What are your favorite holiday traditions?
Does your family pile into the SUV the Saturday after Thanksgiving, drive three hours to your favorite tree-cutting spot, walk another mile through the snow, then drag the thing back Griswold-style to tie to the top of the car?
No? You go to a nearby shopping center parking lot that gives out candy canes to the kids after you pay for a pre-cut tree?
Do you light a Menorah? Count down the days to Christmas on an Advent calendar? Reflect on the Kwanzaa principle of the day? Play dreidel? Buy matching holiday pajamas for the whole family each year? Honor ancestors? Wrap every gift like it’s the only one?
Who makes lefse or latkes? Kugel? Mulled wine? Eggnog?
Old Holiday Traditions
Do you make sugar cookies each year? Buy them? Avoid them altogether?
My husband’s family has a decades-long tradition of baking and decorating sugar cookies to give away to family and friends each year. The first year I was involved, I thought, Oh, this will be fun! What a sweet tradition.
Then, they started hauling in the grocery bags of flour, sugar, powdered sugar, eggs and more. Bag after bag. I quickly realized that we weren’t making a few cookies here. This was a cookie factory, folks. Out came the rolling pins, pressing that dough to the perfect 1/4-inch depth. Pan after pan into the oven — that is one person’s full-time job for a day.
Then comes the decorating. The first time we did this, I thought we were finally getting to the fun, creative part. I lined up all the food coloring, ready to whip up the four obligatory frosting colors. Hard stop. I soon learned that the tradition in my husband’s family was to do only one color at a time and decorate every tree green first, then add extra green and move on to every holly leaf, which also required exactly three red hots. Then yellow for every star. You get the idea.
They balked at my balking.
By year two, we had reached an accord. We’d keep the assembly line, but I needed some creative freedom here. I required full license to frost a leaf orange or make a snowman blue. I suspect they still cringe when I zag, but the cookies taste the same and the kids and I have more fun. It’s all good.
New Holiday Traditions
One year, my husband and I decided to ditch tradition and make Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve. Our theory was that the day before Christmas was less busy, we’d enjoy cooking and eating more that day.
We were absolutely right. It was amazing. We’ve done it every year since.
And don’t worry—we don’t suffer on Christmas Day. We make plenty of food the previous day, put it in the fridge overnight and warm it up in slow cookers and chafing dishes on Christmas. This brilliant system allows us total culinary flexibility. We can eat whenever we’re hungry—no additional cooking required.
City Mom Collective is made up of dozens and dozens of local “sister sites” from across the country. Writers from across our network have shared some of their favorite holiday traditions for Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and Christmas. Read on for the best information and ideas you’ll see all season.
And… Please share a favorite tradition of yours in the comments!
This is the Christian holiday, generally celebrated on Dec. 25, to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ.
Santa + The Elves
Santa Claus, also known by many other names, is loosely based on traditions around the historical St. Nicholas and others. Today, he is said to bring gifts to children around the world on Christmas Eve.
Hanukkah is the eight-day, Jewish “festival of lights,” celebrated with a nightly menorah lighting, special prayers and special foods. In 2021, it runs from Nov. 28-Dec. 6.
Kwanzaa is a celebration of African-American culture held from December 26 to January 1 annually. It culminates in a communal feast called Karamu, usually held on the 6th day. Maulana Karenga created it based on African harvest festival traditions from various parts of Africa.