15 Winter Holiday Traditions Passed Down from Our Families
The holiday season is certainly the most wonderful time of the year, thanks to the many festivities and traditions we celebrate and share with friends and family.
In honor of the season, A Place for Mom is sharing favorite holiday traditions passed down by generations of loved ones. We hope you enjoy reading through them, and invite you to share your favorite traditions with us in the comments below.
Our Holiday Season Traditions
The holiday traditions listed below are favorite family traditions from us here at A Place for Mom.
1. Sara K., Community Relations Advisor
“I have two traditions that my grandma created for us. One was making gingerbread houses as a family. We would get together weeks before Christmas and decorate houses. It was a great time, outside of the hustle and bustle of the actual holiday, where we were able to connect, be creative and create memories with my sister, mom, cousins, aunts and grandma.”
“She also had a tradition of making chili and oyster stew every Christmas Eve. We would go to church and head over to grandma and grandpa’s afterwards, where the feast would be waiting. We all looked forward to this long standing tradition with family!”
“Each year our family tries to do some sort of “mandatory family fun” activity with my husband’s brothers family. When you get the aunts, uncles and cousins together it gets wild! This past year we outdid ourselves by telling the kids the holiday “mandatory family fun” was spending Christmas in Key West together! Yes, we were one of “those” families with the matching t-shirts on the sunset cruise — but it was a fabulous memory we all love to share! It is our hope that the cousins will continue with this tradition as they grow up and start their own families!”
3. Jennifer K., Support Specialist
“My family is Korean and every New Year’s Day we get together to eat ddukguk, a type of soup made with glutinous rice cakes. It is said that eating it on New Year’s Day will bring good luck and longevity. It is a very special time for my family to celebrate good food, love, and our cultural heritage.”
4. Ellen B., Community Relations Advisor
“On New Year’s Eve, my family would gather with another family and spend the night watching movies, playing cards, making pizzas and eating party foods. At midnight, all of the children would find an old pot or pan and a spoon and run around the house hitting the pots and pans, making all kinds of racket to ring in the New Year. Our ears were literally ringing! I think this tradition has gone on for a good 20 years now, at least!”
“Traditionally, we decorate our tree the first or second weekend of Advent. We all get a new ornament each year, and talk about each ornament and its meaning to us while listening to Christmas carols… my favorite is a plastic lamb I got from an aunt my first Christmas. It had teeth marks on it from when I was younger, and I present it front and center high up on the tree where no one else can reach it. We have expensive ornaments from all over the world, and candles that we light on Christmas Eve while singing Christmas carols, but nothing says Christmas to me like my ugly plastic lamb…”
“In lieu of giving presents to every adult in my extended family, we do a “white elephant” gift exchange Christmas night that dates back to 1978. The gifts that we exchange are typically recycled gifts — usually items found around the house that aren’t used anymore. In years past we have fought over used basketballs, old track lighting and surge protectors. Keep in mind that these spirited exchanges are usually fueled by lots of spiked eggnog! Occasionally, something cool will show up like 4 tickets to the Georgia Aquarium, or an old copy of “War and Peace” with a $100 bill tucked between the pages. It isn’t about the gifts, really. It’s about getting together and laughing a lot as a family.”
“Each year, the “White Elephant” is an old sterling silver Champagne bucket. It is an honor to end up with this treasure (after greedily stealing it out of your 73-year-old uncle’s hands). My sister-in-law ended up with the bucket the year she married my brother. It wasn’t the wedding ceremony that made her feel like part of our family — it was having her name engraved on the bucket that really made her feel like she was ‘one of us,’ as she put it. The bucket has been misplaced several times over the years, but it eventually finds its way back. My husband ‘won’ the bucket last year. It will be in our house for another few weeks before his name is engraved and it moves on with the next lucky family member.”
“Every year on the first Saturday in December, Saint Nicholas comes to visit all of the children in our family. He was a saint in Europe that used to go to all of the children’s homes that had nothing (they had to be good children — of course) and leave them change, nuts, fruit and a small item that they really needed (a pair of socks, shoes, etc.). It has grown over the years and we have added chocolates and cookies, but truly have tried to keep it to the tradition passed down from my family in Germany. They still only get one gift that they really need, not just want. Everything is placed on a plate in front of the fireplace. The kids look forward to it and it starts the spirit of giving and helping others in need during the holidays!”
8. Bobbie R., Senior Living Advisor
“In trying to find something new and fun to do for the holiday, we adopted “The 12 Days of Christmas.” Each person gets a list of mixed up names and for the 12 days prior to Christmas Eve, you put a small wrapped gift in the stocking of the person that was on your list for that particular day. On Christmas Eve, we all get together and open our 12 small stocking gifts while sitting around the tree.”
“My Uncle Dee and father loved Christmas. My father because of his deep abiding love and faith as a Christian, and my uncle because of the joy of generosity of serving and family. Both always came together on Christmas Eve for a LaRue Christmas. My uncle and his partner Ron would spend weeks decorating their home with hand-painted Analee Mice and figures and preparing meals for the family on Christmas Eve and Brunch on Christmas Day. I’m not sure when the tradition of oyster stew came into the family, but it had been there for at least three generations before I carried it on. My grandparents, father and uncle are now gone, but the tradition of putting the Analee mice and my father’s hand carved Santa continue on today. Every Christmas Eve there is a spread of seafood including the oyster stew that is a part of our traditional Christmas Eve. Every year I talk to our grandsons about the two brothers who are now gone and the love of family and generosity on Christmas.”
“Our family usually gathers at one house with grandparents, siblings, children, aunts and uncles, cousins and extended family members for a big Thanksgiving meal — but we also do this for any major holiday when we gather together. The “under 70 years old” family members all go on a hike afterwards at a nearby state natural area called Radnor Lake. Everyone contributes to the meal from the different households represented so no one has burdened with all of the cooking. This was last year’s picture of the “younger” family members on the hike. We had everyone from 18-89 years in attendance for the meal and 18-65 years on the hike!”
“Every year for as long as I can remember, my mother put a white table cloth out on the main table at Christmas dinner. At the end of the meal, everyone who was present that year would write their name, the year, and sometimes a short message (“Green Christmas” for example). Sometime over the next 12 months (before the sheet was washed) my mom would embroider the penmanship with green and/or red thread. It leaves a permanent record of all the Christmases the table cloth had lived through. I can see what my handwriting looked like when I was 4 years old. Last year, the age range was between 8 months and 93 years old.”
“It was so popular with the group that about 20 years ago, one of the “kids” who grew up doing it started a second table cloth so they would have their own record — I guess in case the families ever had separate Christmases.”
12. Claudia K., Senior Living Advisor
“All the ladies in the family pick a day to bake Christmas cookies. We each bring the dough of our favorite cookie or candy and bake all day. Of course we make the favorite Christmas cookies we have made for years, but we also introduce a new cookie each year to see if will become a new favorite. After all the baking is done, we then package them in beautiful small boxes and give them to family and friends. We are testing the cookies all day to make sure they are good for everyone else, however. It is a very fattening day.”
13. Kathleen G., Support Specialist
“My mother’s family has always gotten together for the fall and winter holidays, and we always see the same people and eat the same food. One year my cousins and I realized we don’t eat Green Bean Casserole, but still see it as a “classic” holiday dish, on television. We asked our moms about why were don’t eat it like other families do. They thought about it, shrugged, and said: “Our moms never served it.” I’ve still never had it at our gatherings, and I will probably never serve it at my own.”
14. Erin K., Business Development Specialist
“My whole life, my family has lived close and gotten together every year for the holidays. We are all very musical, so music has always been a big part of our holiday celebrations. Usually, at some point during the holiday, we will get together with whichever family is hosting the celebration that year, and sing Christmas songs and play piano.”
15. Caitlin B., Web Copywriter and Editor
“Growing up with parents in the military meant that we were stationed across the country and never near any family during the holidays. Therefore, the traditions that my family had passed down to us were more important to celebrate than anything. My favorite tradition was writing letters to loved ones who I couldn’t celebrate with that year. It made it feel like we were still connected, even from many miles away, and it helped me become the storyteller I am today. Each year I still exchange letters with loved ones during the holiday season.”
Do you have any holiday traditions passed down by loved ones? Share your favorite traditions with us in the comments below.
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