What's Your Favorite Holiday Tradition?

So many ways to celebrate, remember, gather together at this time of year. What’s your favorite?

We love to get together as a family. Much of the family has migrated to the San Francisco Bay Area, and, as the oldest cousins, we started hosting parties at our home. In the early days, it was just summer pool parties, but eventually it grew to many of the big holidays. Thank goodness a number of the cousins have stepped up and started hosting some of the parties, but we are still party central. Each year we host Xmas dinner, and like most of our family gatherings, we do it potluck style. Every family unit has at least one serious gourmet style cook and everyone is Type A, so we get some friendly competition on the food.

Our gatherings range from 20-40 people, so they aren’t small, but they are a LOT of fun.

We banned a White Elephant exchange once the competitiveness got out of hand, but we do a Secret Santa among our kids generation, which everyone seems to love.


I try to get the tree up and decorated before Christmas day. We go to the Christmas Eve service and have Honey Baked ham for dinner. I make a sherry trifle and mince pies and apple tarts.


Dinner out on Christmas Eve. Although we are of Irish heritage (with an Australian thrown in just for the fun of it), we always go out to an Italian restaurant for dinner on Christmas Eve. This year, I turned my family on to a relatively new place in Yonkers called Reno’s. The food is fantastic–best fried calamari I ever had. We don’t do the seven fishes but we do always have a wonderful meal.

Tomorrow is Santa at the Community Gardens at work. I wouldn’t miss it. It’s always a blast and the food is fantastic. Our gardens are mostly in Latino and Hispanic neighborhoods and being outside in the cold with a steaming bowl of sancocho can’t be beat. Later in the day, the holiday party at our local pub. 'Tis the season.

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Grandma K’s carrot-jelly salad. It’s grated carrots in orange jelly (jello) and she’s made it every Christmas for 40 years so why stop now, dammit.

My other favourite thing is eating inappropriately heavy food (turkey and Christmas pud!) in the middle of the New Zealand summer.

The “Christmas day cast on” (something for yourself after all those gifts) is a nice idea… but I make things for myself all year round.


We always have tacos for Christmas Eve dinner. And no we are not Mexican at all, we just like them. Plus they are fast and easy to put together on a day that is always full of a lot of last minute things.

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This is the first year since it started that I won’t be going to the Fiddler on the Roof singalong on Christmas Day. The theater serves kosher vegan Chinese food, and everyone is very welcoming to all of us non-Jewish holiday orphans (be us kids far from family or with dodgy familial relationships or both). It always sells out! Tradition!


I don’t have a lot of traditions, but in recent years I have put up a live tree on Christmas Eve and kept it as a Winter Tree for as long as it holds onto it’s needles. Just an aromatic tree, tiny lights, and a stuffed porcupine. So cheering on the early/long winter nights.
And I make New Year cards to send through Actual Mail. Usually I would have designed the card by now, but time just seems to be standing still this year. Or else it’s moving really fast. Probably the latter.


There’s two sides to Christmas in our house. As a minister, the Church element is huge and I’m pretty exhausted come lunchtime on Christmas Day. Family celebrations are all about the food. Christmas Day lunch is smoked salmon or parma ham with savoury pancakes. Christmas Dinner is the full works: turkey with lemon stuffing and garlic sausage and mushroom stuffing, bread sauce, cranberry sauce, as many types of veg as we can manage, sausages wrapped in bacon. My favourite meal of the year (and the leftovers last for days).

Possibly my favourite tradition of all is that I’ve taught my kids that Santa only drinks a decent single malt whisky, so there’s always one waiting for me when I get home from the midnight service.


My favorite tradition from growing up was about presents. My family always saves and reuses wrapping paper, so picking up a gift to open sparks memories and conversations about Christmases past. And instead of gift tags, we use old Christmas cards as labels. These were also reused, so one might have the “to” and “from” crossed out and rewritten twenty times all over the card. (My parents had a silent and loving battle over that card every year - it was a triumph to get to it first.) Then, on Christmas morning, the youngest child present chooses something from under the tree for someone else to open. We all watch that person open the gift, and they pick something for someone else. Christmas goes on for hours that way, with music playing in the background and lots of hot drinks going around. Lovely.

My favorite modern tradition is the Christmas curry. When my husband and I met, we were both working in Japan. When we weren’t able to do our traditions from home, we decided to do something entirely different that we loved. Christmas dinner was always pork vindaloo, fancy rice, naan, popadoms, raita, kachumba, maybe some onion bhaji. Now we live in America and have family stuff on the day itself, so we save our Indian feast for Boxing Day when it’s just us. Bliss!


lemon stuffing sounds delicious

One of my favourite Christmas traditions is that the family gathers at our cottage in Muskoka at Thanksgiving and we draw names for Christmas gift giving. There are 18 adults so far too many individual gifts for any. Family members always hope that it will be me that gets their name as I always knit a special something. This year it may be my carpet bag that is given although my sister in law already has two of my purses. She hinted about liking them so much.

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That sounds like a great gift.

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Our is changing. My daughter Jen wanted to have the family to her house this year so her kids could stay home and play with their toys. It is also more central to everyone else. So for the first time we will not be here. I am not complaining. But it feels odd. I am going with the flow.

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Did you grow up in my family and I just missed you in the crowd?

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How funny! Which tradition(s) did your family also do?

Reusing paper. The greatest honor was to get your gift wrapped in the fragile, tie dyed tissue paper or the exquisite handmade paper from Japan. Some paper over 30 years old. Tags made from old Christmas cards with an effort made to find one with your childish scrawl to use for the same recipient decades later. Also having the youngest deliver gifts. They put their heart into it. They fit under the back corner of the tree. They love deciphering the handwriting and recognizing the name of each family member. And the pace is perfect.

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I made my own paper using rice paper and sunflower leaf prints with acrylic paint. My kids hung it on their walls. My step mother and her sister have been sending each other the same card for decades. It is a really cool tradition.

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It sounds like our families do share some wonderful traditions. How marvelous! I hope your Christmas was lovely.

For Xmas my brother and mom join my family and have breakfast casserole with cut up fruit. One food gift my mom always sends us is Smithfield ham and bacon - I use the bacon for the casserole and the ham for the holiday dinner. I have been instructed to not deviate from having these items!
For those interested the bacon (and ham) can be ordered here; http://www.smithfieldfarms.com/breakfast.html
We also try to get my daughter to play the violin for us - she can usually be persuaded.

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