It’s the most wonderful time of the year!
The sweet nostalgia when reminiscing about growing up during the Christmas holiday is undeniable. Decorating the tree, putting up Christmas lights, writing letters to Santa, anticipating that one doozy of a gift you asked for…the thing you had to have!
Most of us most likely encountered our family instilling a certain routine during this time: what we eat, what we do, who we see, what we gift, etc. Traditions have been set in our bones that we then pass on to our own children and grandchildren.
I’ve compiled the most common holiday traditions, focusing on Christmas, that I hope will ignite some sweet nostalgia for you. I will also be highlighting some other common holidays throughout December and into January that I want to enlighten you on and perhaps inspire you to start new traditions in your family!
Christmas Eve & Christmas Day (December 24 and 25)
Let’s not pretend that food isn’t a really exciting time when talking about holiday traditions. I’ve listed some common dishes and meals that are typical when celebrating Christmas and have included some recipes, so you can get a jump start on including them in your days this year.
Breakfast: The most common breakfast that people are waking up to Christmas morning is monkey bread or cinnamon rolls. This is a delicious, addicting and gooey creation that gets you hooked and coming back for more, not to mention the savory smell that sweeps across your home. Here’s a Pinterest recipe for monkey bread: Easy Monkey Bread.
Lunch: Now don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying you should skip it; instead, I’m simply reminding you to make sure you have room for dinner. When it comes to lunch, it appears most common to eat small deli sandwiches, salads, or hors d’oeuvres like veggie trays and fruit trays.
Dinner: Ah, the main event. My mouth is watering thinking about it! Below are the most common dinner items and try not to rush to your kitchens to cook a full-blown Christmas dinner:
- Honey Baked Ham – it appears that some either purchase one or make their own, but there seems to be a consensus that ham is popular. I personally have made my own, and it was perfect! Here is the recipe: Copy Cat Honey Baked Ham.
- Turkey – some go full-blown second Thanksgiving.
- Prime Rib & Lobster – I have personally been to a dinner like this before, and while it is not my traditional Christmas dinner, I wasn’t complaining about it.
- Mashed Potatoes and Gravy
- Sweet Potatoes/Sweet Potato Casserole
- Brown Sugar Glazed Carrots
- Brussel Sprouts
Dessert: As if dinner didn’t put us in the mood. Christmas cookies take the cake; it is a tradition itself with people getting together with family and friends to make recipes that have been passed down for generations. Here are the Top 10 Christmas Cookies.
Cocktails: Eggnog (which can be alcoholic or non-alcoholic). For those who don’t prefer eggnog, there are always great alternatives in the alcoholic world like peppermint vodka or non-alcoholic world like hot chocolate.
Getting in the Spirit
Some of the best traditions are the activities leading up to Christmas to get you in the Christmas spirit! Here is a list of magical things to really get your sleigh bells ringing, as well as some great traditions for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day:
- Elf on the Shelf: moms lose sleep over having to re-position the elf. To help you out, here are some elf ideas: Elf on the Shelf Cheat Sheet.
- 25 Days of Christmas: Often celebrated with an advent calendar, but another great idea is with books. Take 25 books and wrap them up, one for each day leading up to Christmas (maybe even have the elf bring them!) and read as a family each night.
- Decorating the Christmas Tree: a lot of people have great traditions when it comes to this. Here are a couple ideas: having multiple trees and giving them themes (ex: one is all snowmen, requiring the whole family to put on pajamas and listen to Christmas music while decorating, and, when decorating, invite others over who have a different background or may have never experienced decorating a tree to share traditions.
- Watching Classic Christmas movies like Rudolph, Frosty the Snowman, The Grinch, and, of course, A Christmas Story
- Wayne County Lightfest
- Driving around neighborhoods to look at lights
- Building gingerbread houses
- Go to Bronners to get new ornaments
- Go Christmas shopping
- Readying the “good china” for your Christmas dinner
- Going to church
- Watching the Christmas Day Parade (or attend it!)
Additional Holidays to Celebrate
While much emphasis is placed on Christmas, there are numerous holidays that gain just as much attention and are celebrated by many! Here are a few of them, as well as a few holiday traditions that go along with them:
Saint Nicholas’s Feast Day (Saint Nicholas Day, December 6)
This holiday has strong German influence and is celebrated by placing shoes outside your bedroom door or hanging empty stockings over the fireplace. Saint Nicholas then comes within the night to leave you treats and gifts. Americans who celebrate have adopted this practice during Christmas Day.
Boxing Day (December 26)
This holiday originated in the UK, and much like “black Friday” known here in the states, this originated as a shopping holiday. This day is now spent doing one of three activities:
- A Boxing Day Party: Extended family and friends come over with salads, sandwiches, and wine to relax
- Donating Time: Volunteering at a favorite local charity
- Hiking or Playing Sports: While everyone else may be shopping, get out and enjoy some fresh air!
Hanukkah (December 22 through December 30, 2019)
Also called the Festival of Lights, this holiday is an eight-day celebration that is well-known on the Jewish calendar. Each night of Hanukkah, one of the candles on the menorah is lit by the “head candle,” so that by the last night, all eight candles are lit. A dreidel is a four-sided spinning toy that has Hebrew lettering on it and is played with money or candy. There is also a feast each night, as well as gifts.
Three Kings’ Day (January 6)
Celebrated mostly in Spain or Latin America, this holiday marks the adoration of baby Jesus by the three kings, otherwise known as the “Three Wise Men.” A cake, known as a “Rosca de Reyes,” is the traditional dish made on this day. It is a very sweet, cinnamon-type cake that can have a variety of fillings. Most people gather and read the bible, and if you are feeling froggy and happen to be around some freezing cold water, it is tradition to jump into it.