Relationships

Our five holiday traditions


After writing about our new holiday ritual for Toby, I was really inspired by everyone else’s holiday traditions. So we decided to nab four… :)

1. Many readers said their families eat a specific dinner on Christmas Eve every year. One reader’s family makes grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup. Another reader’s family bakes homemade pizzas. My mom’s friend’s family has Champagne and shrimp. I love the idea of having a Christmas Eve dinner tradition. Last year, my dad happened to make grilled salmon, followed by these chocolate lava cakes. So now he’s doing it again this year:)

2. A reader named Jenny shared this magical tradition: “Every year, my mom, my sisters and I would pick a night and sleep under the Christmas tree. We’d pull out sleeping bags, drink egg nog and talk about our favorite memories. Then we’d fall asleep under the twinkling lights and shiny ornaments.” How cute is that? When Toby is old enough (five? six?), I’d love to start this one.

3. A bunch of readers said they got new pajamas on Christmas Eve. “I’m 22 years old, and I STILL get pjs from my grandparents!” said a reader named Olivia. (And remember these three cuties?) So we decided to get Toby a new pair for tonight.

4. Finally, I loved the idea of giving your child a special ornament every year. “I’m now 27, and my Christmas tree is full of memories from when I was little,” said a reader named Jessy. Toby’s first ornament is this one, below, featuring his little profile from these beach photos, made by Lasso Creations.

5. Plus, we’ll be doing our angel chimes

Thank you so much for the inspiration, you guys! Happy holidays!!!

(Top photo of my brother, sister and me one Christmas morning)

  1. we would get clues that led all over the house and finally to the stockings! My mom said she started it one year that we didn’t have many presents as a way to make the morning last longer but we loved it so much (and my parents loved the chance to wake up) that we ended up doing it as long as we lived at home!

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  2. In addition to getting an ornament for each child each year, my Mom started the tradition of collecting an ornament from every place we go on vacation. We write the date and the location in an obscure place (often the bottom) with sharpie. My husband and I have continued the tradition and several friends have adopted it. I love to decorate the tree and think of all the awesome trips we have taken together and separately. Since we often travel with friends I get to think of them as well.

  3. I love the idea of sleeping around the Christmas tree and can’t wait to introduce that when my little guy is older!! I always cook seafood gumbo on Christmas Eve after going to church. And my parents always give us a pair of JCrew PJ pants, always in the same gift bags which are now taped together.

    Another fun tradition that we do with my in-laws is on New Years Eve, everyone tells a highlight or two of the year (nobody can have the same thing) and they are written down and kept in a special box. We’ve been doing it for 5 years now and it’s so fun to read through the highlights from years past! Even when we’re not all together we call in our highlights on the phone.

  4. I wanted to tell you that we stayed at this incredible lodge over the holiday, Mankas at Inverness here in California and each night they left us gifts. The last night they left angle chimes! I thought of you and traditions. I can’t wait to light ours next Christmas.

  5. Your post is very nice and beautiful andjmifx i got many
    tips ideas from your post thanks for sharing :)

  6. Your post is very nice and beautiful andjmifx i got many
    tips ideas from your post thanks for sharing :)

  7. Our family tradition is simple and silly: the kids (for us that means the 20-somethings) wake up earlier than the rest, open their stockings and make breakfast for the family. We’ve been doing it since the end of middle school and still cherish it.

  8. Christmas week, our family sleep together in the family room where the Christmas Tree is, with it’s lights on. Throughout December we watch a Christmas movie every week and Christmas themed books in a basket under the tree (I forgot this year, oops).

    A new tradition I started this year, we saw the film ‘The Polar Express’ and in the boys’ Santa Stocking, I put in a bell with a red ribbon. Every year, I will put in a new one as long our children still believe in ‘The Spirit of Christmas’. Our children kept ringing the bell on and off throughout the day. Wonderful!

  9. Toby is seriously such a cute little guy. I LOVE that ornament.

  10. It’s wonderful that you are starting traditions. I am 58 and think traditions are wonderful for children. I so enjoyed watching my two sons doing some of the same traditions with their children that we did when they were young. Great job!

  11. Our daughter just had her second Christmas, but is still a little young to ‘get it’. But I decided this year to start the tradition of new socks & pajamas on Christmas Eve in our stockings – we haven’t bothered with ‘real’ gifts yet for her because she gets so much new stuff from grandparents and aunts and uncles and it seems pointless. I end up hiding half the stuff she gets and doling it out later anyway :) But I think we’ll end up doing the ‘one thing you want, one thing you need, one thing you wear (pajamas, in this case) and one thing you read’ idea as our kid(s) get older. Otherwise the gifts just get so out of hand.

  12. My mother has given my sister and I a new ornament every year since we were born as well. Her idea was that by the time we were old enough to move out, we’d have enough ornaments to fill our own trees. (Though she still gives them to us although we’ve both grown up and moved out.) They’ve become so much more to me than “something to fill my tree.” It’s a great tradition, and one I’m glad you started with Toby! He may not appreciate them now or even in ten years, but he certainly will when he’s grown. :)

  13. My husband’s yearly ornaments are such an important part of our life. His mom died unexpectedly when he was 11, but each year until that she bought or made the kids their own ornaments. Now it’s a really special thing for us to decorate our tree with them and remember her. Even seeing her handwriting on the bottom that says, “Tyler 1995” gets me all teary-eyed!

    Because it’s been so special to have all those ornaments picked out by his mom, we’ve started it as a tradition, too. I pick one out for our kids for each year, and then one family ornament (or “couples” ornament) that summarizes our year. For example, this year we splurged and bought a Balsam Hill Christmas tree (!!) and also moved to the Bay area. So naturally I fell in love with a rainbow-colored christmas tree ornament!

  14. And Christmas music! I used to love listening to the same albums each year – in the car & at home – now I have a cd of my favourite Christmas songs downloaded from iTunes :)

  15. My family also always has a big Polish meal on Christmas Eve; sausage, kapusta, pierogi, potato salad, etc., etc…so yummy!

  16. When I was little and we (mom & brothers) lived with my Grandparents, my Grampa would make an omelet every Christmas morning. He made the best and despite my past/best efforts, my omelet making skills are severely lacking.

    A tradition I was introduced to in my boyfriend’s family, is every Thanksgiving his Mom gives everyone a new Hallmark ornament. Each person has their own series and it’s so fun to be able to look back and cherish those memories.

  17. I had that same pink princess doll when I was young! Loved it sooooo much. Makes me smile to see it again — thanks!

  18. I’m more than a little late with this suggestion, but to add to the Christmas ornament idea – my mom would buy an ornament for me and my brother each year and we’d write down the year along with a few of our favorite things on the back. When we were little it was things like Tweety Bird and “What is Love” (that song from Night at the Roxbury – yeah, my brother was a weird kid), but it’s a nice way to look back on those years. It’s also a bit embarrassing to see our history of terrible taste in music, but I still love this tradition!

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  20. wow, i love your list of traditions. I try to take a few from my husband’s side (but mostly from mine, to be honest) … we also make sure to go out for a Christmas day walk in central park … to feel the cool air against our faces and work up an appetite for dinner!

  21. My parents are divorced, so we’ve always shuttled between my mom and dad’s on Christmas. My mom, of course, kept up all her traditions, but with my bachelor dad, we had to make some new ones.

    Since my dad always made us omelettes as children, we decided that whether we woke up at my dad’s or went over there in the afternoon, we’d have breakfast with him. Sometimes it’s pancakes and bacon at 7:30 at night or the cinnamon rolls and fruit we had this morning… It’s good to have traditions and I hope we’ll keep it up.

  22. Love Christmas traditions! Happy Christmas to you and your family xx

  23. Love the sleeping-under-the-christmastree-tradition.
    In my family we have some similar ones: the christmas ornament one (although our tree this year was so tiny we couldn’t even use half of the ones we have), playing the same CD of christmas songs while decoration, similar food, etc.
    But most of all we also have the PJ-tradition. My dad remembered it from his childhood some years ago and re-introduced it. Now we all love it. He gets us (mom, dad, my brother and I) all matching PJs on christmas eve – and we are both adults in our 20ies. It cracks us up every time and then christmas morning we take pictures all in our PJs – it’s the funniest thing ever. This year they were robes (even for the guys!), striped in different colors.
    Merry Christmas!

  24. Merry Christmas to you Joanna and your little family. May you have the most marvellous time celebrating the holiday season. Big hello from Sydney Australia.

  25. My family does all four of those (we make Tortellini soup on Christmas Eve), and I just looooove having so many years and layers of traditions to celebrate with them! Excited for you and your family to build your own. I’d say the ornament one is a favorite. My mom used to buy or make them for all eight of us kids, but in recent years my little sister has taken over, and it’s such fun seeing her creativity come out and get displayed right there on the tree!

  26. Merry Christmas! My family shares many of these traditions. Every Christmas eve we have some sort of soup with a Christmas-y pasta: little Christmas trees or red and green stripes. We always watch It’s a Wonderful Life and open our pjs (always in the same gift bags!)

  27. Cheerful Christmas Jo – have a mind-blowing one with your families and that beautiful little man of yours. We’re commemorating with the inclusion of a new pet! Mad. Great thing she was extremely adorable at the instant and why I find travel agents that was acquiring a awesome encounter for my vacation trip with my family too this holiday.

  28. The ornament idea is beyond adorable!

  29. It makes me so happy that you picked my tradition (#2)! I hope it brings you all as much joy as it has brought my family. I honestly look forward to it every year : ) Happy holidays!

    http://www.jennyslittlelife.blogspot.com/

  30. Like your reader Olivia, I’m twenty one and my sisters and I have been getting ‘christmas pyjamas’ for my mum for very many years. Part of the tradition is that we close our eyes when our mum hands them to us!
    I’ve just had a lovely polka-dot grey Muji pair and I’m so excited to put them on!

    Amelia Rose x

  31. Our family writes a clue on each gift – the more convoluted and misleading the better. For example I got my mom moccasins this year and the clue is “A cozy sty” as in a cozy place to keep your piggies (toes!). Then each person has to guess before opening their gift. It makes for a lot of laughs and extends the gifting process through out the whole morning. We usually have to have a half time for breakfast.

  32. I am 26 and every year I get PJs on Christmas Eve, and I always put them on. As a child we had a big party on Christmas Eve so I would put them on in front of everyone, still not at 26 I put them on for my family, usually over my clothes. We are French Canadian so we have a big dinner of Christmas Eve and the smaller kids open their gifts.

  33. I am 26 and every year I get PJs on Christmas Eve, and I always put them on. As a child we had a big party on Christmas Eve so I would put them on in front of everyone, still not at 26 I put them on for my family, usually over my clothes. We are French Canadian so we have a big dinner of Christmas Eve and the smaller kids open their gifts.

  34. Merry Christmas Jo – have a divine one with your families and that divine little man of yours. We’re celebrating with the addition of a new puppy! Mad. Good thing she is super cute at the moment! xxx

  35. My children have been receiving a special ornament from their paternal grandmother since they were babies. They are now 19 and 17 so we are starting to run out of room on the tree! However, I like to think that when they leave home and have Christmas trees of their own they will already have a tree full of memories :)

  36. Pyjamas as a Christmas gift is an excellent idea!
    Family tradition is great.

  37. I love that you use your blog to take inspiration from your readers. What a good use of your blog! Also, family traditions are so wonderful. I love the one about sleeping under the Christmas tree. That’s so sweet! =]

    Kate from Clear the Way

  38. yep! my family did #3 and #4 (eventually we stopped the ornament one because we just had way too many!). and we still do #1. but I am in Arizona with my boyfriend’s family this Christmas, and I don’t think they have a traditional Christmas dinner that they eat every year… I’m not sure what we’ll be having, so I’ll be surprised! :)

  39. Oooh yum, how good are Trader Joe’s lava cakes?! I swear by baking them in the oven though, it only takes about 15 minutes but makes a world of difference.

    Love the little ornament idea. :) We have started that tradition this year too.

  40. Those are some really sweet and wonderful traditions! I love the idea of sleeping under the tree, and if it’s done in new pjs then so much the better! When we start our own family I hope my husband and I make some beautiful traditions of our own. (And maybe I’ll borrow some of these!) For now, my favorite holiday tradition is the making of insane and wacky christmas cookies, you can see a few from our past here:

    http://nomadic-d.blogspot.com/2012/12/traditional-cookies.html

  41. One of my family’s Christmas traditions is to take a trip to the snow the day after, actually–and since we live in California’s Central Valley and the Bay Area, snow’s a big deal! It’s lovely to head to Yosemite when the trees are icicled and the fields are virgin powder. Plus there’s hardly a soul around.

    My mom has done that with the Christmas ornaments every year. But my favorites are the ones my brother and I made ourselves when we were young.

  42. Every Christmas Eve my sister and I get to open one present. That present is always matching pajamas out mom picked out. We are 25 an 22

  43. I’m 26 and still open my new Christmas PJs every year on Christmas Eve :) I love that tradition! We also do the same meal on Christmas Eve every year… a big, big antipasti spread, and traditional homemade tamales. I can’t wait! Merry Christmas!

  44. when you wrote the original post I thought “eh, I don’t have that many traditions” but now reading this one, I do every single one of these– except sleeping under the tree, which sounds delightful. We’re still trying to find our traditional c-eve dinner, since our family is still young, and we’re just starting to do christmases on our own. We’ve done homemade pasta two years, and take-out two years… but mostly I’m starting to love having c-eve dinner with friends. We do have a traditional c-day breakfast though: a breakfast strada with li’l smokies and a danish tea ring, which is basically just cinnamon rolls, but instead of cutting them out individually, you wrap the dough into a large ring. it’s beautiful!

  45. This is my 2nd married Christmas, so my husband and I are still figuring out our traditions. I’m going to try and start one tonight by getting us pajamas (AKA winter-patterned boxers) and a Christmas movie (Elf).

  46. I love traditions especially around the holidays! My husband and I have been giving each other ornaments every year since we hve been dating and this year we, like you, are including our little guy!

    merry merry christmas!
    chelsea
    Haute Child in the City

  47. I love these! Our tradition was that my mom would make a scavenger hunt for our stockings every Christmas morning… we would get clues that led all over the house and finally to the stockings! My mom said she started it one year that we didn’t have many presents as a way to make the morning last longer but we loved it so much (and my parents loved the chance to wake up) that we ended up doing it as long as we lived at home!

    and now I can’t wait until someday we have kids so we can do it with them as well :)

  48. I love traditions.. and while we don’t celebrate Christmas ever since we had our son we have been trying to create various traditions.. He is still too young but when he is older I hope they are things he comes to cherish.

  49. This is our first Christmas with our Baby. She doesn’t really understand what’s happening yet but I love showing her everything. She picked out an owl ornament at the store and put it on the tree herself (with much coaxing from us of course). I love that ornament with Toby’s profile! Might have to get one for my Baby even though it’ll be an after Christmas present!

    Merry Christmas Joanna!