. Any advice is welcome! :) My hope is that I can try to incorporate a few of these next year, to help us look forward to the holidays again! Thanks everyone, for sharing!

  2. Alyssa Leister says...

    I love reading all of these! Makes my heart feel merry and bright.

    My family and I have a few traditions. We always do church of course on Christmas Eve. Christmas morning, I always make a cup of coffee and keep my PJs on (though this year I showered before putting pjs back on since my mom insists on taking pictures of me in my Christmas get-up to post on FB!) while we open gifts. Stockings first, then we alternate gifts and try to draw it out as long as possible. My mom always makes egg sandwiches mid-morning. Then we have family and friends over for ham, mac/cheese and whatever else we come up with. When I was younger, we would get a cake and sing Happy Birthday to Jesus which I always loved.

    My other favorite holiday tradition is one that started when I was in high school. My dad takes off the week between the holidays and we always make it a point to get breakfast from McDonald’s one morning. My mom never participates but it’s his and my tradition. He always pays, but usually I go to pick it up. <3

  3. Laura says...

    Two years ago, my husband and I started to do the 12 Days of Christmas for each other. Although I know this is traditionally between December 25-January 6th, we start on December 12th and alternate every other day surprising each other with a tiny poem and a small gift or act of service. Everything from lottery scratch offs, airplane bottle scotch, truffle chocolates, a 15-minute massage — it really helps us focus on each other and small acts of love and kindness when it’s so easy to lose yourself in the madness of the season.

  4. Dinah says...

    I want to somehow adopt all of these… *thiking* ;) Great post!

  5. Kate says...

    We make pasta from scratch on Christmas Eve! Hand kneading and mechanical cranking through an old school pasta machine. It’s a hassle and a mess, but we always enjoy the end result.

  6. Darina says...

    This is my daughter’s first holiday season- she’s 4.5 months. While we aren’t at all Italian, her name is Francesca (Frankie for short) and we love singing it out with an Italian accent and adding things like “Francesca Spumoni!” or “Francesca Carbonara!”, “Francesca Pepperoni!”, etc. (she’s starting to get a kick out of it too which is so cute). So this year a couple days before Christmas we’re having some friends and family over for “Francesca’s First Annual Speghetti Fest” (all said in a very exaggerated Italian accent), especially since my husband has mastered an awesome homemade chunky meaty delicious pasta sauce recently, and I found the most amazing fresh-baked bread…I’m excited to see what other little traditions come out of this one!!

  7. Alex says...

    When I was growing up, Christmas brunch was my favorite tradition. I was very lucky to have cousins that lived close by. After opening presents on Christmas morning, we would all get together for a big Christmas brunch in our pajamas. There was something thrilling about going out in your pajamas. I loved that my aunt would wear a long fur coat over her plaid nightgown. And then we would take group pictures–a red PJ picture and a green PJ picture. It was so much fun because even though we were going to see the same family for dinner in a few hours, the easy and casual vibe of this tradition also eventually took in some close neighbors and good family friends that you wouldn’t normally spend a holiday with.

  8. I love all of these traditions! I treasure mine as much as other people treasure theirs, I’m sure <3

    xx

    bombshell-to-be.blogspot.com

  9. Amy says...

    The holidays bring up a lot of mixed emotions for people who grew up in non-conventional family environments and/or with complicated familial relationships. Ashley Sawyer’s tradition brought tears to my eyes. Thanks so much for sharing Ashley.

  10. E says...

    Sarah, you must be part of my family. :)
    My in-laws swear that the tradition is Indian and a movie. After opening gifts in the morning and a big Italian lunch with my family, we always go to a movie & get Indian in the evening for dinner. A perfect marriage of traditions.

  11. Erica says...

    My family is Catholic, and so my mum always has a little nativity scene set up. As kids we used to steal the mini baby Jesus and hide him around the house (he’s not born until Christmas, so shouldn’t be in the crib yet, was our thinking). The person that finds him gets to hide him again for the others to try and locate. It started off as a joke and used to really bug my mum, but has evolved into a fun family Christmas tradition.

  12. Sylvie says...

    On Christmas Eve, everyone receives a new set of pyjamas. We put them on after dinner, load the kids in the car with a hot chocolate and we drive around the neighbourhood and look at all the beautiful Christmas lights. I have done this since I was a kid and I couldn’t be happier to continue this tradition with my family.

  13. Janis says...

    Now that I’m a Mimi with 5 grandkids, we like to kick off the Christmas season on Thanksgiving night when I give them all matching Christmas pajamas. The kids look forward to it, and they get to wear them the whole season. They especially love having them to wear to pajama day at school.
    On Christmas Eve, all 11 of us go to church. Then the kids all scatter to celebrate with their in-laws, and Papa & I have a quiet night together. We eat finger food, chips & dips, and exchange a small gift for each other by the light of the Christmas tree. On Christmas Day, all the kids & grands & various other relatives come for sausage balls, cinnamon rolls, baked ham, hash brown casserole, broccoli casserole, and almond joy cookies! It’s mad chaos that I LOVE and look forward to the whole year!

  14. Tiffany says...

    Maywyn ftw – Love the idea of no arguing! Can we get that memo out internationally?

  15. Maureen says...

    I love the no arguing since December is so stressful it tends to bring out the grinch in me! Growing up, on christmas eve my sisters and I would decorate the tree together, make christmas cookies, bring some to neighbors to wish them Merry Christmas/Happy New Year and we would watch Little Women and sometimes Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol (LOL). One thing I would like to do is reinforce the meaning of Christmas to my daughters since we are Christian. I have heard having a birthday cake for Jesus and singing happy birthday to him is an idea that kids love. I may try that with a little store bought cake this year. Or read the christmas story from the bible by candlelight…

    • raissomat says...

      In switzerland it’s (usually!) baby Jesus who brings the tree and gifts at the 24th. After dinner cleanup, the kids go to a room with mom to listen to her reading a nativity story or the bible. The dad stays in the living room “waiting for baby jesus” (putting up the tree and gifts previously prepared). When done, he’d come to our room all misterious and said “I think he’s come!” By then the atmosphere was very solemn.
      we came to the living room only lit by beeswax candles, and the magic was REAL.
      We proceeded to sing curch choir songs until the last small candle was off on the tree, then one small light on..and opening gifts!
      I think the part where the stories are red is easily applicable and brings a very good atmosphere.

  16. Eroica says...

    My favorite family tradition is Santa hides our stockings every Christmas Eve while we are sleeping. It was such a magical experience as a kid to wake up on Christmas morning and find the stockings missing. My heart would beat so fast when I saw they were gone, because it meant Santa had just been there the night before. The tradition was started by Santa three generations ago. My great-grandparents convinced the entire family it stemmed from an old Swedish tradition; but only recently we found out they made it up so they could sleep in while my grandma and her siblings looked for them :)

    • Alex says...

      I love this! Such a fun idea… and the reasoning behind it is brilliant.

  17. oh, the no arguing, I like that one! Every Christmas Eve my son gets new PJs and a movie…so we will watch that. Christmas is for just hanging around at home…we already went and saw zoolights (our local zoo puts up 1000s of lights) and to the Grand America (this very fancy hotel does a scavenger hunt for kids with decorated windows and they get a sugar cookie and there’s a huge gingerbread house) and went to Temple Square (also 1000s of lights but we just walk the fringes) and the local Macy’s window displays made of candy (very awesome).

  18. Samantha says...

    My family has many wonderful holiday traditions but I will share my two favorites– one from each side.

    Sometime around Thanksgiving, my fathers family gets together to stir that year’s Christmas Pudding. If you have never had a Christmas Pudding, it is fruit cake that soaks in brandy for a month before served, ON FIRE, as the grand finale to your Christmas dinner. It is an acquired taste that is usually tempered by a heavy hand of Hard Sauce (whipped butter, sugar, and more brandy). Youngest to oldest, we line up to stir it three times counter-clockwise and then stick the spoon in the middle of the bowl while making a wish. My Grandfather, as oldest, is the last to stir, and makes a big walloping noise with every go around, making everyone laugh.

    The night before, on Christmas Day, my mother’s family gets together and sings Christmas Carols for hours and eats pizza. This is my favorite, favorite time of the whole year. Everyone picks a song, but we always end with a raucous version of the Twelve Days of Christmas. :)

  19. Ramona says...

    I love reading about all of these family traditions. I have lots of Christmas traditions with my parents and siblings and with my extended family, but this year is the first when my daughter is old enough to get a sense of what’s going on at Christmas and I’m starting to think about what traditions I want to establish for our family of her, me, and my husband.

  20. So many lovely customs! Just goes to show, you can make anything feel special during this time of year with the right attitude!

  21. Erika says...

    I loved reading these and all the comments. Gives me a warm and fuzzy Christmas feeling.

  22. Jen says...

    My husband is French and I’m American which gives us the good fortune of two sets of traditions.
    When we celebrate in Michigan, we go to Christmas Eve services which always end, Lutheran-style, with the singing of Silent Night by candlelight with nary a dry eye in the church. On the way home we do a driving tour through town to see all the Christmas lights and I’m secretly glad that people still go all out because it’s beautiful and magical, especially when there is snow. Once home we have our traditional Christmas Eve buffet: shrimp and cocktail sauce, a veggie platter, whitefish pate, Chex Mix, my Mom’s famous cheeseball (always served with Town House crackers) champagne and Christmas cookies. We open up stockings that night. Christmas morning it’s presents over coffee and a breakfast casserole, then a walk in the woods before mid-afternoon lunch which is most often stuffed Cornish hens.
    When we celebrate in France, we gather at the family house so far out of civilization that mass is an hour drive away so we stay in, watch mass on TV, and finish decorating the tree. Christmas Eve dinner is always French onion soup followed by scallops and buche de Noel. On Christmas Day the extended family arrives. We can easily be 20+ and my mother in law takes this all in stride. I’m always glad to be her sous chef because I always learn a ton from her sense of organization. Once the crowd has assembled we exchange gifts over a champagne aperitif, then sit down to a late lunch: foie gras made by an aunt; turkey dinner with roasted potatoes/porcini mushrooms; buche de Noel, and in a nod to the Americans, Christmas cookies!
    The cookies are a constant across both places. My husband and his family are now obsessed with them, cut outs and Russian Teacakes especially, so I spend a few white nights in December baking while listening to carols. We give a lot away to friends and neighbors to help spread goodwill and cheer.
    Starting right after Thanksgiving carols are on constant rotation as well as all the classic Christmas movies; and we send cards. This often drags on into January but i adopt a better late than never mindset. Our kids are getting into this now too and it’s very sweet, watching them write out letters and draw pictures for their far-away friends and family members.
    There are inevitably late nights when I’m baking/addressing envelopes and I think, am I mad?! But when I see how excited our kids are now about the whole season, and how both our families love coming together this time of year, I feel the work and effort and late nights are worth it. Every year since our childhoods my parents and my parents-in-law have made great efforts to make our holidays merry and bright, so we fall in and do it right along with them!

    • Julie says...

      I love all of this. Sounds wonderful! Merry Christmas/joyeux Noel!

  23. Lisa says...

    We’re Jewish so our xmas tradition has largely been to fly on holiday on the 25th. It’s the best day to fly – no traffic getting to the airport, security is fast (and they generally seem to be a bit drunk and in a good mood) and the plane is empty.

    We were discussing what to do for Hanukkah, as now we have a son. when my husband was a kid, presents would be left near the front door (similar to Santa Claus), but he knew from around 4 that santa didn’t exist, and you know … Jewish. I did ask if it was the Hanukkah armadillo but apparently not. This tradition continued even after he knew it was his parents. We were thinking about maybe continuing it, or coming up with something new

  24. Abigail says...

    On Christmas Eve, my family goes to a midnight Christmas Eve service, then we go out to a 24-hour French bakery and get coffees and croissants. On Christmas day, after all the presents and family traditions, my sisters and I go to see two movies in theaters. This year, my sister can’t make it home, but she’s still going to go to the movies in honor of our tradition.

  25. My husband never cooks, but on Christmas Eve, he makes lobster mac-and-cheese for dinner. It’s awesome! We go to the Boston Pops holiday concert every year. The boys are allowed to open one present on Christmas Eve – usually pjs or slippers. We make and decorate cookies every year. Christmas dinner is beef tenderloin, scalloped potatoes, a yummy salad… So many of the same movies. The time between Thanksgiving and Christmas is very similar every time, and it’s our favorite time of the year!

  26. Danielle says...

    I love reading about other traditions! Every family is so special and unique. On Thanksgiving, we pass around a hat with everyone’s names in it and you are responsible for the stocking of whoever you pull. We go all out (stocking + a few shopping bags, usually!) and on Christmas Eve we all get together for Swedish meatballs and stuffed shells (my family is French so…why? I have no idea) and then all open our stockings and drink wine. It’s the thing I look forward to most each year. Happy holidays!

  27. Ann Stouffer says...

    We have two distinct christmas traditions that have been the same since I can remember. Even though all three siblings are well into adulthood (28, 30 and 33), the “elves” still come on Christmas Eve and leave us new, fun pajamas to wear that night. On Christmas morning, all 5 of us (more now including significant others) line up in age order – oldest to youngest – on the stairs and we wait until my dad has shaved and made coffee. Then we descend the stairs to find our stockings waiting for us and we open them together over coffee and grapefruit. At 28, the anticipation of walking down the stairs to see all of our presents is still exhilarating, even though now I fill most of the stockings myself :) Waking my older brothers up at 7am on Christmas morning is, and always will be, the best.

  28. Love the Indian dinner out idea!
    I don’t celebrate Christmas, and Hanukkah mostly involves lighting menorah and making latkes (at least once). But what I do do every year is make Russian Potato Salad: http://www.mangotomato.com/2011/01/russian-potato-salad.html
    That’s something my family has done every year when we lived in Moscow (not Idaho :/) and I love keeping that tradition alive in the States.

  29. Shannon says...

    Every year we are allowed to open one present from my mom on Christmas eve. Without fail it is always a new pair of pajamas. It’s so nice to wake up in a new pair and feel somewhat put together even if you stay in them all day. It’s an added bonus that we all look hilarious wearing matching p.j’s at 30.

  30. We get spend our evening and day with our family eating, opening presents and more eating. Also, as a parent, we redecorate our whole house and surprise our kids at night. Then of course we set out all of the presents.

  31. laura says...

    My hubby’s family (farmers) have wonderful xmas traditions:

    * Xmas eve – ginger cake and frumety (pearl barley porridge), followed by carols at the local church – hundreds of years old

    * Xmas day – shouting to all the local farmers whereby as a family they walk around the shire, knocking on doors to hand deliver cards and wish each other merry xmas. Great exercise, appetite builder.

    As an aussie, I’m building on the Xmas eve tradition by putting on prawns with cocktail sauce and leg ham. Bit of an odd combination with the frumety and ginger cake, but a happy fusion and one that we can firmly claim as our own tradition :)

  32. I recently read somewhere that in Finland, they have the tradition of giving each other books at Christmas eve, and then spending the evening curled up in bed with said books and hot chocolate before falling asleep. It’s literally about reading ’til it’s Christmas :)

    I have been with my boyfriend for eight years now but we have never spent Christmas together (we both have big families who live far away), so I made a mental note of this great tradition to embrace it when we finally celebrate together (and keep it going if we have kids ! I think it must be so lovely to read books with kids in bed as a family on Christmas eve !).
    Books rule ! Happy holidays everyone :)

  33. Ellen says...

    Love to create traditions.. We live in LA with no family around so we started to go see a matinee play on Christmas Eve. Christmas morning we have croissant-breadpudding (my daughters altime favorite) and open presents in our PJS. We stay in PJS the whole day, playing, reading, watching movies, cooking together. It’s the best day ever!!

  34. I love the tradition that Rachael mentioned, that she gives herself the day off! I feel as if that’s not only amazing for her, but also for her kids to cherish Christmas for the freedom they are given!

    My family isn’t really the tradition type, however we do the very classic traditions like leaving cookies out for santa, a big roast beef dinner (for the three of us) as well as opening one gift on Christmas Eve (mainly being a book, new PJs or other things used on Christmas Eve) . My friend recently told me that her family doesn’t do the Christmas Eve early gift thing and I was stunned, my other housemate and I couldn’t believe she didn’t know that was a thing!

  35. Alex says...

    Growing up my family always drove to Portland from Seattle to visit the rest of our family. My parents haven’t been together for a long time so we always did Christmas Eve with my dads family and Christmas Day with my moms. On Christmas Eve my uncle would read ”twas the night before Christmas and all 15 cousins would pass the present every time their was a reindeer mentioned and a few other cues. Then we’d head over to my Nana’s that evening and I’d wake up there. Her house had dark green carpet and tartan everywhere (scottish much?) and I always thought it was like she decorated for Christmas all year round. Anyway, all the cousins are grown up now, I’ve lived elsewhere for about 6 years, and nana and grandpa left their old stilt NW Portland home so I’ve been pretty bummed to not be able to experience the above ritual for quite some time but reading these make me feel good about new traditi

  36. My mother always makes yorkshire pudding as a part of Christmas dinner, and it’s amazing. It’s a family recipe that’s been handed down, originally made by my Irish great grandmother for her English husband. Then they had a son (my Grandpa) and it was handed down to his Portuguese wife, then they had my father and now it’s made by a woman of Italian and Ukrainian descent. It’s a running joke that the reason the yorkshire is so good is that it has gone through three generations of being made by non-English women. I’ve made it a couple times now (though not for Christmas…maybe this year!) and I’m the first woman in my family with any English blood to have made the dish since my Great Great Grandmother! And it was still delicious.

    • Jen says...

      Wow would you be willing to share the recipe or is it a family secret?

    • Not a secret. Yorkshire for everyone! Though it’s naturally one of those recipes that’s only half written down and half by feel. I’ll try to fill in the blanks, even though it’s been a couple of years since I’ve made it! (My mother wrote the card because previously it wasn’t even written down, I believe. She no longer uses the card and does it entirely by feel.)

      1 cup milk (2% or whole)
      1 cup flour
      3 eggs
      1 tsp salt
      suet (probably about 1/4 cup…you can usually get this free at the butcher if you ask because it’s an off-cut)

      Combine milk, eggs and salt in a medium bowl and beat until just mixed, add flour and beat again. Yes, this is basically pancake mix. We usually do it ahead of time and refrigerate for a few hours, but I’ve done it straight from the mixer to the pan with success.

      Put suet in a heavy, oven-safe pan (we use a 10 inch cast iron skillet, but I’ve also done this with about 6 slices of bacon in a 9 inch cast iron skillet to similar results) in a pre-heated 375 degree oven. Render the fat for at least 15-30 minutes (shorter for bacon, I just kept it in the oven until the bacon cooked). There should be a nice coating of rendered fat/grease across the bottom of the pan.

      Take pan out of the oven [my mom always emphasizes how hot the pan has to be so I try to keep this part brief], remove the suet (or bacon…in the case of the bacon eat the bacon and in the case of the suet it can be disposed of entirely) and set aside. “Swish” the grease in the pan around so the bottom is fully covered. Pour batter into hot pan with the fat (should spread on it’s own, no tilt of pan required), put it back in the oven, and wait! Takes about 35 minutes for the Yorkshire to rise. Avoid opening the oven door to check on it. Watch it through the window, it should be golden brown on the top of the crust and the inside should have some yellow softer parts and wherever has risen more will be more golden brown. It’s not uncommon for one side to rise more than another, especially if you don’t have a convection oven or your oven isn’t perfectly level.

      When out of the oven, it can be lifted out of the pan and put on a platter, slice like you would a pie and serve!

      Let me know if you have any questions, I will pass them along to my mom! :)

  37. These comments are great :) I’m originally from the east coast of Canada, and steamed lobster has long since been a Christmas Day meal for my family – and now that I’m married, for me and my husband (a tried and true city kid who’d never even had lobster before meeting me!). We stay in our pj’s all day and then after opening our gifts, we get down to business. No fancy stuff: we just throw newspaper on the table to catch the mess, and serve the whole lobster with a side of warm lemon butter, a baguette, and some champagne- with The Sound of Music playing on the tv in the background- my idea of a dream day. Stressful prep/dry turkey dinner be damned!

  38. Appetizers for Christmas dinner! No slaving away in the kitchen for me!

  39. JoAnne says...

    Tourtière…the best!

    • Pat says...

      Every year without fail! I had to learn from my mother in law how to make it!

  40. Ali says...

    My husband of over a decade decided to make me an ornament out of an egg early Christmas morning one year (I think he saw it in one if my Martha Stewart magazines.) it was far harder than he imagined, but the results were hilarious. I am looking forward to egg #5 this year, and they are all hung on our tree. Better than a gift money could buy! He gets up early to craft his masterpiece and then we laugh and laugh over coffee!

    • Alison James says...

      That’s brilliant! I’d love to see a picture of an egg adorned tree :)

  41. Oh my gosh these are great!! Loved reading them.

    Our Channukah tradition every year growing up was to have an extreme amount of anxiety, stress, and at least one really solid fight leading up to our big party with tons of people, and then everyone is super happy and we all say we can’t wait to have it again next year :)

    • Hillary says...

      This sounds just like our Thanksgiving :)

  42. Ramona says...

    The men in the family make pancakes for Christmas morning breakfast! I tell ya….those are the BEST pancakes ever!!!! ;) p.s. i add mimosas! ;)

  43. Lauren Bitter says...

    Holiday traditions make me so happy! My family’s tradition for Christmas Eve is always breakfast for dinner. We all put on our Christmas pjs and open gift from my dad’s side of the family. Christmas Day is all about my mom’s side, and, while also lovely, I love getting to celebrate the Christmas morning feeling with my dad’s side as well.

    Next year my husband and I will have our own little one for Christmas and we’ve been thinking a lot about our own family traditions. On Christmas Day we will usually be with my family here in the States or his family in New Zealand. We want our child to have Christmas memories at our house as well. When we lived in Germany, St. Niklaus coming on Dec 5th was a huge deal. We had songs and a big party at the Kita I taught at. It was huge! We can’t wait to start that tradition with our little one!

  44. Christmas Eve after dinner we drive to CVS and roam the aisles laughing hysterically and buy whiskey and wrapping paper and bring it home. Then we wrap. And drink.

  45. Cazmina says...

    I loved reading all of these different traditions, it’s so interesting to see the variety!
    My family doesn’t really have any long-running traditions, though we often do a big bbq with steak and seafood on the 25th instead of the traditional roast (I’m from Australia so it’s the middle of summer; turning the oven on is the last thing you want).
    After moving to the other side of the world I haven’t had Christmas at home for 5 years, and every one of those years I’ve spent it in a different place. This year I’m going to Amsterdam and I’ll stay at a hostel which will host a dinner on the 25th, so my adopted family for the day will be other travellers.
    Reading these comments has made me look forward to the day when I have my own family and we can create our own special traditions.

  46. With my parents, it’s lasagna on Christmas Eve. No idea why. We have nary a drop of Italian blood in our bodies.
    However, since I’m a practicing (though somewhat closeted) pagan and my husband comes from no religious background. We’ve gotten in the tradition of celebrating the solstice together as a couple. We make a nice dinner, open gifts to each other and cuddle up with the dogs and a movie after a little solstice magic and a glass of wine. It’s lovely having the time together and allows us to honor where we are in the wheel of the year without explanation to anyone. It also allows us to give our time pressure-free to family who need that devout family Christian Christmas time without sacrificing what the season means to us. Isn’t that what it’s all about? Giving of ourselves with open hearts so others may receive a bit more joy?

    • Mary says...

      My parents always did lasagna on Christmas Eve as well. For us it was because we went to church right before dinner so it was easy to pop in the oven when we got home. We no longer go to church but the lasagna continues.

    • Hello! I just read your comment and wanted to say-I love your perspective on honoring “where we are in the wheel of the year.” I’ve never thought of the holidays that way and just think it’s so beautiful! I’ll be thinking of that as I wind down for Hanukkah and Christmas-thank you!

  47. Our traditions are pretty simple. On Christmas Eve my sister and I bake chocolate chip cookies and watch both versions of the Grinch. I always hunt down all the claymation movies like Rudolph and Frosty the Snowman. As kids we always opened on present on Christmas Eve, but now that we’re older and receive fewer gifts, we’ve given that one up. We always ended the evening with my mom reading ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas – we have a cloth version of the book, so I’d use it as a pillow that night. My sister and I still wake up early to dump out our stockings on the floor (yep, my mom still fills our stockings! I mean, Santa ;) We eat cookies, open gifts, then have a big family breakfast. The rest of the day is spent relaxing, maybe watching movies, and playing with our new goodies. Dinner is prime rib w/ Yorkshire pudding – the best!

  48. I recently found out that our family tradition is actually a longstanding Dutch tradition! We each receive a chocolate letter (the first letter of our name) that comes with a poem that we have to read (always a silly limerick in our family). Can’t ever go wrong with chocolate and poop humour, right?

  49. Aw man, I meant to comment on the earlier post! Well better late than never: every year as a kid, my mom would read a portion of A Christmas Carol to me, starting 12 days out. Then on Christmas Eve, we would read the last stave, then make hot apple cider and watch the movie version with Alistair Sim (otherwise known as the only version I will deign to watch lol). As I grew up, we dropped the reading part of the tradition, but I still hold on to drinking apple cider and watching the movie every Christmas Eve!

  50. Nectar says...

    My family doesn’t celebrate any of the holidays (We’re Buddhist and Muslim) so we go to Chinatown and watch movies all day whether it be at the theater, or a marathon of movies at home.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      That sounds really fun!

  51. Chloe says...

    My husband and I are lucky enough to be able to fly from Los Angeles (where we live) to Michigan (where are parents and siblings live) for Christmas every year. However, we so enjoy having a mini Christmas celebration in front of our Christmas tree with just us two. We got to Santa Monica Seafood, pick up the freshest sushi grade fish and make a sushi feast. We open our present to one another (a trip to Big Sur) and drink delicious wine. It’s one of my favorite days of the year.

  52. Andrea says...

    Am I the only one looking for fewer traditions this year? I love the core ones–Advent music and Masses, baking a Slovak nut loaf, giving gifts–but the endless ones that can pile on make me tense! I am feeling bad that I haven’t yet seen Christmas windows with my husband, who is a fan. We did get the tree up, though! I say pick and choose each year and have a rotation of traditions…

  53. I loved reading all of these! My family is really big on traditions and rituals, but we had a weird time when we were all grown but none of us had kids yet, so our old traditions (like after cinnamon rolls at Grandma’s house, we’d open up “the greatest gift of all”–a wooden nativity set wrapped up in an old, fancy, silver Nordstrom box from the 80s–and then sing “Joy to the World” in a key so off only a completely non-musical family could pull it off) didn’t really work anymore, so we came up with a fun placeholder tradition that we did for several years: annual Christmas Starbucks Crawl! We walked from my parents’ house to 4 different Starbucks locations (all within 1.5 miles) and ordered a different holiday drink at each one; we’d get a venti split up into sample cups and “cheers” before drinking. There may have also been matching scarves involved. ;)

    • Alanna says...

      Love this :)

  54. Melinda says...

    In Australia it’s usually pretty hot on Christmas Day, so we take our dog to the beach! Last year we made him a collar out of tinsel.

    It’s lovely to take a dip in the ocean and wish a Merry Christmas to all the other families celebrating.

  55. LOVE the jello-salad story and of course the college best friends. As an adult, I try so hard to hold onto that Christmas magic we experienced as kids. I’ve been married four years, and though we spend actual Christmas back with our families, I’ve made it a tradition to sleep under the Christmas tree our last day in the city (LA) before flying home.
    P.S. Now I REALLY want nachos. ;p
    http://www.wonderlandsam.com

    • Haha you just said EVERYTHING I was thinking. Might have to try the sleeping under the tree thing!

  56. Laura says...

    Kudos to the one who wrote in about the no arguing tradition! I doubt my family would be able to pull that off but it’s a lovely idea. (We’re a rather, to put it nicely, “passionate” group.)

    I come from a Mexican family, so for us it’s all about Christmas Eve (Noche Buena), but more importantly, when it gets to midnight. I love the commotion of it. That’s when all the gift opening happens, and we sing Las Mañanitas. When it’s the other side of the family, we sing Las Posadas. And there’s always hugging. Lots of hugging. You must hug everyone there at midnight.

    And of course all the tamales and buñuelos!

  57. Shannon S says...

    With both of our families thousands of miles away, my husband and I have started our own tradition of going to the drive in (yes, drive in!) to watch Elf. We pick up our favorite pizza and enjoy it in the car cozied up under our blankets.

  58. I live in the UK countryside and its tradition for everyone to gather and sing carols around the tree in the village on Xmas eve. There is usually quite a big turnout and the local sweet/ice cream shop stays open late especially which is a highlight for the kids. Lots of people head off to the pub afterwards, but for us it’s back home for a dinner of smoked salmon, scrambled eggs and bagels, followed by popcorn and a movie (and some Pimms Winter for the grown ups!). Xmas day breakfast is Pandoro – a traditional Italian buttery sponge cake (as I’m Italian) – with hot chocolate or warm milk for the kids and mimosas and bacon butties for the grown ups. We walk the dog in the woods for a blast of fresh air whilst the lunch is in the oven – which in the U.K is traditional roast Turkey with all the trimmings – and although we do kind of get dressed up for lunch the day is generally spent relaxing at home. This year I’m hoping to prise the kids away from their presents to get out for an evening walk too – another quick gulp of fresh air and hopefully spy some stars before bed – but I’m not sure I’ll be successful (building new Lego is apparently addictive!) – wish me luck! My MIL will be coming over on Boxing Day, and we’ve just started a tradition (2nd year in!) of hosting a brunch with a few friends and their kids inbetween Xmas and the new year. Loved hearing about everyone else’s traditions – Happy Christmas all!

    • Christina says...

      Oh my goodness, Laura, this expat Englishwoman is feeling incredibly nostalgic reading your traditions! That all sounds wonderful. Xx

    • Leau says...

      I am now on the hunt for Pimm’s Winter cup….haven’t seen it here in the states but damn that sounds delish!

  59. Nanne says...

    I started this tradition out of desperation when I was a young, stressed, crazy busy mother with two young children & running a photography business out of my home.

    One Chrismas Eve, I realized that I had not wrapped any of the million gifts I had for the kids, the grandparents, relatives, friends, etc. I divideded the gifts up, gathered up wrapping supplies and put the girls in their respective bedrooms and told them to put on some Christmas music and not to leave their rooms until all of the gifts were wrapped. They were probably six and eleven at the time. They LOVED it!! Even now, at 25 & 20, the girls can’t for the Xmas Eve wrapping event–it’s one of their favorite traditions and is a huge help/time saver for me.

    • Brittany says...

      Once I learned the about “Santa”, I would stay up to the early hours of the morning with my mom and dad (and later my siblings- I am the oldest of six) wrapping presents. One of my favorite Christmas memories was of watching Love Actually, eating Chinese food, and laughing hysterically as one of my sisters and I failed to put together a Barbie toy for my youngest sister.

  60. brooke says...

    My family always had soup on Christmas Eve – it seemed to be the easiest and fastest meal to eat since that is the night we also open all our presents! The best part before that day was seeing if you could sway the cook (my mom) on what soup to make…you had to use all your persuasive skills and get your vote in early! There were years where she’d make 2 soups!
    Then on Christmas morning, we always eat wild rice sent from our MN relatives as a hot cereal (with lots of sugar and half & half) along with buttered toast and bacon!
    This year, I’m in charge of the soup, so I’m off to look up recipes! (I know my cousin wants vegetable soup!)

    • jules says...

      Brooke you need to do chicken wild rice soup. Delicious, creamy, super Minnesotan.

    • Melissa says...

      I have a suggestion for a fabulous christmas soup, its a chestnut cinnamon soup its super easy and sooo good.
      For 4-5 servings: 1 Onion, 1 leek, 400g chestnuts, 800ml vegetable stock, 1 cinnamon stick, 1 bay leaf, salt and pepper.

    • Lucy says...

      We’ve started doing soup on Christmas Eve, as well, although it’s not what I grew up with. This year, we’ll be doing soup and latkes, since it’s also the first night of Hanukkah.

  61. These are lovely! Thanks for sharing!

  62. i grew up in the country, and we had animals like goats and ducks. on christmas eve night, we would put rain coats and boots over our pajamas and take treats to the animals by lantern light. i always kind of likened it to taking gifts to the animals in the manger. my kids are city kids, but i still love the tradition so in the dark on christmas eve night, we go put bird food out in the bird feeder, squirrel food on the fence, and we drop off wrapped bones to three of our favorite neighborhood dogs.

    another thing i’ve always done since i was a kid is set an extra place setting at the dinner table on christmas eve, symbolizing that our “inn” has room. (and we always have tamales and black coffee 🙂 )

    we are actually not religious at all, but i love these traditions and what they teach the kids.

    • Melissa says...

      I love your tradition with the animals and the setting of the extra seat at the table! What a beautiful image

  63. Ashley says...

    This year we are breaking from tradition and not going anywhere. I am giving my 3 year old daughter my kidney in early January so we are going to avoid germs:) I’m actually super excited to have a laid back, no plans Christmas and I think the kids are excited too!

    • Andrea says...

      Best of luck on the donation! Hope it goes smoothly for everyone involved. I worked a summer at a dialysis center and know how hard low kidney function can be.

    • Oh my! Good luck to you and your daughter, and may the season bless you with a speedy recovery!

    • Christina says...

      Oh wow, best wishes to you both for a fast recovery and easy healing!! You are a rockstar mama!

    • Oh my goodness, good luck!!

    • Cazmina says...

      Best wishes for January, I hope you both recover swiftly!

    • How wonderful Ashley! Wishing you a derm free, happy Christmas and all the best for you and your little girl in January!

  64. Chrissy Shea says...

    My husband and I head to the nearest Waffle House on Christmas Eve, and though we aren’t Jewish (per the stereotyped tradition), we LOVE getting Chinese food and going to see a movie. This will be our second married Christmas together staying in Texas where we have no family, and soaking up the quiet time :)

  65. Sarah says...

    Our Christmas Eve tradition is to make sushi and Trader Joe’s apps while my mom plays the organ for the children’s service, then she comes home and we eat and enjoy for a while with friends until it’s time for the midnight (10pm) service. We all go to that one and then come home and go to bed. On Christmas morning, we have bagels and coffee and champagne while we open our stockings, and then move on to open the rest of the presents (which takes a while because we go around and each person opens one at a time). Then we make a big brunch and usually digest/sleep it off on the couch with the fire going, watching a movie someone received as a gift. We stay in PJs all day and just veg.
    Last year I brought my boyfriend (now fiancé) home with me for Christmas, and he was a bit overwhelmed by the volume of presents my family exchanges. His family doesn’t do such a big Christmas and I was afraid he’d be uncomfortable, but I think he’s spent enough time with my family now that it seems more normal to him. I’m looking forward to starting our own Christmas traditions, though, and also spending more time with his family in the Midwest as time goes on.

    • Melissa says...

      My family too exchanges a lot of presents and a few years ago we started also the tradition to go around and each persons opens one present at a time. I love this tradition, it makes opening presents last so much longer and you can appreciate them so much more. I husband is still not very comfortable with the amount of presents but I hope he will get used to it in the next years ;)

  66. Linsey says...

    My father-in-law is from Mexico and we also do the tamales tradition. Every Christmas Eve, we meet at his house and have a big tamale dinner immediately followed by presents and watching Christmas Vacation. We are up until 1am!

  67. Jenny says...

    Ashley Sawyer’s comment was so touching <3

  68. We lost my Dad earlier this year and I had to sell my childhood home. We wanted to carry on our annual trip to Michigan to visit family, so this past weekend we went for the family party and stayed in a hotel. Everyone kept telling us we could’ve stayed with them, but it was SO nice to have our own space, go swimming and be able to relax. It felt luxurious and took some of the stress out of an already hard season.

    • Claire says...

      So sorry to hear about your dad, that must’ve been really tough. Glad you were able to get back to Michigan to see your family!

  69. I love these comments so much! I’m a huge sucker for Christmas. Even before we had kids I made my husband do a a full Christmas at home with me before we went to see our families out of state (he’s not super into holidays, but he is into champagne and french toast, and movies, and long naps, and fancy dinner). Now that we have kids I’m all about the whole thing. We do an activity advent calendar leading up to the big day, and matching Christmas pajamas, and all Christmas everything. When we are home we always do Mexican food (we live in Houston, so our food is amazing) and church on Christmas eve, then we flip on the news to see how far away Santa is before heading up to bed. When I was growing up I always shared a room with my sisters on Christmas eve, and I can’t wait for my kids to be old enough to do the same. I SWEAR we heard Santa land on the roof every year.

    This year I’m newly pregnant with my third baby so sadly, I’m not feeling well enough for all of our usual festivities, but I am SO excited to see three little faces light up on Christmas morning next year!

  70. Andrea says...

    In our twenties my sister and I would go out for dinner on Christmas Eve – we both worked second jobs in retail and HATED the Christmas season, so it was a “f*** yeah, this horrible month is finally over” dinner. We’ve continued the boozy dinner tradition since our retail days and have added husbands, friends, and babies over the years. It’s nice to have a tradition purely our own!

    I still hate going to ANY store in the month of December. I break out in a cold sweat and immediately want to punch everyone. Be kind to the retail workers, they’re just tryin’ to make it!!!

    • I can so relate to this!! I worked in retail for 15 years and I haven’t been near a mall at Christmastime in over 4!! I don’t miss Black Friday or mall Christmas shopping in the slightest, and do about 90% of my shopping online! And anytime I ever actually visit a real brick and mortar store, I make sure to hang up all my clothes from the fitting rooms (even run them back myself!), and catch myself re-folding t shirts and sweaters on tables! Merry Christmas!

  71. I love reading about everyone’s traditions. Although I don’t celebrate xmas myself, I love this time of the year and all the festivities. SakeenahBegum.com

  72. Amanda says...

    Since we’re busy visiting family on Christmas Eve and Christmas, my husband and I have our own special celebration on the 23rd each year (he named the day us-mas). We usually order takeout since we’ve cleared out our fridge before holiday travel, drink cocktails, exchange gifts and watch movies. It’s very chill way to go into the family craziness that follows. This year, we have a five month old, so we’re looking forward to getting her in on our tradition!

    • cooper says...

      I love this idea!

  73. “I went into the kitchen at one point and found my four- and two-year-olds sitting on the table, clad only in their underwear, and eating Jell-O salad with their hands… and just said, ‘Carry on, my dears,’ and walked back out.”

    This woman knows how to party! Love it!

  74. Robin J. says...

    My dad (who has three daughters) tucks us in and reads us How the Grinch Stole Christmas every Christmas Eve. He still has his copy of the book from the 1950’s, and the address of his childhood home is penned on the inside cover. Even now that we’re in our thirties and rarely all together on Christmas Eve, Dad calls us all and does his annual reading over speaker phone. He still does the funny voices he did for us when we were kids. (“Pooh pooh to the Whos!!”) It’s such a treasured ten minutes–I tear up every time.

    • Claire says...

      That is so sweet! Your dad sounds like the best.

    • Melissa says...

      Might be because I’m pregnant but this brings tears in my eyes, it so nice!!!

    • Jessica says...

      I love this!!!!

  75. On Christmas Eve, my father-in-law takes the kids (including me now that we’re married!) to the mall where we have a big lunch and then everyone picks out their own Christmas present. He then makes a big deal about wrapping them up and putting them under the tree for you to unwrap the next morning. We often get to pick out gifts for my mother-in-law too. Meanwhile, she has brunch with a group of girlfriends and goes over to a neighbor’s house in the afternoon for chatting and wine. We’ve invited her to come (fearing she felt left out), but she loves her plans with her friends and wants to keep up her own tradition. I have to say, it’s one of the things I was looking forward to the most about Christmas when we got married! I love it and can’t wait to carry on the tradition after we have our own kids.

  76. Deb says...

    I love Christmas! The trouble is that my immediate family – who get along fine most of the time! – seem to go nuts at Christmas and there’s crying and door slamming and bad food and it’s not really much fun at all. This year I am spending Christmas with just my husband-to-be at our house (I put my foot down!) I just want to have Christmas my way. The trouble is, having never had ‘my own’ Christmas, and my fiancé not really being into Christmas, I don’t know what ‘my way’ is. I’ve been really excited about it but as it approaches I’m worried I’m going to let myself down. Reading about other peoples’ traditions is perking me up again :-). Thanks (again) CoJ!

  77. Tiffany says...

    Growing up, we always had a very quiet Christmas eve with my family. We would have a chocolate fondue by the tree in the evening and then we would each be allowed to open one present – which was always new pyjamas (usually all 4 kids would get matching sets) and a book to read. We’d all put on our pyjamas – and photographic evidence suggests it would often be followed by a dance party. Then we’d go to bed with our new books. In the morning, Santa would leave our stockings outside our bedroom doors so no matter what time we woke up, we could open our stockings and read our books until the decided upon start time. And then we’d all pile into my parent’s bed and show them the things we got in our stockings before heading down together to see what Santa had left us (our Santa gifts were always fully assembled and displayed around the fire place). Now, my parents have separated and my in-laws host a huge extended family event at their house on Christmas eve and we sleep over there. It’s always fun and busy and santa comes and we sing carols. But I always miss our quiet, magical evening by the tree. I’m expecting my first child this year and I hope one day to be able to implement some of the traditions from my childhood.

  78. Allison says...

    I love traditions! One of my favorites is that each year my husband and I write big events from the past year on a cheap ornament from Target. Graduations, vacations, weddings etc. This year was a big one-we bought our first house and had our first baby! It’s a fun way to look back at years past.

    • LOVE this idea! I think I’ll start doing this. Thanks for the comment.

    • Brittany says...

      My husband and I have a photo ornament from every year we have been together.

    • Jeanne says...

      My friends take a Polaroid of their tree every year and hang it on the tree like an ornament. After many years, they now have a meta tree covered in Polaroids of past trees.

  79. My moms side of the family has always had fondu for Christmas Eve dinner, and my family followed suit, sometimes on Christmas instead. Cheese fondu for dinner and chocolate fondu for dessert! It’s so good. I don’t own a fondu pot yet (I want to get a non-nonstick one, but I just haven’t made the purchase yet!) but I can’t wait to introduce my kids to that tradition someday, sooner rather than later. My dad also always made cinnamon rolls, so I either do that or our Christmas/New Year coffee cake on Christmas morning. That once a year coffee cake is to die for. Basically a chocolate babka in bundt form….brioche rolled with chocolate, topped with crumble topping. I can’t wait!

  80. margie says...

    My husband is the audio technician for a big cathedral in the big city we live by. He is swamped with Christmas Eve services. Before we had kids, I would go with him to all of them and sit with him and drink coffee and enjoy the beautiful music and surroundings and being with him. Once we had kids, though, we couldn’t do that. Christmas Eve ends up being kind of solitary for both of us. We get home from whatever family thing we do about 9:00 p.m., because my husband has get to the cathedral to start a 10:30 p.m. service that goes past midnight on into Christmas. So it is now my tradition to get the kids to sleep, and once I know they are sound asleep, I put on our DVD of Sting at Durham Cathedral. I make myself some hot tea, and bring up all the gifts from their hiding spots, arrange them, and get everything ready for the next morning. After the Sting DVD I put on It’s a Wonderful Life and I stay up and wait for my husband to get home. It was really lonely the first couple of years, but I have tried to turn it into a reflective time. It is maybe the most quiet and peaceful chunk of time I have to myself the entire year. Once he is home we sleep for a few hours and then it’s Christmas!

  81. My grandmother was born in Stockholm and for as long as I can remember we’ve had a Scandinavian Christmas Eve. Herring in sour cream with flat bread, LOTS of akvavit and the singing of Helan Gar on repeat. The only one who really knew the words was my grandmother, so after she passed away my grandfather wrote down his English interpretation for the family. It’s ridiculous, and the more akvavit that’s poured, the better it becomes! Now that both my grandparents are gone, it’s one of our most cherished traditions, and is already being passed down to the next generation. (The song, not the shots!)

  82. Sabrina says...

    For the past 10 years a group of my girlfriends from High School get together on December 23rd for a Hard Candy Christmas (after the Dolly Parton song). We eat, drink, sing, dance, play games and watch the Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (whence the Hard Candy Christmas song is from). We also do a ridiculously awesome white elephant gift exchange.
    Over the years life has has brought us all over the country and world. But we all come back together on December 23rd!

  83. Every Christmas, my mom hosts our giant family from all different corners of the country. Everyone usually stays at my parents house and it’s an 8am-11pm daily, jam-packed week. It’s wonderful and loud and crowded and one of my favorite times of the whole year, but my dad and my introverted personalities can get a little harried by the hectic-ness that Christmas week always brings. A few years ago, My mom, dad, sister and I found ourselves alone on Christmas Eve for a few hours so we snuck in a family shot in the kitchen while no one was looking. From then on, it became a tradition. It’s silly and funny and a fun way to see my very conservative, Christian parents in a new light. I love it. (This year, we’re making a fancy one called a Slippery Nipple!)

  84. Does anyone have some suggestions for a significant other who doesn’t really care about Christmas or Christmas traditions? My family is HUGE on Christmas and I get so excited so we spend most of our holidays with them but i’m trying to get him more into it so we can do things on our own.

    • Maybe he doesn’t care for traditions because they don’t fit his interests very well? You could try some traditions that are based around things he enjoys/that you enjoy doing together – for example, if he’s into biking, you could go on a post-unwrapping bike ride on Christmas Day. What is his favorite food/drink? Make it your new Christmas dish! Where did you go on your first date? Return there on Christmas Eve each year.

    • Nicky says...

      Mine isn’t as into it as I am, probably because his family used to have large gatherings with the extended family when they were growing up, but have since split up into smaller nuclear family gatherings. I could tell this makes him sad and less into the Christmas spirit. My family still carries on a big family Christmas. So to prepare him for this, we start early on with gathering ornaments from everywhere we travel. We put up the tree together and slowly decorate throughout the month. Then on nights we have time, we pick (or rather I pick) a favorite christmas movie and cozy up on the couch with hot chocolate and peppermint sticks. Movies always do the trick.

    • Andrea says...

      I’m in the same boat. My husband grew up not celebrating Christmas, so he’s not super into it, but comes along to my family events. So we made our own tradition of going out to a special dinner on Winter Solstice on Dec 21. We pick somewhere that we would usually think was too fancy or expensive but we’ve been wanting to try, and we exchange gifts between ourselves that night. It’s been a good way for both of us to re-charge together and spend some time to ourselves before diving into the traditional holiday family festivities.

    • Cynthia says...

      Andrea, instead of trying to change your husband, might you consider ways to meet him in his desires and interests? For example, maybe he’d love a romantic, snowy walk or a dinner party for friends between Xmas and the new year, or even doing a community service project together. It’s great that you love Xmas but surely you knew your man wasn’t as enthusiastic about this holiday before you married him. Give him space if you must, but otherwise try and find a compromise that works for everyone.

    • Nicky says...

      Also our family started doing a white elephant and everyone gets SO into it. It’s the most hilarious part of our Christmas (especially if you get ridiculous gag gifts) and acts as a good ice breaker for those new to the group.

    • Maggie says...

      My parents were sort of estranged from their own parents, so we’ve always done holidays with big groups of family friends. Christmas Eve is always at the same friend’s house – the hostess makes ciopinno (a nod to seven fishes) and another friend makes bananas foster for dessert, turning off the kitchen lights before lighting the pan on fire, to the delight of all of the kids! Christmas we open presents at home in the morning, then have a potluck dinner (rotates houses each year) with a gift exchange and boozy cocktails! Both of these traditions have been going for decades.

  85. Amanda says...

    Over 10 years ago some dear friends of my family lost one of their daughters in an accident. As a coping mechanism, we invited them over for Christmas-Eve-Eve dinner and made a big production – several courses, goofy gifts, dads in Santa hats, and champagne for everyone. We’ve held on to the tradition ever since, and the event has grown to include partners, kids, and sometimes a friend who needs a little extra cheer. The holidays can be such a hard time for so many, and of course booze and sparkly scarves can’t erase that, but hosting a raucous, love-filled party can’t hurt. :)

    • Brianna says...

      This is so, so kind of you. It definitely won’t erase the hurt, but I’m sure it helps ease the pain and makes them feel loved.

    • megan says...

      Love this. <3

  86. Michelle says...

    So many great and touching stories. Rachael’s is awesome. :)

  87. Every Christmas eve growing up, my father would read The Night Before Christmas to us three girls in front of the fireplace. My sister’s would always “spy” the tips of black boots coming down the chimney as my dad read to us. As they got older, and began to stray from the tradition, I always, even through college, requested my dad read the story to me on Christmas eve. I bought a copy for our family and am hoping to have Papa read it to my son and daughter this Christmas eve for my son’s second and my daughter’s first Christmas. And oh! Stuffed artichokes, my favorite. My mom always complains that they are a pain in the butt to make- but I need them on Christmas!

  88. evan says...

    On Christmas Eve we open gifts and then have festive punch (strawberry soda + Sprite + pineapple juice I think!) and shrimp cocktails. Also, those little spiral sandwiches you can get at Sam’s or Coscto.

  89. Jill says...

    We have two traditions that I love:

    On Christmas Day, our big meal is made up of everyone’s favourites, instead of a turkey dinner. Last year we had (boxed) mac & cheese for the toddler, a cheese plate and various dips for myself, a steak and fries for my husband, and mini pizzas for our 8 year old.

    Boxing Day is also my husband’s birthday, and he hates to have the focus on him. So we’re in our 4th year or so of inviting over any friends who are in town – everybody shows up in sweatpants, and brings their leftover food/alcohol, and any gifts they received that they didn’t love, or suspect someone else may enjoy more. We eat way too much food and fight over terrible presents, and then someone inevitably breaks out the Cards Against Humanity and the night deteriorates from there ;)

    • Lauri says...

      These are lovely. I’m stealing them. Thanks for sharing!

    • Your Christmas Day food tradition is THE BEST. May have to steal this!!

    • Jennifer says...

      Oh this is brilliant! What a great thing to look forward to. Who doesn’t have leftover food and at least one present they don’t want?

  90. Lisa says...

    My family is scattered across all of Germany, so we celebrate Christmas with a different group of people each year, always at somebody else’s house. On Christmas Eve, after we have cookies, cake and coffee/hot chocolate in the afternoon, my sister and I (now 18&26) will read a Christmas story, no matter if we have an audience of 15 with 4 kids, or only our parents. When I was in elementary school, I used to have to recite a poem or a song, but I always felt horrible doing that, trying to remember a text with all the grown-ups watching expectantly. Reading a story is more relaxed for everyone. Afterwards, my dad will hand out presents from under the Christmas Tree one by one, and we watch everybody unpacking.
    On Dec. 25 and 26 (both are federal holidays here, no work, no shopping) we mainly enjoy lots of food, and talk, go for walks, and take naps. I’d change nothing :)

    I hope everyone has great holidays, and a happy, successful and healthy 2017.

  91. Tracy says...

    I love all of these! My family (and I) immigrated from China early on, and to us, Christmas has just been something we’ve gone along with as an excuse to have fun and presents and delicious food. In the past few years we’ve started the tradition of having a family vacation at Christmas time, because we all have at least a week off. Last year, we all flew from various locations and met up in South Africa for an incredible two week tour including lots of wine, steak, safari, and scenic hikes. This year, we will all meet in Baltimore and fly out on Christmas day to go to Costa Rica together for a week! We don’t have any family in Canada, we aren’t religious, and didn’t really have any super heartfelt traditions. The most important thing is that we were together, no matter what country we were in. As we get older, it’s become easier for the four of us to travel together and we are already thinking about where we want to go next year. The Galapagos? Greece?

  92. Greta says...

    When my husband and I got married 4 years ago in December, we decided to start our own tradition together. Every year, the week before Christmas, we go get at ice cream at our favorite place here in Portland, Salt and Straw, then we drive around and look at Christmas lights. It feels magical to combine two joyful treats into one at a time of year when we don’t usually go for cold treats quite as much.

    • Claire says...

      Love salt and straw. That sounds like a lovely tradition!

  93. My family goes to a Christmas Eve movie. Every year we reflect on all the movies we’ve seen together. I like to recall all the terrible ones we’ve seen together like Bicentennial Man and The Last Samurai (definitely not a Christmas movie!).

  94. Alex says...

    This will be our first Christmas as a family (husband and 15 month old) where we’re staying put at home, no traveling to my parents or my inlaws. Sooo… we’ve decided to host an orphan Christmas Eve partyat our apartment in brooklyn. Nothing fancy, no sit down dinner (we don’t have the room for that). Just a big pot of stew and some easy to eat-with-your-hands food. Beer and mulled wine. It’s an open door policy so people can stop in quickly to say hi or camp out all evening. So far we’ve got 8 people coming! I’m hoping it goes well and it’s the start of a ritual that will go on for many years.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that’s so sweet!!!

  95. Alissa says...

    These are all so lovely! I love the idea of a lazy pajama day on Christmas.

    Our newest tradition is only going into year two – last year I was quite pregnant with baby #3, so no plane travel for us. On Christmas Eve we went to church, and I was trying to come up with a fun dinner for us afterward, but also something fast given we wouldn’t be home to cook prior and we’d need to get the kids to bed. The solution – a variety of frozen appetizers from Trader Joe’s! We started the oven as soon as we walked in the door, and just threw everything in while the kids got into their Christmas pjs. We had a bottle of sparkling grape juice along with mini pizzas and quiche, pigs in a blanket, etc. Our girls thought it was so fun, and asked that night if we could do it again next year – I just stocked up at the store today!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh my gosh, i’m sure your girls LOVED it. nothing fancier than tiny bites of warm food! :)

  96. Leau says...

    It’s just my son (now grown) and I and I’ve said for years that our Christmas dinner is popcorn, Coke and Milk Duds because we spend the whole day at the theater with 100s of our newest close friends! New Mexico has lovely traditions and on Christmas Eve, we eat tamales, posole and wander around looking at the luminarias and other Christmas lights as is the tradition. Christmas Day, we eat breakfast at the same restaurant…because the manager there always feeds the homeless with great respect so we leave money to help him in his kindness…and pick which movies we’ll see…some times it’s 2, some times it’s 3, depending on how long the movies last. Some years we mix it up and add pretzel bites or Jr Mints! It works for us…love we have the freedom to choose how and when we celebrate! love them all…

  97. One of my favorite Christmas traditions started out of boredom about 6 or 7 years ago. My family spends the entire day in our PJs, watching movies, and relaxing; which is great, but makes me a little restless come nighttime. My aunt, uncle, and two cousins live about 5 minutes from us, and they spend their Christmas Day doing the exact same thing. So, one year I decided to change venues to cure my boredom. My sister and I, still in PJs, hop in the car and drive over to their house around 7pm. We do basically the same thing- food, movies, games- but getting to see more family is such a treat. Now, it’s my job to pick the new game they get every year!

    • Jaclyn says...

      My in laws do the all day pajama and lounging thing. I get soooo bored! But try to appreciate that it is their tradition and my husband loves it..so I am sure there will be an element of that in our new family traditions. Ill have to think of something like this to spice it up a bit.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      hahaha my old boyfriend’s family would lounge around and someone would always fall asleep and i would get restless! but now that i’m older and more exhausted, i definitely see the appeal :)

  98. Kirby says...

    On New Year’s Day, since none of us care for pork chops/tenderloin etc but it’s good luck to have pork on New Year’s Day, my family has a hot dog party! We started this several years ago with good family friends and each year there are more people, more toppings, and more fun. The first couple years we researched and printed out differenttopping combinations–a Chicago dog, a Coney Island dog, etc.–but now we all pretty much know them by heart!

  99. My husband and I visit his family for Christmas each year, so we usually take a weekend morning the weekend before Christmas each year to open a few small gifts, have coffee or cocoa, and listen to Christmas music. It’s so cozy & relaxed!

    http://hyggewellness.com/blog

  100. Kathryn says...

    Adding nachos to my Christmas Eve menu! Happy holidays everyone!

  101. jenn says...

    my husband and I live in the NYC area but are from the Midwest. one year when Christmas was in the middle of the week, we didn’t go “home” for Christmas, so we decided to go out just the two of us on Christmas Eve, which happened to be Taco Tuesday at our local taqueria. Considering we normally spend Christmas Eve with our families “back home”, we can’t always bank on making “Tacos on Christmas Eve” a tradition, so we made “Taco Tuesday before Christmas” a tradition… last year we ended up getting Taco Bell at 11:55pm after flying in late, but we made it!!

  102. I loved reading all of the comments last week & I got a little thrill out of seeing mine in today’s post! Looking forward to reading more today–I love seeing how everyone makes this time of year magical for their unique circumstances!

    • bisbee says...

      Ok…that’s where I saw them! I knew Inread some of these before…

  103. mitali says...

    Every year for the last 22 years my friends and I (we have known each other since 9th grade) meet on the saturday before christmas and have a party. We live all over the place now, have kids etc but we all manage to show up for this event and we all love it. We each bring one gift that someone else will randomly get and unpack them together and we all love this tradition.

  104. JB says...

    I have been dying to come up with new holiday traditions with a new husband and my family being on the other side of the country, but I have a MIL that holds tightly to doing things her way. It’s makes me dread Christmas a little bit each year, but each year I try a new little thing and try to make it stick. So far, no luck but I’m working on it and these might come in handy!

  105. Kirsten says...

    Elle’s comment reminded me of a Christmas tradition that I haven’t done since I moved away from home a decade ago now. I grew up in Colorado with a very outdoors oriented family. One time when my brother and I were both cranky tweens, my parents loaded us up in the car on Christmas Eve night and drove up to this beautiful mountain pass where we always hike in the summer. We all strapped on our cross country skis and skied back into this gorgeous clearing just above tree line. The stars were all out and the snow was just breathtaking. I still remember how calm and still it was. Until I left for college, a Christmas Eve “midnight ski” with my family on that same mountain pass was my favorite Christmas tradition. My family has all split up and doesn’t live in the mountains anymore, but I will always remember that as a really special Christmas memory.

  106. My in-laws host a huge beer tasting on Christmas Eve. There must be 30 people around their giant kitchen island, laughing, sipping craft beers, rating their sips, and just generally having a blast.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that’s so awesome!

    • Sarah says...

      We’ve done this, too! Our tradition is going on year three, but as my sister and I have gotten older and our boyfriends have joined our family for Christmas, we’ve started a blind beer tasting– each person brings 1-2 different beers, and we all rank them before unveiling what’s what! We’ve done this at our extended-family (16 person) Thanksgiving, too. It’s a fantastic way to get the boys (or any young adults) involved. And you get bonus points if you bring a locally-made brew to share + compare!

  107. oh man I love these. In my family we always go bowling on New Year’s Day- which when I was a kid was always fun, then when I was young and hungover was terrible, and now that I have a daughter is fun again!

    Xo, Brittany
    http://Www.notablob.com

  108. Kyle says...

    After the whirlwind of holiday parties, Christmas Eve dinner, and Christmas brunch, we always are so tired of cooking my Christmas dinner. In addition, my brother was a very picky eater when he was young. So, one year my mom decided to make nachos, and it stuck. 15 years later we still have our traditional Christmas Nachos – this is my first Christmas married to my husband and he is really excited to join in the tradition. :)

  109. This post is so lovely. I enjoy imagining people from different backgrounds, with different lifestyles, in different places making their lives extra magical this season. It’s a good life lesson, really, that we have the power to shape our own lives and add a bit of wonder to our days. I think this post can be encouraging too, for people who may feel left out of “traditional” celebrations and family structures. There is truly no one right way to enjoy a season and to love others and ourselves well.

    http://www.thewefiles.com

  110. Hannah says...

    I have 2 sisters, and we always watch Little Women on Christmas Eve. It’s kind of a Christmassy movie, and we always kind of saw ourselves as the sisters. I’m Jo (at least I tell myself that), Rachel is Meg, and Emma is Amy. My sister Rachel is married with two kids now, and it’s kind of weird because now we have a little brother who hates the movie. But we still find a way to watch it every Christmas Eve :)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that is so sweet!

    • Aw I love watching Little Women at Christmastime too! I also come from a family of three sisters. We always quote the line, “Don’t be such a beetle! I could never love anyone as I love my sisters.” :)

  111. Oh my goodness– Rachael’s description of her Christmas tradition is amazing, just letting everyone “be” for the day! Her children must adore it. Sitting on the table while eating jello salad with her hands sounds like my daughters dream; especially if no reprimand follows. It seems Rachael and her husband love it too. Thank you for sharing, I have a new goal for Christmas Day — it will be hard for me–wish me luck!

    • It seriously is the best–just for one day!! (But I do have to clean up after the kids are in bed so I don’t get up to a totally trashed house the next day!) ;-)

  112. Charlotte K says...

    Fancy & expensive once a year only seafood and champagne … and a Lord of the Rings marathon!!! (at least this year!)

  113. Danielle says...

    I loved reading about all of these special traditions and I look forward to making more with my husband and kids throughout the years. I wish you all a beautiful holiday with family and friends.

  114. My partner and I do a Christmas themed puzzle, in which we race the clock to finish before Christmas Day. We also buy a special ornament every holiday season to add to the tree. We’ve got some super cute ones so far, that really represent each year!

    http://objectsicantafford.com/

  115. Rachael says...

    Ashley Sawyer your post brought happy tears to my eyes! Wishing you a wonderful Christmas eve x

  116. Elizabeth says...

    We always host my husband’s parents, siblings and cousins on Christmas Eve….where we put out all the toppings you can imagine, and everyone makes their own individual pizza.

    It’s fun and casual, and who doesn’t love pizza?!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that’s really cute!

    • amy says...

      We do the same thing! It was my husband’s family tradition when he was growing up, and it’s stuck for our family now! It’s nice to have an easy, interactive meal! We usually eat our pizzas while watching my favorite holiday movie, Home Alone!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      we watched home alone for the first time with the boys this weekend and it was so entertaining! they could not have loved it more.

  117. Alice says...

    What fun ideas! Thank you!

  118. Sarah Kang says...

    I want to steal the nachos tradition ;) And I’m so glad your dad is feeling a little better, Katherine!

  119. Colleen says...

    Ashley Sawyer I want to hug you! I hope that you have the most wonderful life and are surrounded by dear friends and a family of your own making for ever and ever.

    • Lauren Lyons says...

      I feel exactly the same way, Ashley Sawyer!! I am super impressed at how you made a wonderful life for yourself! So happy you have your best friend + I wish you continued joy + happiness together. Merry Christmas.