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Holiday Traditions: Readers share their family traditions and stories

Dec 1st, 2012 | Category: Features

Following are some of the holiday traditions submitted by our readers.Happy Holidays!

Mini Christmas parade in pajamas

After we open gifts, we have a mini Christmas parade around the house wearing our pajamas and masks we’ve made of Santa, reindeer, angels, anything we want.

–Benton family

Spare change toys

We save our spare change every year. We then count up what we have in early December, and “adopt” a child through our local angel tree. We have no children and are on a small budget. This is a favorite time of the year for us. We wish we could see our angel’s face Christmas morning.

–Bill and Becky

Joy Journal and Christmas play

My grandmother kept a “Joy Journal” at Christmas time and record her favorite memories. We have them now. We started doing this in our family a few years ago and with each Christmas, we go back and read through the years prior. It’s hilarious, emotional and really connects us. It definitely shows that no one remembers what gifts they bought or received (except for the really big ones and really meaningful ones). What we do remember are the fun and emotional moments. The important stuff. The funny stuff. The heartwarming stuff. Thanks Grandma.

We also re-enact a Christmas play on Christmas Eve by our beautiful tree. We tell the story of the baby Jesus, and then eat a bunch of cookies. Much too excited to go to bed then!

–Hannah Whittaker

Chinese food

We get together on Christmas Eve for Chinese food (ala the Christmas Story) and we then go home and sing songs and eat lots of cookies that we baked for Santa. It gets really funny.

–Timothy Houghton

Christmas books

I decided to do this when I was young. Every year I received a new Christmas book, and thought it was fun to wrap them each following year and unwrap them.

Now, on Christmas Eve, our kids pick a “present” and we open the book and read it. That way each year we have a brand new story to read, plus all of the ones from the last year. I wonder how early in the season we’ll have to start if we keep this up.

–Mary Miller

Wish list ornaments

When our kids were little, I took down their wish lists and applied it to card stock and made it into an ornament with that year’s date. I did this every year. They are grown now, so I make them for our grandchildren. Their lists are much longer!

–Katherine Miller

Now filled with traditions

Growing up my family didn’t have any holiday traditions. Every year it was like Christmas was dropped out of the sky onto my unsuspecting, wondering parents.  A tree was put up and my parents moved forward haphazardly quickly putting together “a” Christmas.

At the first opportunity I deserted my family’s Christmas in favor of my In-Law’s celebration. Their Christmas was filled with tradition.  The meals were the same year after year.  Joke gifts were exchanged with delight even though everyone knew what was contained in the beautiful packages. Their home was decorated with ornaments, candles, stockings, garlands and a wild grown tree, leggy with the bare spot turned to the wall. I felt wrapped in the joy of the season and made a pact with myself that I would have this Christmas for the rest of my life, one filled with traditions.

With the creation of my daughter I have moved forward with making my own traditions. I have taken my favorite traditions from my in-laws, lutfisk and Swedish meatballs for Christmas Eve dinner and going up to Mt. Baker to get our own leggy wild tree. Our home is filled with ornaments that we have collected together as a family that will be passed down every year, and of course we hang stockings for Santa. I have not rejected my family completely, though I have found one thing to carry forward from them, complete wonder at the season.  Every year I work and plan to make it seem that the traditions drop out of the sky into my daughter’s unsuspecting and hopeful lap. Wonder, it turns out, is her favorite Christmas tradition and so it should be.

–Liz Hjelmseth

Special moments in a jar

I toss special moments written quickly on paper and toss them into a jar throughout the year. I don’t capture all of them, but I make notes of what I can. At Christmas time, I pull out the jar and read my moments to my family. They listen to me as I explain how much those little moments meant to me, and how they will be memories, and are memories. I don’t ever get through it without tears. That’s how happy they make me.

–Marilyn Becker

Waes hael, drinc hael!

At Seven Trees Farm our holiday tradition is honoring our ancestors and celebrating the Solstice, Dec. 21, by Wassailing our orchard and apple trees.

In olden times, Wassailing the trees occurred on “twelfth night”, the 12th night after Christmas Eve, or Jan. 17. Traditions vary, but in the West Country of England where many of our ancestors came from, families held a feast with cakes, cider, beer and ale. After eating and drinking, everyone trooped to the orchard to wassail the trees, waking them up from winter. Ale, beer or cider soaked toast, would be placed in the tree branches or in a fork of the tree, and splashed with cider. Trees might be beaten with sticks or pounded on, pots and pans clanged, and in some eras, guns loaded with just powder (no shot) would be fired at the trees.

At our wassail we invite friends and family over, share the last of our previous years hard cider and place slices of pumpkin bread in the boughs of our largest apple tree. We pour the tree a libation from the cider.

After passing out lyrics for those in need, we all sing:

Oh apple tree, we wassail thee
In hoping thou wilt bear
No one can say where we shall be
To be merry another year.

So grow well and bear well
And merry let us be
Let every one lift up their cup
And health to the old apple tree.

Then one of us yells:

“Hats full, caps full, bushel-bushel bags full, and my pockets full too, huzzah!!”

After a troop through our orchard hollering, everyone retires to the bonfire to roast little smokies and marshmallows.

This is our way of honoring the solstice with the best of company and cheer!

–Dani Sheldon, Seven Trees Farm

Cookies for the mailman

Always give the postal carrier cookies! He deserves them! We had made chocolate chip for years, but now we surprise him with a new flavor each Christmas. I think we’re his favorite stop on his route!

–Brenda Van Dyk

Giving potted trees

Our family has a tradition of planting (and sometimes buying) potted trees. We decorate our house and property with them all through the month of December. Come New Year’s Day we may plant one or two, but most of them we give away as New Year’s gifts, and hope their new year is filled with happiness and health. People love getting a tree!

–Gibson family

Note: If you would like to share your traditions, e-mail your stories and photos to

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