Holiday Traditions Old and New

Holiday Traditions Old and New

Leading up to the holiday season, we asked our readers to share with us their fondest holiday traditions that get passed down from generation to generation and are performed year after year. Thank you to everyone who entered the competition and shared their heartwarming stories. We received so many amazing entries from users all over the world.

So without further ado, here are the winners:

Cindy Jernee from the US

As a single mom, money was tight, so I wasn’t always able to buy my children their favorite toys. One year I thought of doing something a little different menu-wise, and this turned into a tradition. That year after Thanksgiving, I realized I didn’t want to do the whole turkey thing and decided to make Italian food instead. I discovered a few new things that my family really enjoyed, but my eldest daughter, who had been enjoying the American Girl series, wanted to do a Scandinavian Christmas. From that point on, we began doing a different country every year. That was in 1991, and we have covered a different country every year. We don’t necessarily do their traditional Christmas foods, as so many do the turkey and dressing thing, but we make a feast of their foods. My kids all enjoy experimenting in the kitchen, so we all do research and kitchen experiments for months before Christmas. It’s my favorite tradition!

Christen Jahnke from Germany

Our experienced, and still practiced Christmas tradition started by regularly putting up and decorating the Christmas tree on the evening of the 23rd when we had children in bed. That was always the job of my father. From that moment on, the living room was taboo for us children. Christmas Eve was a day like any other until the afternoon. My brother and I (born 1938) worked in the dining room with handicrafts with our parents and grandmother, with cookies and cocoa. We went at 6 P.M. to the church. I always felt this atmosphere as a child was always very nice. I especially liked the wonderful music in the church and also the singing. The way home was already full of happy anticipation. Our parents disappeared immediately in the festive living room, and we both waited anxiously until finally, the bell sounded, which allowed us to rush in there. The candles on the Christmas tree (of course, real ones), on the Advent wreath and on some chandeliers were the only lighting. My mother was sitting at the piano, and we sang some carols together. After “Silent Night” it finally happened: the doorbell rang, and Santa Claus appeared. We dutifully said our poems and were usually praised by him, or even admonished to do this or that better. After his “departure” we hugged each other and wished each other a Merry Christmas. And now finally we were allowed near the Christmas tree, where the gifts and the colorful plates were waiting for us. Even during the war and post-war years, our parents always managed to provide us with humble gifts that made us happy.

After this, was for the children, the most important part of the evening, the obligatory potato salad with sausages. We were then allowed to play for quite some time. The evening was always accompanied by Christmas music or Bach’s Christmas Oratorio on the radio or on the record player. The first holiday course was always roast goose. After the meal, whether we wanted it or not, we had a long walk. Returning from it was always very nice because all the candles were lit again and we sat down together for a delicious coffee, crowned by a nut cake (and others).
All of these things were taken one by one and replicated in my own family. At first, our children also wrote poems, but one day they decided to renounce this tradition and performed a small Christmas concert, as everyone was learning to play an instrument. To my great joy, our three children have kept this family tradition. For example, until today they use no electric Christmas tree lighting. Only the evening meal has been greatly expanded. But for me, there is always potato salad with sausages. And as for the goose for Christmas dinner, it has been replaced by a turkey.
Since our children, as well as all 10 grandchildren, and also the two great-grandchildren are musicians or at least make play instruments, there are no poems on Christmas Eve, but we always listen to live music. I have become a great-grandmother, and I’ve heard that even my grandson keeps these traditions that have been in the family for over 80 years. What has been handed down, these traditions, have been maintained since at least 1874.

Stephanie Regan from the US

We had a small immediate family, my mother, father, younger sister, and me. We mostly rented and moved several times during my youth. It was important to my mother that we had traditions to help keep our lives uniform no matter where we lived. We always put up our tree about two weeks prior to Christmas. It was always a real, live tree so we would take it down New Years Day as that was long enough for a real tree to be up. Several times my father would chop down a tree that was on our property (with the approval of the landlord). That made it even more special. It had lots of lights and homemade ornaments as well as shiny glass ornaments. We were allowed to open one gift on Christmas Eve, then off to bed early (so that Mr. and Mrs. Santa had time to finish wrapping and assembling the rest of our gifts before morning.) Since we were girls, along with the toys we got winter clothing which was appreciated. It was new and not hand-me-downs. One year, when my father had been out of work for quite a while, our gifts came from the Salvation Army, where my Aunt Alice and Uncle Alfred worked full time. We were not full of pride, we were grateful little girls. My parents made a wonderful Christmas no matter our current financial situation. We stayed at home all of Christmas Day as my mother announced to family and friends that now there were little ones we would not be traveling around to visit on Christmas Day. So, she created a wonderful buffet and drinks, and family and friends visited throughout the day, making the celebration and the gift giving last well into the night. There was always a wonderful ham and my mother’s fabulous potato salad with all homemade cookies, cakes, and pies. This was my favorite part. My aunt and uncle who worked for the Salvation Army would be part of the group, and we would give them any clothes or toys we no longer could use to donate. This also was something which helped make our Christmas about both giving and receiving. We never had a lot of money, but at the time my sister and I did not know it. My parents always found a way to make Christmas very special. To this day my family and grandchildren have carried on most of these traditions.

Here are some of our other favorites:

Donald Roullier from the US

My grandmother came from England in May of 1912 and brought plum pudding recipes that we still use every year.

Rodney van Eck from South Africa

Our family Christmas tradition started some 65 years ago when as a child my parents encouraged me to write to Santa Claus and to put out some milk and cookies for him to refresh him for his exhausting journey to all the ‘good’ children around the world. I continued that tradition 35 years ago when my first daughter was 3 years old. My second daughter automatically followed in that tradition. Both were flabbergasted on Christmas mornings to see the milk glass was empty and the cookies were gone. In fact, one Christmas Eve we had a tremendous storm around 11 P.M. We were having Christmas Eve dinner at my in-laws (another family tradition). It so happened that a family member phoned the house. My brother-in-law returned to the lounge and said Father Christmas was on the line and that his sleigh had taken a lightning strike and was broken, could he come help fix it. I told the kids we had better get home and hope that Uncle Lionel could fix the sleigh. The kids swallowed it hook, line, and sinker. We returned home with two very concerned and anxious looking kids. The next morning the household was awakened to shrieks of delight and “Well done, Uncle Lionel! You fixed Father Christmas’s sleigh. He brought our presents.” Once they had outgrown this novelty, I then introduced them to The Polar Express starring Tom Hanks. We continue that tradition of watching Polar Express still today. This is followed up by Dinner For One on New Year’s Eve. I have also continued my childhood tradition of having Christmas lunch, which I’ve held at my home the past 40 years for my mom, brothers, sisters, and our children. This year I will be passing on that tradition for the first time to my 3-year-old granddaughter. I am sure our Christmas tradition will live for eternity through my children and grandchildren. Christmas traditions, may they long live!

Joann Pillay from the US

We always gather in the kitchen making all traditional foods, making jokes, and teasing each other who’s going to eat the most come Christmas Day. We will stay up late, and my mother will tell us all sorts of stories how they grew up with so little. I look forward every year to spending time with my siblings and parents as we only see them once a year.

Nicholas Zeitlinger

I come from a huge family. It’s ALWAYS been kind of big, maybe around 40 blood relatives at Christmas celebrations at a time kind of big. Knowing this, my grandfather’s uncle started a tradition over 70 years ago that we would conduct a special ‘Secret Santa,’ that we’ve called ‘The Hobbies’, to avoid buying individual gifts for each family member. The object of our Christmas gift-giving celebration is to bring humor to the forefront of the holiday season. In the spirit of good fun and not taking ourselves too seriously, each secret gift-giver must present two gifts — one gag gift and the other nice  and a handwritten poem that the recipient must read in front of the whole family. These poems can be anything from funny, inspirational, teasing, or be completely meaningless. After the poem is read, gift number one is opened to seal the deal and be the last bit of humiliation the recipient faces before they can enjoy their real Christmas gift.

Terry Kamprath from the US

I was born and raised up in the small town of Curtis, Nebraska on five acres of land. There were seven of us kids, four boys, and three girls. My parents were very poor, and used a wood cook stove and wood stove in my parents’ bedroom. My sisters and brothers slept upstairs where it was so cold. Also, we did not have indoor plumbing, but that did not stop us from having a marvelous Christmas at the Turner house. My brothers would go down by the creek and cut down a cedar tree a couple weeks before Christmas. The girls would decorate it, of course, we always put on strings of popcorn then gave them to birds when the tree came down. Most of all, the things I remember the most as a child was all the love that was in our family. Merry Christmas to everyone!!

Ruth Robbins from the US

In late 1940 and into the 50s and 60s, the small community of Mountain View celebrated Christmas as a community. The first of December the town’s merchants started to give out tickets to the folks in Bridger Valley as they purchased their items. The stub of the ticket was put in a container at each establishment. Shortly before or on Christmas Eve Day the activities started. First was a free matinee for the children. This was so that the parents and other family members could finish up their Christmas shopping. After the show the children, wearing several layers of clothing, walked to the big pine tree in front of the grade school building. It was always so cold and there was usually a wind. At the tree, a red sleigh pulled by one horse would show up filled with red stockings and Jolly Santa Claus. For many years Santa was Grandpa Jesse Graham. Later other men stepped in. Each child waited their turn, some with more wiggling and noise than others. Each child quickly told Santa of their fondest wishes to move to somewhere warm with their treasured stocking. The Women’s Happy Hour Club spent many hours sewing stockings and putting in a drawstring. Organizations and merchants donated the goodies that were inside. There was an orange in the toe, many peanuts, a few hard candies, (one of which was a wonderful ribbon candy) sometimes a cookie, a small trinket, and of course a red and white candy cane. These women made stockings and sponsored the movie into the early 70”s, but the drawings were discontinued before then. The parents met at a designated spot, in the cold outside air. Each merchant stepped up, announced the prizes and pulled out names. Two grocery stores gave out boxes of groceries. The hardware stores gave tools, scissors, and other items. In the cold evening, everyone would either walk home or bundle into their vehicles hoping their feet would be thawed out by the time they returned home. The churches had their own Christmas festivities. Most of the surrounding ranching community and the town would crowd into the Mountain View High School gym to see the Elementary School play and listen to the High School choir and band. There was always a community Christmas dance on Christmas Evening. The band was local musicians.

Susan Ward from the US

For Thanksgiving, I have a book in which everyone writes what they are thankful for: when I am gone (I am 80) it will pass down to the next generation for them to read and enter what they are all thankful for.

Then for Christmas: Christmas Eve we always had chicken enchiladas (a tradition that our children started when they got married). Christmas Day we each open 1 present while everyone watches. That way we can see what everyone gets, then each person opens another package. Yes, it takes all morning, but we were all willing to so we could be happy for each other and what they received. This year will be very difficult for me as I lost my husband of 55 years in September and I will miss him so very much. Christmas was always our favorite time of year.

Bernice Anne De Lucchi from the UK

We fight and argue the week leading up to Christmas. Each year, besides saying I’m not cooking the following year as it’s such hard work, I even send out group WhatsApp messages to my adult children canceling Christmas. Everyone ignores me though as they know I tend to behave like Gordon Ramsay whilst preparing the lunch — takes me 3 days to prepare. It’s now become our tradition, and is all part of the fun.

Thank you to everyone who took participated in the competition.

We wish you all Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year. We look forward to sharing more stories in the future.


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  • Toys Online Australia

    January 7, 2019

    Wonderful traditions.