Treasured Holiday Traditions: Announcing the winners of the #MyHolidayHeritage Challenge!

Treasured Holiday Traditions: Announcing the winners of the #MyHolidayHeritage Challenge!

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For the last two weeks, entries from the #MyHolidayHeritage Challenge poured in from all across the globe. Though this year’s holidays will likely look a bit different than years prior, many of your family holiday traditions will continue to flourish. Thank you all for sending in your beautiful holiday stories and memories. We can’t think of a better way to celebrate the holiday season than by celebrating your family’s traditions!

Here are some of the many entries we couldn’t resist sharing with you:

Delicious holiday treats

Andy Likins

Our kids are 3/8ths Norwegian since Heidi is half and I’m a quarter. We have a great tradition that has been passed down in both of our families from our Norwegian immigrant ancestors who arrived in the 1880s: making lefse. For those who don’t know, lefse is like a tortilla made mostly of potato. When it’s hot off the griddle with butter and brown sugar, it is wonderful. Our kids love it and I’m quite sure they will continue the tradition.

Pictured are (left) Heidi’s grandmother, Anna Christine (Pederson) Stime (1913–2013) with Heidi’s mom, Naomi, in about 1944; and my grandmother, Bernice Virginia (Iverson) Likins (1906–1994) with my aunt, Ginny, and my dad, Noel, in about 1936. Both of our grandmothers learned to make lefse from their Norwegian-born mothers. The second photo is of our daughter, Kaia, helping make lefse a few years ago.

Susan Pulfer

I make my great-great grandmother’s Christmas cake recipe, although a few items are no longer available. Even without them it still tastes great and we have used her plum pudding recipe and especially the sauce for both.

Merlin D Bruna

I am a double first cousin so our family along with my double cousins would spend Christmas Eve at my maternal grandparents’ house. We always had potato soup and oyster stew. After my grandfather passed away we would be together at my cousins house or they would come to our house to carry on the tradition.

Barry Kennedy

I still have all my grandmother’s cookbooks with her Christmas cake, and Christmas pudding. All made from scratch, and cooked on the old wood-fired stove. Add to that REAL mincemeat pies, and tarts. All made the old ways.

Raylene Harrington Johnson

For as long as I can remember we have had chili and potato soup. Some years, for a few members we fixed oyster stew for dinner on Christmas Eve followed by opening gifts from other family members.

Ефим Ильиных 

Adrian Gaino

My family is very large. I have 8 adult children(2 sets of twins) & 11 grandchildren. We have many different nationalities (Welsh, African & Latin American, Sicilian, Asian & Native) celebrate several cultural activities which include Hanukkah, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Christmas & Kwanzaa. We love decorating the tree, gingerbread houses, decking the  halls, ice skating, sledding & celebrating the 12 days of Xmas. I love to cook a big family dinner, roast beef & pork ham & all the side dishes (potato salad, greens, mac & cheese). For dessert I love baking cookies & cupcakes, stringing popcorn. I also bake blueberry & apple pie. We end by drinking eggnog, hot cider & chocolate. And last but not least, we open our many gifts of which some I make homemade. Our family thrives with unity & love. 

Kathy King

Our family usually attended a Christmas Eve service before gathering for dinner and our gift exchange. We tried various meals to make it easier — salads, sandwiches, etc. but we have settled in on Mexican Fiesta (rice, meat sauce, lettuce, tomatoes, guacamole, sour cream, fritoes, olives, taco sauce) as our favorite. So, even though there is no Latino or Mexican heritage, whenever we now gather for Christmas, we always have to have this dish. 

Nathan Bortnem

Our family tradition (thanks to my wife’s family) is eating lots and lots of this very difficult-to-make dessert: Scandinavian Kringler Recipe from Food.com

Brenda Long — U.S.

Before World War II, my father owned a candy shop in Long Beach, California. He bought the See’s candy fudge recipe from the See’s for $100.00. His religion did not believe in carrying guns so he was a baker on a transport ship during the war. As a child I remember every Christmas my dad sitting on a stool at the stove making See’s fudge. My father has been gone 20 years but at Christmas we still make See’s fudge. This year our son, daughter in law and 4 grandchildren are visiting with us. We will be making See’s fudge and pass the story of their great grandfather down to them.

Jennifer Wilson

Beverly Drottar — U.S.

In my family, we always had a special formal family dinner on Christmas Eve. That way Christmas Day was a “day off” for everyone, including parents, as we ate wonderful left-overs. We would eat off the fancy china and drink fizzy fruit punch from the fancy crystal stemmed glasses. We had a special table centerpiece with lit candles, set on the dining room (NOT kitchen!) tables with a special bright red Christmas tablecloth.

My parents had 5 daughters and one son. As each of us set up our own households, my mother made sure that each of us had a large bright red Christmas tablecloth for our own holiday celebrations.

After a big feast, my mom would retire briefly to the kitchen, and then return with a tray of traditional, old style, flaming pudding. Even the youngest child would get a small fancy individual dish of this amazing burning dessert! We watched with marvel as our flames burned out. We had to then, carefully, spoon out the hot burnt remains of the flamed sugar cube before we could eat this amazing once-a-year treat. Many of my family members never actually liked the old fashioned pudding, and yet the thrill of having that flaming treat has led many of us to continue to prepare it for our children as well. It’s a flavor that appeals to more adult palates, I believe, as I am very fond of it now.

Flaming Christmas Pudding Recipe

INGREDIENTS:

1/2 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1 cup grated raw carrots
1 cup grated, peeled raw potatoes
1 cup raisins
1 tablespoon molasses
1 teaspoon baking soda in 2 tablespoons hot water
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt

DIRECTIONS:

Mix all ingredients, in order, very thoroughly.
Place in a greased top of a double boiler pot and steam on the stove for 2 1/2–4 hours, until the pudding firms into a consistent thick mixture.
Spoon hot pudding into individual ramekins and refrigerate overnight.
Right before serving, soak sugar cubes in lemon extract briefly, then place one cube on top of each pudding.
Light the sugar cubes immediately after applying the lemon extract, and carry the flaming tray of puddings to the serving table.
After the fire burns out, remove the melted sugar with a spoon (it’s hot!)
Top each serving with whipped cream or a lemon sauce.

This recipe is very forgiving. You can add chopped dates or figs or even walnuts or almonds. I need to be gluten-free, so I substitute almond meal for the flour. You can use butter or lard instead of shortening. You could probably use squash or pumpkin, instead of carrots & potatoes, but I have never tried that. If you don’t have molasses, try using brown sugar instead of white. Old time recipes like this were meant to be prepared with whatever dried fruit & root vegetables one might have stored up over the winter and to minimize the precious stores of flour & sugar, while still creating a sweet treat for the holidays during lean times.

Holding on to precious heirlooms

Silvia Demmy

From my very first Christmas, my mother saved a strand of garland, it feels tin like and is now tarnished and worn, I put it in a bauble and it is hung on the tree each year, I continue the tradition of putting candles on our tree each year, do not light them but my mother always had these on her tree. It’s a German heritage tradition we continue! #MyHolidayHeritage

Elaine Coxon

I buy a memorial ornament for the Christmas tree to honour any close family member who has passed away that year. The ornament has the person’s name and year of birth and death. In a small way, it feels like they are still part of the festivities.

Jenn Wood

There are two treasured ornaments on our tree, my daughter’s first baby ornament bought for her very first Christmas and her dummy. She is 21 now and these ornaments are always placed on the tree first every year!

Lois Boubong

Every year I buy a silver ornament as a someday keepsake for my daughters. I now have accumulated over 50.

Jeanne Dave Myers

Our family Christmas tradition began 70 years ago when my parents received a lighted treetop angel for a wedding gift. It was placed on the top of every tree from then on. Five years ago my parents passed it on to me and we put it on our tree on our anniversary of Dec. 12 ever since.

Then our Christmas Eve has always been getting dressed up in our new church outfits made by our mother. Then we would go to church and perform in the Christmas program. We would rush home, starving! Mom always had all kinds of finger foods prepared along with Christmas cookies and homemade candies, and we got to have fancy drinks before we were sent off to bed. I have continued the same tradition with our family. It’s been a special memory for me to pass on to them.

Susan Jernigan McCullough

My earliest memory of Christmas is a dime store doll that my mother dressed as an angel to top her Christmas tree in 1936 when she and my dad celebrated their first Christmas together. She now stands in a glass display case during the year until she is removed to adorn another Christmas tree. That’s 84 years of tree duty! She is the cover photo on my Facebook page.

Karen Collins

My father died on Christmas Day 50 years ago. On one of the flower arrangements at his funeral, there was a dove attached. We kept that dove and place it on our tree every year to remember my dad.

Barbara Fitrell Krecic

My parents bought an angel for the tree top to celebrate my birth. She’s 75, on top of my tree.

Special ways to celebrate Christmas Day

Salme Talvirinne — Finland

We lived in the then-Helsinki diocese, in the village of Hakkila, in a house built by my father one part at a time. Sure, our parents had bought our gifts before, but we kids got a weekly allowance so we could then buy what we thought of for each other.

On the eve, the spruce tree had been brought in and we all decorated it. We ate Christmas bread and ham for breakfast. The ham had been fried just for it on the eve of Eve.

When our grandparents and Aunt Kaisu had arrived for us, my mother and aunt and grandmothers put in the Christmas food. They had not been done by the mother before, but they were made together — everyone participated with their own skills.

On the eve we always went to the Christmas sauna with everyone, after that we ate.

Soon it was time for Santa to arrive.

From left Aunt Kaisu with Salme Talvirinne
From left Aunt Kaisu with Salme Talvirinne

Rich Waters — U.S.

We had an unusual way of opening our presents. On the “To/From” tag we would put a clue for the giftee. Since only the gifter knew (mostly), we would all guess what was inside. If you knew what it was, it was bad form to ruin the guessing game for the rest of the family. We gave many small priced presents so we all would have more fun. Our gifting would generally last 4 to 5 hours. Fun was had by all.

Michelle Dule — U.K.
Christmas Eve, it is filled with hilarious little games, snacks and a tipple for the grown ups. Putting out a tipple and a munch for Santa and his reindeer. Once the youngest ones are asleep we lay out all their presents including one each from Santa. The stockings are filled with little gifts from Santa in brown paper, some sweets, candy canes, nuts, fruit, and coins. Then we put them at the end of the beds. 

Christmas morning, the adults are just as excited as the kids, so we tend to wake up first. Put some heating on if it’s cold, make coffee, switch on the twinkling Xmas lights. We subtly ensure the kids wake up without knowing we woke them and it’s excited mayhem when they see their stockings filled. They come into the main bedroom where we all gather to open our stockings.

Then the Xmas music is put on in the living room and the kids enter the living room first apart from one adult with a camera, and their faces are amazing. We open one at a time taking turns, halfway through we make breakfast, usually a full English. Then we resume the second half. When all is finished the dinner starts to be prepared while the young ones play with their new gifts. We all sit down for dinner together. It puts a smile on my face every year.

Boxing Day was my mother’s birthday which was always a family get together with a buffet. But she passed 3 years ago and we made a new tradition. Family members gather around 11am in our main park which is beautiful, where we scattered her and our grandmother’s ashes, we lay flowers and say a few words each. Then we all go for a brunch meal at the same venue which we pre-book for a family celebration in their honour. It is a little different this awful year, as we have to spread across a couple of different tables, but we are still happy we can do it mostly to plan.

So for me, Christmas has always been and still is my favourite time of year. To me even now at 55, it is still as magical, and when it comes to such happy times with my family, then it is in that when I say — I believe.

Geraldine Lee — U.S.

A tradition we started when our kids were small was to have a treasure hunt from Santa. We would put clues around the house starting with a letter or poem from Santa (unless they were too old for Santa, then it was just from us). It would lead from clue to clue until they found the hidden present. For example, one year our son wanted ski boots which were hidden in the fireplace. Another was when we sent our daughter to our friends house for her present. Sorry to say, that year she thought she was getting a car when our instructions were car keys. The tradition carried on down to our grandchildren and now the great-grandchildren if they are able to come. 

Ann Wilkinson — Australia

Since coming to Australia in 1966 I had to leave behind white Christmases and all the things I loved about Christmas in England. However, a new tradition in our family has sprung up… the Christmas day boules competition. We play in pairs on the back lawn whilst imbibing in a Pimms or two. Fun is had by all but my French ancestors would turn in their grave at the lack of technique.

Sandra van Heusden — U.K.

My husband is Dutch, so we wanted to celebrate Sinterklaas traditions with Father Christmas. We created a Family Treasure Hunt. My daughter had to leave her boots on the fireplace. When she woke in the morning her shoes were filled with sweets and a long poem from Sinterklaas, which had clues to finding the presents. The presents were not expensive, usually sweets, little toys from Poundland, or toiletries, as my daughter got older. It was the hunt for them that was really exciting and working out the clues. She is 23 now and still insists on a treasure hunt every year.

Ruth Petitjean — U.K.

I started a Christmas tradition many years ago when our children were tiny. Every year I wrap up new socks for everyone. All are ‘surprised’ to see what is in the package. Sometimes they are Christmas socks, sometimes everyday socks and sometimes they are warm furry socks… always socks for everyone. Our daughter, caught up in this tradition, has now started to include socks in my present from her. This year will be no different… socks for all… and this will bring everyone together even though we are all apart this Covid Christmas.

Magic of Christmas (and socks).

Jo Murphy

Keeping holiday traditions in 2020:

Brent Chyna — U.S.

2020 has obviously strained family relationships in more ways than one. Yet, our family manages to honor our long-standing traditions in as many ways as we can. We continue to exchange gifts thanks to online shopping and the postal system, we still share meals and toasts thanks to internet teleconference platforms, and even, on more than one occasion, we sing together thanks to abundant cell phones. 

All of this technology has helped us to survive in times that are strange and new to us but we have also taken moments to appreciate that our ancestors faced their own hardships and had to contend with what they had available to them at the time. More and more, I have found myself delving into cardboard boxes filled with relics from days gone past: photos, certificates, and newspaper clippings of poverty, illness, and war. It reminds us that, as a people, we have seen more challenging times and survived. We did then and we will now.  

Maybe that is our longest-standing tradition.

Mary Conti — U.S.

My family is honoring our long-standing traditions this holiday season by baking and sharing my great-grandmother’s sweet bread and chruscick. She made them every year for Christmas and I mailed some to out of state relatives this week. 

Alexandra MacPherson-Munro — U.S.

This a really strange year for all of us. My family is going to share our holiday through Facetime where we can share our Scottish/Irish traditions with each other.  

Since we cannot attend our Christmas mass, we will watch it on the internet. Then we will put candles in our windows, plus we will have a small Christmas Eve dinner. We even invite other family members and friends to join us in a small Christmas Eve prayer right at midnight.

Our ancestry and family history has been a big impact to me and my family, and letting my family know about their past helps them understand their future, and their next future in our family. 

Susan Small — U.K.

Every Christmas our close family meet up for Christmas drinks and mince pies on the run up to Christmas. We didn’t let a pandemic stop us. We are in Tier Two so six people can meet outside. This year I made homemade mince pies with almond pastry and mincemeat with lots of brandy.

The event this year was in our eldest daughter Sarah’s and son-in-law Paul’s front garden. Our  grandchildren were at their drama classes so we kept it under six. We didn’t feel the cold we sang and danced to keep us warm.

Youngest daughter Michelle  in the photo below, we all live within a mile of each other.

Andy Newman

Every year myself and my 2 older brothers, Paul & Philip, go out and play Christmas carols around the hospitals and care homes of Sittingbourne, Kent (U.K.).

Philip plays trombone, Paul plays euphonium and I’m on the E-flat bass (Tuba).

We have done this every year with the young people of the Salvation Army and as well as the music, we also have a couple of nice and fun traditions which include singing the final verse of Away in a Manger without instrumental backing and 7–8 of us packing into a lift in a local hospital and playing Jingle Bells (very quickly) as the lift goes up and then down.

The nicest thing for me is to see the smiles on the faces of the patients and older residents as we play their favourite carols.

Due to the current COVID restrictions our tradition will be a little different this year, including a drive-thru carol service.

But we are looking forward to getting back to normal next year, dusting off our instruments and celebrating Christmas in time-honoured tradition.

Winners of the #MyHolidayHeritage Challenge

Thank you again to all who sent in their lovely holiday traditions and stories. In particular, it’s amazing to see how many of your traditions will still be kept this year despite the challenges. Holding on to our precious family memories, stories, traditions, recipes, and heirlooms always manages to give us extra inspiration and joy, no matter the season.

And now for the winners! Congratulations to Susan McCullough, Brent Chyna, and Beverly Drottar who will get to choose between a MyHeritage DNA kit or getting a one-year MyHeritage Complete plan!

Wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year! 

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