Our Favorite Christmas Traditions
17 Fun Traditions for a Magical, Memorable Christmas
by Eli King Conklin | December 18, 2022
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With Christmas only a week away, it’s almost time to stop rushing, start wrapping, and relish the joys of the season – together. As someone with a toddler and an infant, our family is in the process of finding new traditions to make Christmas magical and memorable for our kids. If you’re also looking for fun ways to make the most of the holiday season each year, here are some favorites from the Roohan family (and scroll down for 25 classic traditions and when they started!):
My mother-in-law, Bernice Hollowood, always has her grandchildren frost a cake or cupcakes on Christmas Eve. On Christmas Day we sing Happy Birthday to Baby Jesus.
She also has the grandchildren put the statues in the manger one by one as she reads the story of the Birth of Jesus, with the Baby Jesus being placed last. The honor of Baby Jesus’s placement goes to the grandchild who made their First Communion that year or the youngest child.
My family has been singing the Twelve Days of Christmas at our annual Gathering for over 60 years. Each person is assigned a verse and you have to act and sing your part as your number comes along ( ie: ladies dancing, drummers drumming) and repeat until the song is complete. It was great fun watching my uncle’s ” lords a leaping” across the living room when I was a kid!
My Grammy used to get all 20+ of us kids the same present and make us unwrap them all at once, then we’d all have to pose for a photo wearing our matching sweaters or whatever it was.
A lot of our traditions have changed over the past few years with Covid – but some remain the same….
We do a pre-Christmas cookie swap with the neighbors, make homemade Chex mix – a house favorite , and our Elf on the Shelf makes his way around the house each year. One fun new tradition we started is a Christmas Eve Nailed It baking competition. Last year was super messy but fun!
My favorite Christmas tradition is decorating our exterior with live greens farmed on our property. Happy Holidays from our “Haus” to yours🎄✨
During my many years living in NYC, I spent the holidays with friends from all over the world. We would gather and make food together or bring random dishes from our cultures – it was so fun to experiment without having to impress older family members or brace ourselves for any critiques because we were young and didn’t know what we were doing. But because of that experience, I’m very comfortable finding new and interesting recipes that become family traditions. This year, I tried a Gingersnap Cranberry Lime Pie and I’ll definitely be making it again for years to come.
This is a Christmas cookie recipe in my grandmother, mother, and my handwriting. It’s a tradition we do every year and let our grandkids decorate them.
We have always had a family dog. Every year at Christmas, our father would say that the dog can speak at midnight on Christmas Eve. It was always a funny conversation on Christmas morning as we all surmised what the dog might have said! Merry Christmas to all, including all the pups that will have something to say this Christmas Eve at the stroke of midnight!
Our traditions include attending the Nacre/Saratoga City Ballet Nutcracker at The Egg each year (my daughter performed in it for many years before she went to College). We also watch Elf on Christmas Eve and celebrate Christmas Day at my sister’s house with about 20 family members. Last year we started a new tradition by playing the Saran Wrap Ball” gift game:
Every year, the week before Christmas, we get hot cocoa and drive to see the Quick Response holiday lights display followed by neighborhood touring for lights. (Here’s our Capital District Holiday Lights map)
We also always have our family Christmas on Christmas Eve so that we spend the day together on Christmas enjoying Church and a nice relaxing day celebrating.
1. We go to Bob’s trees and cut down a fresh Christmas tree as a family the day after Thanksgiving every year.
2. We always make a point for each family member to share what they are most thankful for and their wishes for the new year. We go around the dinner table and share our thoughts followed by a holiday toast.
3. I also still hide the pickle ornament on the tree for my 25 and 28 year old sons to find! LOL
20 Classic Christmas Traditions & When They Started
- Christmas Trees – The 1st Christmas tree lot opened in 1851
- The Rockettes – Began as the Missouri Rockettes in 1925 and officially became the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes in 1934
- A Charlie Brown Christmas – First aired on December 9, 1965
- Christmas Pickles – The tradition of hiding a Christmas pickle ornament started as a marketing gimmick by Woolworth’s in the 1800s when they received imported German ornaments shaped like pickles and needed a way to sell them
- Elf on the Shelf – This tradition was inspired by a 2005 book Elf on a Shelf: A Christmas Tradition that came with a toy elf
- Yule Log – WPIX-TV in NYC first aired a continuous 17-second burning log video accompanied by music in 1966
- Advent Calendars – Early advent calendars began in Germany in 1903 as a way for children to countdown to Christmas and reveal a Bible passage every night
- Gingerbread Houses – Gingerbread itself can be traced back to ancient Greece and China, and the first Gingerbread Men & Women are credited to Queen Elizabeth I, but Gingerbread Houses themselves are rooted in German History and the gruesome story of Hansel & Gretel. How very merry!
- The Nutcracker – Premiered in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1892
- Cookies for Santa – Americans started leaving cookies and milk for Santa in the 1930s as a way to show gratitude during hard times
- Candy Canes – Candy canes date back to 1670 Germany and were first brought to the states by a German-Swedish immigrant in 1847
- Christmas Cards – The first official Christmas card was sent in England in 1843
- It’s A Wonderful Life – The Christmas classic was created in 1946
- Christmas Lights – Wrapping corded lights around the Christmas tree was first done in NYC 1882 by Edward Hibberd Johnson, a friend of Thomas Edison
- Santa at the Store – James Edgar of Brockton MA was the first person to don an in-store Santa suit in 1890
- The Night Before Christmas – The poem was made public in 1823, although the author, Clement Moore, didn’t publish it under his name until 1844
- Poinsettias – Native to Central America, this Christmas flower was first brought to the US in the 1820s by the first Ambassador to Mexico and botanist, Joel Roberts Poinsett
- Salvation Army Bell Ringers – Began in San Francisco 1891 when Captain Joseph McFee wanted to raise money to offer a free Christmas dinner to the needy
- Mistletoe – The evergreen shrub dates back to the ancient Druids some 2,000 years ago when it was hung in doorways to keep evil spirits and disease from entering a house
- Reindeer – The original Santa rode a horse before he was given eight tiny reindeer in a 1823 poem, A Visit From St. Nicholas
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