Happy first day of December! I wrote a post about our childhood Christmas traditions six years ago here and it’s something I’ve been giving some thought recently as we approach our first Christmas with two children of our own. Our family Christmases have evolved in recent years with family members moving out of New England, getting married, starting families of their own (not to mention collectively surviving a pandemic!) and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel a twinge of sadness at not having the original ~20 person crew under one roof. On a happier note, Teddy turned two in the fall and is starting to grasp the concept of Santa Claus, pointing out Christmas trees everywhere, and wanting to twist on the candles in our windows and his excitement about the holidays has been contagious. So while there are many family traditions I wrote about in this post (the menu! the dessert! reading this illustrated copy of The Night Before Christmas!) that I hope we’ll stick with forever, I’d love to lean in to the newness of our revised celebrations and start a new tradition or two befitting this new chapter. (Isn’t it interesting to think about how traditions start? Like what year did my parents and aunts and uncles first decide on lobster on Christmas Eve or twice baked potatoes on Christmas Day — and who made sure they stuck every year since?!) I would love to hear what traditions your family most looks forward to each holiday season, whether they’re about shared experiences, recipes you must make, songs you must listen to, etc.!

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  1. My favorite Christmas Eve tradition is my mom’s homemade vegetable soup. She never wanted to be stressed and in the kitchen on Christmas Eve so she started to make vegetable soup. It is the best and always brings back wonderful memories.

    Also, before Elf on the Shelf was a thing (I’m 56…) my mom would would have us all look at the tree before going to bed on Christmas Eve. We would point out our favorite ornaments and notice where they were put on the tree. She told us at midnight the magic of Christmas would bring our ornaments to life and the next morning they were in different places. After going to bed she would rearrange the ornaments. For years we believed they all came to life.

  2. I love hearing everyone’s traditions! My husband’s family always went out to a nice dinner Christmas Eve and we have carried on the tradition. We get all dressed up and enjoy a beautiful meal- without the dishes! Our elf brings Christmas jammies on the night of Thanksgiving and we always watch White Christmas while eating our pie as a way to kick off the season. Christmas morning we open gifts by having the youngest pick a gift to for someone else under the tree and we all watch them open – from youngest to oldest we each pick a gift for someone else to open until they are all done. A tradition I started with my girls is each year I pick a unique wrapping paper for each girl- a square of it is placed in the bottom of their stocking. We open our stockings to discover which wrapping paper we each have under the tree. It’s fun to discover your unique paper and it means I don’t have to put gift tags on anything! Lastly we started a tradition a few years ago of serving fondue for Christmas dinner- it’s easy and folks can choose from an assortment of roasted vegetables, fruit, meat and bread to dip in the warm cheese. There is something for everyone, even the picky eaters!

  3. I was able to grow up near both sets of grandparents & cousins. Christmas Eve was my mom’s side of the family. We’d have a fancy dinner, Grandma always changed it up from Roast, to Duck to Turkey to Salmon, etc. Dessert was always the same, rice pudding with a hidden almond to be found in just one person’s dish. The person with the almond got a special gift. As we got older, the special gift became lottery scratch off tickets. After that, we were able to open presents under the decorated tree that was topped with a Moravian Star and splashed with tinsel and ornaments. Christmas morning was spent at home with parents and siblings. Christmas afternoon was spent with my dad’s side of the family and cousins. We ate a big ham and turkey dinner with so many sides. We would have a yule log cake for dessert. We then did a gift exchange amongst the cousins then we’d open our gifts from our grandparents. Until us two youngest cousins were able to grasp the idea of the exchange we always gave each other the Lifesaver books. Now with grandparents, parents, aunts & uncles in heaven, and us cousins living far away, we have established our own family traditions or kept some from our youth. I wish you the best Mackenzie as you discover the traditions best for you and your family.

  4. We do a number of traditions already mentioned here. Additionally, as a single proud Aunt of 7 nieces and nephews and 11 greats, I’ve given them initialed/dated Christmas ornaments – eventually 21 all together – and unique Chrisrmas books signed/dated through elementary age, so after college they will have their own collections when they begin their independent adult lives. There was also a “Happy Birthday” Jesus cake served at brunch or dinner. Christmas music was played constantly, too, especially that of my lawyer cousin who compiled a variety of Holiday arrangements – from classical to modern – on CD’s which were given to family and friends.

  5. My mom’s side of the family in Maine always did a party Christmas Eve when I was growing up, and Tortiere (French Canadian meat pie) was always served! The past several years the party has moved to Christmas Day brunch, but meat pie is still there. 🙂 I didn’t travel home last year because of COVID, so I made a Tortiere for my roommate and I!

    xoxo A

  6. I posted about this on my blog yesterday, actually, as well! 🙂 We also read The Night Before Christmas. I also always try to watch The Bishop’s Wife. My grandfather would send the final sermon to all his family and friends, and I’d read it aloud at home. He passed away on Thanksgiving, so I will be taking over that tradition for our family.

  7. I’ve been doing Christmas pjs for my girls since the oldest was born. This year, I decided to wrap them up and give them today (Dec 1) as an early Christmas present/advent celebration. It seemed silly to wait until Christmas Eve to wear the new pjs! One tradition I hope to continue for the 3rd year in a row is walking our neighborhood on Christmas Eve with my husband and daughters looking at the lights and singing Christmas carols. We call it caroling but we don’t actually go to anyone’s house so we’re just crazy people walking around singing! It’s dark and freezing though so we don’t usually have an audience 🙂 Hearing my preschooler sing is just about the cutest thing ever.

  8. My family has always had salmon and attended evening Mass on Christmas Eve. To this day, I’ve never eaten meat on Christmas Eve, even when I’m not with my family. On Christmas Day, we’d have a big breakfast (always my grandmother’s waffle recipe) and open gifts and stockings before putting the turkey in the oven. If we were home in Canada, all of the cousins would go sledding or we have a chip and putt contest if we were all in Arizona! We always watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” on Christmas Eve and “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” on Christmas Day.
    Now that I’m married and we live far away (2800 miles!) in a different country from our families, my husband and I have started our own Christmas Eve and Christmas Day traditions while still incorporating ones from each of our childhoods. We tend to go out for dinner on Christmas Eve, but still make waffles for breakfast and a big turkey dinner on Christmas Day. We also go for a walk after we open our stockings and gifts (usually for holiday drinks at Starbucks). We also give one another a new ornament every year and exchange those the day we decorate the tree!

  9. Growing up there are several traditions including my mom’s family including visits from Santa and lots of delicious desserts.
    But one I have already adopted with my husband is a new ornament (or several) to represent something that happened during the previous year.
    My parents would gift me one every year : ranging from simple Disney ones to a plane for my first flight, a cheerleader, a car, etc. I have amassed QUITE a collection (that I leave at home, which my mother has a love/hate relationship about) But I think she loved knowing someday : I wasn’t starting from “scratch” with my ornaments…I had a whole collection that has acted as a yearbook of sorts and is always VERY fun to think about while putting up the tree….(and fighting for “prime real estate” on the good branches, ha)

  10. How sweet that Teddy is getting excited for Christmas – definitely a great time to start some new traditions for your family!

    My family’s traditions have evolved so much over the years. When I was growing up, we would have Christmas Eve dinner with everyone (my dad would make roast beef) and then we’d go to church. On Christmas Day, we would all gather for brunch (I would be in charge of making scrambled eggs and aebleskivers – which is funny because we are not Danish! – and would help my mom make a cinnamon coffee cake). Over the years, we cut out Christmas Eve dinner with extended family and started celebrating “Christmas” on another day based on when certain family members were in town. My parents, brothers, and I spent actual Christmas Day watching Star Wars movies in theaters for several years in a row! Last year, my husband and I couldn’t travel to see family because of the pandemic, so we spent our first married Christmas together in our apartment and I’m interested to see what traditions stick from our first Christmas (champagne and Sugarfina stocking stuffers, I hope!). This year, my husband and I get to visit my family in CA for Christmas and I’m excited to introduce him to our traditions (before we were married we would each spend Christmas with our families and then meet up for NYE).

    I 100% feel you about being sad that not every tradition you grew up with can stick or that all family members can gather as everyone moves into different seasons of life. But, I’m sure your boys will absolutely love the new memories/traditions you make together and will grow up not wanting it any other way!!

  11. Holiday traditions have been on mind this year too, as this will be the first holiday season in our new home (that we hope to raise our future children in!). My favorite tradition is celebrating the feast of St. Nicholas on December 6th. I grew up in German Catholic family, and I loved this mini holiday to help build the anticipation for Christmas! It is customary to set out shoes or stockings on the night of December 5th and to get a small treat in the morning (chocolate coins are traditional, but I received various small gifts through the years). I’ve introduced my husband to this tradition and I love finding a treat for his stocking every year! I can’t WAIT to do it with my children in the future 🙂

    1. I plan on celebrating St Nicholas Day with my 2 year old this year too! We did it in school growing up and it’s so much fun.