What's Your Very Favorite Holiday Tradition?

Updated on December 06, 2014
C.V. asks from Jefferson City, MO
13 answers

For those who celebrate a December or January holiday, whether it's Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Yule, Epiphany, or any other, even the secular celebrations, share with us your very favorite tradition. Even better if it has an interesting story behind it. :-)

No Grinches, please. Let's keep it fun and be respectful. ♥

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So What Happened?

I love all these beautiful traditions! :-)

Kat, we also do new PJ's on Christmas Eve. It's a tradition that has spanned 3 generations now!

Theresa, O Holy Night is my very favorite Christmas song. It's so lovely and I would have loved to hear your aunt sing it. Sometimes I sing it myself when I find a place with really great acoustics. It's my go-to "echocaching" song.

In our home, I have two very favorite Christmas traditions. The first is, on Christmas Eve, the kids open and put on their new slippers and PJs, and my husband reads about the birth of Jesus from the book of Luke in the Bible. And secondly, once the kids go to bed, I fill the stockings and arrange the gifts under the tree. I love how the tree looks, with all of the ornaments that mean so much to our family. In the morning, the kids come down and are allowed to look at the tree and take their stockings (which are STUFFED with neat and oddball things) upstairs to open and enjoy the contents until the adults wake.

Not to be a Debbie Downer, but the tradition I miss the very most is spending Christmas with my grandma and grandpa. She died in 2001 after fighting cancer for 5 years and I miss her most at this time of year. Hug your loved ones, friends.

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answers from Norfolk on

Growing up all the neighborhood kids got together (about a dozen) and went door to door singing Christmas carols.
It was often a roaming snowball fight but so much fun!
Afterward we all went to my friends house who's Mom was hosting us and had hot coco, Christmas cookies and warmed up.

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answers from Albany on

Christmas Eves from my childhood, midnight mass with my Aunt Marie singing O Holy Night solo. Absolutely spellbinding.

What's yours?


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answers from Grand Forks on

We love Christmas and celebrate right from the beginning of Advent through Epiphany. My favourite part would have to be celebrating the whole 12 Days of Christmas from Christmas Eve to Epiphany. While it seems like so many people are anxious to pack away the holidays right after the 25th I love to keep the celebration going. For me, after all of that preparation it would be too much of a letdown for the holiday to end after the one big day.

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answers from Chicago on

We put on our jammies, hats and gloves and pile in the car to go Christmas-light-looking. We stop at either Starbucks or Dunkin' Donuts to get hot chocolate, put in our favorite Christmas music and spend the evening driving around. We have to go twice a year now because we have so many friends and family wanting to go with us.

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answers from San Diego on

From the day after Thanksgiving on we always add extra streets and go different ways when going out to run errands and generally going out to look at all the lights. Sometimes we will just go driving around to look at the lights. There are several neighborhoods and houses nearby that go all out so we plan trips out to see those as well.
While we decorate the tree we always have the Tim Burton movie "The Nightmare Before Christmas" playing in the background. We rarely put the tree up before Yule. I have a Yule baby so we let him have his birthday before we have the tree. Because the tree is artificial, the tree often stays up until late into January, unless the cats have been especially pesky and we get tired of them not leaving it alone LOL
We always make several trips out to Disneyland to enjoy all the holiday cheer they have. Besides my Yule baby, my husband also has a December birthday so they get their special birthday trips (or they share a trip) out to Disneyland.
Every year the kids get new PJs to wear to bed on Christmas Eve. For the last 5 years they have been matching after we found ones at Children's Place. So glad they come in adult sizes too for my oldest! I never realized how important they were to the kids until I was having trouble finding them one year. This year's ones are already bought and washed and ready to wear! It's also very important to them that we have the red flannel sheets on our bed for the first picture in the morning of Christmas before they can go downstairs. We were changing the sheets late last Christmas Eve as the kids were very upset that we had the other set on the bed instead.
We are non-secular but with a leaning toward Old World Religions/Paganism. We use the time to teach the kids about traditions from around the world and incorporate many things from them. Most important to us though is spending time together with family. My daughter said something last night that made me smile. She said her favorite thing about Christmas was that she gets presents from Santa and that she gets to spend time with family.

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answers from Minneapolis on

We go to a tree farm and take a horse-drawn hayride out and cut down our Christmas tree every year.

We watch White Christmas and Polar Express.

My favorite moment of Christmas is at the Christmas Eve service singing the 3rd verse of Silent Night a capella with just the candles lit in the church. Best moment :)

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answers from Washington DC on

this is our second year of empty-nesting so we're still adjusting. last year was the first time ever my dh and i went to cut down a tree and decorate it without the boys here. i was afraid it would be gloomy and sad, but it was surprisingly magical. it was snowing, and we fell back into our pre-kid bf and gf groove.
we hoped the boys would be able to do the tree with us this year, but their schedules aren't cooperating, so i hope this year is as sweet.
our christmas eve and christmas day flow is also disrupted. i've got a brother 'living' here when he's in the country, so he'll be here and my poor boys will be in sleeping bags in the den. with mumsie gone and big daddy wintering in CA and another brother in limbo, the family get-together is chaotic to say the least. but there will be food, and gifts, and music, and lights, and laughter, and however it plays out it will be good.
but with the actual christmas celebration so jumbly, my favorite holiday tradition will be the one i do by myself, my yule vigil. the ritual starts at sundown, with lighting my yule log and prayers, on the night of the winter solstice. later in the evening, after i've shooed off any family members who are here that night, i turn off all the lights in the living room, even the tree, and do a deep meditative ritual, by firelight and candlelight only. at the end of it, after making notes about anything significant that comes up and lighting the house back up, i make offerings to various deities and ancestors, maybe do a tarot reading, and make a pot of coffee, and spend the rest of the long dark night wrapping presents and watching holiday movies and generally doing whatever i have to in order to stay awake and keep the Mother company as She labors to give birth to the Sun. prayers and libations at sunrise, and then off to bed! and woe betide anyone who wakes me up.<G>
ETA we do our stockings on christmas night, after all the food has been cleared away, any guests have gone, and we're all full and happy. it's the best part of the day!
:) khairete

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answers from Portland on

We have a season of traditions: I have two favorites

1. Getting the tree. We always go to a local co-op lot, get to talk with the tree farmers or other interesting folks working there, pick out the tree, get it home and decorate it. It's fun to 'bring out' Christmas at that time, when all the boxes of decorations are up from the basement and opened up: angel chime candles, little ancient Christmas toys from my husband's childhood and other things add so much sparkle. I love it.

2. Our own silly family tradition: Kiddo writes his note to Santa and we all take it to the big mailbox to drop off-- a moment of excitement when Kiddo drops the letter into the box, and then we walk back up the hill to the local pizza place for dinner. We've been doing this since he was about 3; I look forward to it every year. :) Even when he outgrows Santa, maybe we'll all write letters for good wishes and mail them off to the North Pole and then grab a slice....

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answers from Anchorage on

Making our Yuletide wreath. We take the sled out on a hike and collect evergreen branches to bring home, then we staple and tie them to the frame to fill it in. We make the ornaments and decorations to hang on it (with the kids doing most the work). It is a fun family day.

My other is our fall family project. Around Thankgiving we try to do a family art project, sometimes we then use the results to make gifts. This year we each did a self portrait, then we scanned the kids paintings and had them turned into teeshirts and mugs for the grandparents.

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answers from Los Angeles on

Ssssso many!
But I'd have to say:

1. Putting up and decorating the tree. With Christmas carols, hot chocolate, then a lazy dinner
2. Picking out special gifts for the family we adopt for Christmas

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answers from New York on

Growing up we'd wait for midnight on xmas eve to open presents. Because it was rightly xmas day. I now love hosting brunch on xmas day and watching DS open presents.

F. B.

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answers from Rockford on

I really loved Christmas when I was young. My family is big on both sides. On Christmas Eve everyone would go to my grandma's on my mom's side. We would have a pot luck dinner then open presents. Afterwards, all us kids would play in the basement while the women talked upstairs and the guys played cards downstairs. We kids had so much fun playing! Then, on Christmas Day, we would go to my grandma's on my dad's side. His side is even bigger, so we cousins kept the place hopping. We would eat and all cram in the same room to take turns opening presents. I remember one year being so proud of myself when I received a barbie bath I already had, and had the sense to just smile a big smile and say thank you, instead of complaining I already had that toy. As we got older, there were more of us kids and we would start bringing boyfriends/girlfriends or getting married and having kids. My dad's side would rent the farm bureau building where we would fill 4 or 5 long tables with food. Instead of presents, everyone would bring little wrapped gifts and we would play bingo. There was always a card game here, too, and grandma would always win (legitimately, lol!). After all the grandparents died, the traditions kind of slipped away, and people got older and moved around. My mom's side has some get togethers now, but not the big ones like before. My dad's side saw each other even less. But, a few years ago one of my dad's brothers died and we all went to the funeral. One of my cousins walked in and saw me and got emotional about how we didn't see everyone anymore, and how it took a funeral to get everyone in the same place. So, that year my brother organized a Thanksgiving gathering at the same farm bureau building as before, and we just had our third one after about a 10 year absence. The first year was a great turn out and each year gets bigger. I'll always remember my aunt at the first one, tearing up about how proud grandma and grandpa would be that everyone came and there was such a huge turnout. We still do the bingo and everyone brings old pictures going back to when grandpa was a baby. Sorry to ramble, but it's really great reliving all the memories!

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answers from Boston on

How nice of you to include all the holidays! After reading the responses below, I think I should invest in a pajama company!

We're Jewish and we have managed to accumulate a small supply of fun Hanukkah lights as well as 3 or 4 banners that say "Happy Hanukkah" but each with a different spelling! We have a good laugh trying to hang them in appropriate places based on the length and the number of English letters (Hannukkah vs. Hanuka, for example).

I think my favorite thing is getting out all our menorahs. While 1 is "required", more are acceptable. We have our original family menorah (which I bought my husband for our first holiday), a whimsical one that he bought for me, and our son's first menorah (a train with different candle holders on top of the cars, with the smokestack serving as the holder for the tallest candle used to light the others). We also have one that our son made in preschool out of large wooden beads (the candles go in the holes) and another one he made for me almost entirely on his own (with a little finishing help from Dad) - it's out of scrap wood, and he used a bunch of hex nuts glued to the wood as the candle holders. He took a bunch of little nails and some colored thumbtacks (the old kind with flat heads, not push pins) and he hammered a menorah shape and the word "Mom" into the wood. It's so special to me! We line them all up on the living room window sill (we have a bay window) and we light them all up as we sing the blessings, and each night there is more and more light to share with the neighborhood.

We also do Chanukah gelt (the chocolate coins in gold foil) which my son still loves after all these years - he gets a little bag of 6 or 7 coins every night. I made a wall hanging with 8 numbered pockets and a little gift goes in each pocket. We usually do a book, a movie ticket, socks, maybe a DVD, and other little things, whatever appeals to us. It's not a big gift fest and we try to keep that under control.

At least one night is something community oriented, either a party with friends/family or something at the synagogue, but with some community service included, whether it's a food drive or a clothing drive or something else. We like to include our non-Jewish neighbors and friends - we find that sharing holiday traditions builds appreciation and respect. Coexistence and religious integrity is, after all, the basis for Hanukkah so we like to have discussions about those who are, even in the present day, being pressured to adopt a majority religion in their country, whether it's the US or somewhere else. Building bridges and honoring our differences while appreciating our similarities is what it's all about.

And of course we have our favorite fried foods all week, with regular or sweet potato latkes, sufganiyot (jelly donuts), falafel, and our own chicken tenders or nuggets. Definitely requires at least one stop at the supermarket for more olive oil!

We also enjoy driving around to see other people's Christmas lights. And on Christmas Day, we join hundreds of other Jewish families at the movies and then one of the Chinese restaurants. It's always fun to see people from surrounding towns that we may not have seen since last Christmas Day.

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