Every year, we visit all of our family members between New Year’s and January 6th, which is Christmas on the Orthodox calendar, as part of our family’s holiday tradition. While the elderly stay home awaiting visits, younger family members are out and about, paying visits, bearing gifts. It’s a great way to make sure no one feels lonely during the holidays.
When we asked our Facebook fans to share their own family holiday traditions, we were deeply moved by the responses. Our wonderful fans shared stories of having fun together, savoring old recipes, exchanging meaningful gifts, helping the needy, and – above all – spending time together with family, which is really what the holidays are all about.
Here are some of their beautiful stories:
Special Christmas Eve Gift Surprise
“We have a gift under the tree for my son, specifically to open on Christmas Eve night. It contains a movie, hot cocoa mix, some snacks, a pair of new Christmas pajamas, and A little package of reindeer food (bird seed) to sprinkle before we go to sleep. After dinner we spend the night as a family until our eyes get heavy waiting for Santa.”
Christmas Performances for the Family
“Every year we have a Christmas Eve Party at my Grandma’s house and we practice a play and perform it. My grandma has a sunken-in living room, and the stairs that lead to the main floor make a prefect stage. We also sing Christmas solos and my uncle gives a presentation on a projection screen. The food is great! It is also the perfect opportunity to exchange all our gifts for the next day.”
Gathering Generations for Christmas
“My entire Family gathers here, we are now four generations ages five to seventy-nine. This year, we are so fortunate to once again be around little ones as they discover Santa’s gifts. The house will be filled will laughter, love, Christmas Spirit and pure joy.”
Spending Christmas Visiting Our Family
“Our holiday tradition is to spend it together. We do Christmas Eve with my husband’s family, then we open up presents on Christmas morning at our house, lastly we head to my in-laws for breakfast and presents. Then on to my mom and dad’s house for Christmas day. I love having a big family! Pure chaos but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. We host New Year’s Eve for friends and the kids and always leave the tree up for Orthodox Christmas. We will be remembering my mother-in-law this year as well.”
Treats for Santa’s Reindeer and A Christmas Story
“On Christmas Eve we make “reindeer food” and sprinkle it on the lawn. Then we sit down and watch the first running of the 24 hours of A Christmas Story on TBS. While the movie is on, we allow the kids to open one gift each.”
Find the Christmas Pickle!
“We have a pickle ornament that doesn’t get put on the tree until Christmas Eve. The first child who finds the ornament on Christmas morning gets a special present. My mother said it was a German holiday tradition.”
A Christmas Story and Yummy Christmas Casserole
“We always watch The Christmas Story while decorating the tree, make a breakfast casserole for Christmas morning, and not sure if it is tradition or coincidence, but we pass out under the tree in the morning because we wake up so early (5:30am)!”
Magic Christmas Lights!
“My kids use their Christmas “magic” by saying Christmas things to turn our Christmas lights on every night (which is done by a remote control switch) and they have to say something extra special for the lights to turn on, which is nice because some nights they fight over who will have the most magic, and other nights the Christmas magic happens and they allow each other a first turn.”
Starting Our Own Traditions
“We moved away from our families four years ago and our baby will turn one three days after Christmas, so we are still figuring out what family traditions we want to start with her. One of my own personal traditions is to always hang a stocking ornament with the name “Major” on it nearest the star at the top because Major was the dog I spent my first ten years of life with, and I will always miss and love him.”
Fun Fondue Christmas Dinner
“We’ve replaced the traditional Christmas dinner with fondue. It’s a great way to get the family together around the table, eating and laughing. We mix it up with hot oil for meats and vegetables, then a dessert fondue follows.”
Working on Puzzles as a Family and Other Traditions
We have unique New Year’s Eve traditions that came from my house growing up and we now do with our family. Important components are: build a puzzle together as a group, eat pot pies, (English) crackers to pop and share jokes, wear hats, watch movies, and spend the time together as a family rather than out at parties. Here’s a picture of me working on the puzzle last year!
Volunteering on Christmas
“We volunteer at the soup kitchen. Makes a very different Christmas experience.”
“Every year I invite family over to enjoy homemade posole and tamales for dinner, and send them off with fresh baked goodie trays of homemade biscochitos, fudge and banana bread mini loaves!”
Keeping Christmas Going
“We try to make the holiday season last as long as possible. On Christmas day, we choose one present to “save” until New Years Eve. Exactly at midnight we all open our gifts. I’ve been doing this since I was little and it’s a fun way to keep the holiday cheer going.”
South American Holiday Traditions
“We make tamales, which are originally from Venezuela – it’s a South American holiday tradition and we love to prepare them together as a family. They are delicious!”
Calling Family on Christmas
“My family is all over the world – Germany, England, Australia, Costa Rica… the list goes on. I call all of them to wish them a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. I prefer calling rather than sending a card because I love hearing their voices and news.”
Our Christmas Parranda
“Every year my dad plays his congas to Spanish music. In Puerto Rico that was a tradition that was done with all of our families, neighbors and friends (called a Parranda) as they would come from house to house with songs. We now do it smaller, but still do it.”
Focusing on Giving During Christmas
“Instead of buying a lot of gifts, we purchase items through Samaritan’s purse gift catalog and give livestock, food and medicines to those in need, and give in honor of our family members.”
Teaching the Children
“To help my children (when they were younger) grasp the concept of not being ‘greedy’ about gifts, we had them prepare a ‘wish list’ from which we chose to purchase 3 gifts. We taught them that Jesus was given 3 gifts from the Magi–they never argued. They also received a stocking full of treats and small items.”
Christmas Coffee Cake with a Surprise!
“Every year, my sister bakes THE best coffee cake for Christmas Day breakfast. The person who finishes a slice with a number 1 on the bottom of their plate, is the first to get to open a present!”
Celebrating Different Cultural Holiday Traditions
“Living in multicultural Los Angeles, I celebrate Christmas the night of Dec 24th with my Catholic friends, and my wife’s family the night of Jan 5th. Two rounds of gifts for me – and 2 rounds of gift giving of course!”
Orthodox Christmas Traditions
“I’m Armenian, so I celebrate Orthodox Christmas, with a special dinner the night of the 5th – salty smoked fish and spinach/parsley/cilantro quiche with rice. Yum!”
Traditional Kieflies Cookies
“For my husband, Christmas is about eating kieflies. They are a very labor and time-intensive cookie, and when his grandmother got too old to make them, we took over. For the past ten years or so we set aside one weekend in December to make them and give as gifts to the rest of the family.”
Favorite Movie and Caroling
“I like to watch the film ‘Love Actually’ and spend time with my Rotary club friends. The holidays are a great time to serve others too – we like to go caroling at the local retirement home. The residents are so amazing and it is so fun to sing!”
Remembering Simpler Christmases
“When we first got married, money was really tight. All of our gifts were homemade and a few things from the $1 store. 20+ years later and we still make at least one homemade gift and we still buy each other a gift from the dollar store. :)”
Christmas Dinner with the Local Officers
“Every year we have a Christmas Party for our children on December 23rd. My stepdaughter is married to a police officer. Every year we invite all officers on duty to stop by on their dinner break and have dinner with us. It is something they look forward to every year.”
Giving to Another Family During the Holidays
“Our holiday tradition is to adopt a needy family each year and make their Christmas special. Giving is the best feeling ever!”
Neighborhood Sidewalk Luminaries
Our holiday tradition is to set up luminaries along the curbs and sidewalks in the neighborhood. It looks beautiful, and neighbors gather on Christmas Eve to light the candles and mingle.
Do you have a unique family holiday tradition? Please share it in the comments.