My Family’s Holiday Traditions

Happy holiday, everyone! As we near closer and closer to Christmas, I thought I’d share about some of my favorite holiday traditions celebrated during this time of year. One of the things that makes the holidays so special is continuing past traditions and creating new ones, so here are some of my favorites.

The Feast of St. Nicholas.

St. Nicholas is most well known in the West as the beloved patron saint of children and gift-giving. According to tradition, Nicholas’ parents died when he was young, leaving him a large sum of money. With his inheritance, Nicholas practiced charity, helping those in need.

On December 6th, my siblings would wake to find a small gift our shoes. There was always a special book–typically a Christmas story–from St. Nicholas, along with some fruit or chocolates. As avid readers, my brother, sister, and I loved the early hint of the holidays and talks about generosity and helping our neighbors in those weeks leading up to Christmas.

Holiday Baking

During the holiday season, I would visit my grandmother and bake with her. My favorites were her homemade gingerbread, icebox cookies, and cookies made with wood rolling pin embossed with holiday emblems. My aunts, cousins, siblings, and other family members would crowd into my grandma’s small kitchen to participate in the baking and tasting.

Since my sister move away, we have invited friends over when she’s back in town to decorate sugar cookies and catch up. There are friends of all ages and it’s a special time.

Additionally, my mother-in-law hosts a baking day each December. Family and friends show up with recipes and ingredients, and it is serious business! Everyone goes home with cookies to share with their family and friends.

Christmas Eve

When I was one-month old, my parents started a tradition of spending the say at the zoo. Amongst all the hustle and bustle, they wanted a quiet getaway and for a solid decade we were the only ones there. My siblings and I are all grown now, but we still spent Christmas Eve at the zoo most years. We bring lunch, buy kettle corn and hot chocolate, and check our favorite animals and any new exhibits. It’s my favorite tradition, and one I hope to carry one if I ever have children.

In the evening, we would go to Catholic mass.

After that, we spend the evening with my dad’s family. We join my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins for dinner, followed by gifts. Starting with the youngest grandchild, each kid opened up their gift from grandpa and grandma. While the big gifts were opened, we distributed stockings from the grandparents and small gifts from the aunts and uncles amongst ourselves.

Up until the 2008 recession, the adults had a white elephant exchange and my grandparent’s house was filled with uproarious laughter as gifts were opened and stolen.

Christmas Day

On Christmas morning, everyone gathers around the tree to open stockings together. Then, gifts are distributed and opened. The day is often quite laid back. We put holiday bow ties on the pets and laugh. When we were young, we excitedly tested out the new bike, roller-blades, or craft kit.

We eat breakfast as a family and then, some years, go for dinner at my maternal uncle’s home with his family. For the past decade, Christmas Day has been split between my family and my boyfriend’s family. Each year, we check in and build our plans around everyone else–nothing is set in stone.

Before she passed away, my maternal grandmother would come over on Christmas morning for gifts and breakfast. We had a tradition in which a tube of lipstick was wrapped and hidden somewhere in the tree. I’m not sure the story behind that, so I will need to ask.

Do you have any special family traditions?

What about you? Do you have any favorite holiday memories or special family traditions? Are there any traditions you haven’t yet implemented, but hope to start in the future?

12 thoughts on “My Family’s Holiday Traditions

  1. I love the tradition of visiting the zoo during a quieter, more peaceful time. Your description of that sounds lovely. Thanks for sharing! Yes to all the wonderful rituals…the constancy, consistency gives me hope. Don’t fret – just repeat the pattern…just because.
    We make reindeer cookies…I’ll need to do a post about that…it’s not Christmas without them! I’ll need to think about the tube of lipstick! That’s fun and funny! Hugs to you, Erin! 😉😘😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, the zoo is easily my favorite tradition. 😊 I suppose it is the constancy, paired with family, nature, and a hint of novelty. I would love to hear about the reindeer cookies… how fun!!! Hugs to you too, Vicki! 😘

      Liked by 2 people

  2. We’re starting over. Both my wife and I were raised with a hollow, superficial, broadly agnostic cultural christianity. It wasn’t healthy.

    It’s taken me a long while, but now that the wife has let go of the holy ghost and we’re both doing Asatru, we aim to be implementing adapted pagan Yule traditions. Honouring ancestors at dinners, is a start. Wee lad isn’t old enough to grasp metaphors, so we have this year for fiddle sticks, and next year for the meat and potatoes.


    1. I think that’s wonderful that you’ve found a set of traditions that feel like a better fit and, beyond that, are further adapting as you see fit. Honouring ancestors at dinners sounds like a great place to start, especially in a day and age where many are shamed for their European ancestry.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s amazing to look back on what our ancestors endured in hopes of a better life for their prodigy, and it seems to be a lost art. I, too, can trace my lineage back to 1620s Colonial America, and then a few lines of nobility back to ~1000. Though, as you mention, it’s descriptors of location or vocation, which may then evolve into family names. It’s so fascinating!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. We celebrated Ukrainian Christmas with my father. I had gotten away from that, but this year plan on making gluten-free pierogis for the family. Love the idea of going to the zoo on Christmas eve! Happy Holidays to you and yours!


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