- Food--my mom always made Christmas treats. Perennial favorites were peanut clusters, almond bark cookies (cheerios, rice crispies, marshmallows and peanuts covered in almond bark), frosted sugar cookies and poppy seed bread. The way my mom (and I and my sisters) make poppy seed bread is to bake it in cans so the bread is in the shape of a cylinder instead of a loaf. Top it with some orange juice/sugar glaze--yum! We also started a tradition in our family to have soup on Christmas Eve as well as homemade rice pudding. Most of those I carry on at my own home now.
- Stockings--my mom also made our Christmas stockings. Each of us girls have ours from growing up, and she has made all the husbands stockings from the same pattern and now our girls have stockings made by Grandma.
- Hallmark tree--growing up we had a real tree, and I even remember the tradition of going out to the Christmas tree farm and picking it out. Hubby and I even did that . . . once. Our ornaments were a mish-mash of homemade ornaments our Grandma made for us every year, wooden painted ornaments my mom collected from the local hospital auxiliary, ornaments collected from trips, and Hallmark ornaments. I would hate to even guess at the number of Hallmark ornaments we have among my mom and my sisters and I. No Martha Stewart tree at our house; we hang our Hallmark ornaments proudly. The girls each have an impressive collection of ornaments they've received as gifts over the years as well. Now hubby and I just have to find the time to assemble our behemoth 9' tree and decorate it with thousands of lights and hundreds of ornaments.
- New pajamas--Christmas means new pajamas, right? It seemed like we would always get a new pair; there are many pictures from Christmases past of us in our new pj's relaxing after opening presents on Christmas Eve. This year my girls will get their Christmas pj's before we go on a Santa Express ride next week. (Like the Polar Express--ride the train in your pj's, go to the North Pole and get a visit from Santa who gives you a silver bell)
- The Nativity Set--my mom and dad had a very nice ceramic nativity set. Every year my sister's and I would fight over who got to put what items up. Now I have a Willow Tree Nativity Set that I love, and my girls have their own Fisher Price version that they play with. Last I saw, the Three Wise Men were standing on each other's heads to give the angel presents and the animals were all lined up watching TV. I believe you can find all of those historically correct details in the bible.
- Christmas Eve--this is when it all happens in our family. Growing up, we always went to church on Christmas Eve. At some point during the service the congregation would sing "Silent Night" by candlelight (and the my sisters and I would either a) try to keep our candle lit the longest in the whole church or b) try to blow each others candles out). At the end of the service, you would leave with an uplifting "Joy to the World". As you left church, you got a brown paper bag filled with peanuts, an apple and/or orange, and a small candy bar. Our dad would torture us by taking his time driving home, maybe taking a slow route to look at Christmas lights, and when we came home Santa had visited. Christmas morning was all about the stockings, and then we would head over to our Grandparents' house for Christmas dinner. Now that we have celebrated Christmas as our own family, Santa comes overnight like he usually does for 99% of the population. Somehow we never got suspicious when one of our parents conveniently "forgot" something before we left for church and had to go back into the house. One year the weather was too bad to even make the 3 mile drive into town and go to church, so my younger sister and I had to take a Christmas Eve bath. Surprise, surprise, Santa came while you were in the bathtub! I will never forget that year because that was THE year--the year of the Cabbage Patch Doll.
I hope to keep following old Christmas traditions with my girls and introduce some new traditions each year as well.