A favorite European/Romanian tradition from when I was in my teens was fasting for 40 days before Christmas and usually abstaining from meat and sweets. Family & friends would do this together, and we would share the hardships and temptations we would experience every day. It was wonderfully bonding. And then on Christmas at midnight, we would gather and eat all kinds of homemade treats, including Romanian traditional foods like, Sarmatule (pork and rice wrapped in cabbage pickled leaf) and Cozonac (sweet bread with cacao, nuts and/or raisins).
Lance & Georgia McKinnon
One tradition that we started when we got married was to set aside a night to decorate the Christmas tree. This was a learning curve for us, as neither of us grew up celebrating Christmas. So, we decided to choose a decoration theme that would help point to who Jesus is, especially in anticipation of having children. We wanted our Christmas traditions and celebrations to serve, as much as possible, as pointers to Jesus, the one we are celebrating. Therefore, we chose a red, gold, and crystal theme to reflect that Jesus is our Savior, king, and pure light (crystal ornaments refract the white Christmas lights in an array of beautiful colors and further remind us of the privilege we have of participating in the light and life of the triune God). All our ornaments typically mark significant events in our family life together and are chosen with this red, gold, and crystal theme in mind. As we hang each ornament, we are reminded of our family story together and how that story is lifted up to abide in the redeeming, sanctifying, and glorifying story of Jesus’ birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension. We choose to complete the decoration by topping the tree with a golden bow to signify that all this is a gift of God’s pure grace to us. Twenty-five anniversaries and four kids later, this night has become a Christmas favorite involving wonderful family fellowship around food favorites, cider, hot chocolate, Christmas music, and the shared task of decorating the tree. It begins our Advent and Christmas celebration on the right note. Reminding each other who Jesus is for us and who we are in him.
My favorite Christmas tradition is getting together with extended family and enjoying a big potluck feast. We see family members we haven’t seen in a while and enjoy catching up with each other over great food and great shared memories.
There are a couple of Christmas traditions in the Sitterly home, from everyone in pajamas (including visitors) on Christmas morning, to faithfully watching the Christmas Eve St. Peter’s Midnight Mass on TV. But a new tradition began a few years ago, when I was rummaging through Halloween costumes at the local Goodwill store. The complete Santa costume was just too tempting to pass up, and what better costume for someone who spent most of his adult life avoiding any trappings of the season. It turns out that Santa is in high demand, so another “tradition” has been added to the list. Santa now shows up at the annual Christmas dinner hosted by one of the business associations in Springfield and hands out gifts to the children of the families attending. Who would have thought that after years of saying “Humbug,” I would now be shouting, “Ho Ho Ho” every December?
In the Philippines, we all like to celebrate Christmas early at the start of the “ber” months, which is September. It was such a joy going house to house in different towns with family or friends and then eating different Filipino food, like lechon, sweet spaghetti, pancit, oysters, and embutido while singing karaoke till the morning.
We like to take family pics in our pj’s for Christmas.
My favorite Christmas tradition is spending Christmas Eve in pajamas with my sister and watching a marathon of Christmas movies until we fall asleep.
One local Carolina group, Least of These of the Carolinas, provides assistance and resources to foster families. They have an annual “12 Hours of Christmas” event where the foster kids can enjoy some games while their foster parents pick up free gifts, have them wrapped, and loaded into their car. Then they have a meal together before they go. We almost always serve in some capacity. But we don’t have any pictures of it. It’s just a great opportunity to share the love of Christ with families who often have a tough time during the season.
Our family has a tradition of gathering on Christmas Eve and attending a worship service, then having a fun dinner. We then gather in the living room and each person opens one gift before bed.
This past year everyone spent the night and then Christmas morning enjoyed family time in our pjs. It is truly a blessing to be able to celebrate with your children and grandchildren the birth of our Savior.
In the Broadnax household, our favorite Christmas tradition is actually a “Pre-Christmas” tradition. We are blessed to have our daughter, son-in-law, and two grandchildren with us in the Columbus area and our son, who lives in NYC, is usually home for Christmas. As grandparents, Karen and I split the holidays with our son-in-law’s parents so the grandkids spend the actual Christmas day in Pennsylvania. That has created for us a Pre-Christmas Dinner and gift exchange at our home before they leave. Having Kassidy, Kyle, Jasmine, Dan, Kaiden and Kara around the table, enjoying family favorite dishes prepared by Karen is just a highlight for celebrating the life and love of Jesus found in the Christmas season.
One of my favorite Christmas traditions growing up was going to a live nativity scene. It’s a magical experience that transports you straight into the heart of the Bethlehem story. A local church built an elaborate town with shops that taught about how wares like soap and blankets were made at the time. Before you even entered the streets of the city of Bethlehem, you were immersed in the sights and sounds of the ancient world. Actors dressed as Roman soldiers rode horses and built a tense environment and set the scene by explaining about the census and families needing to sign in to be recorded. After walking through the town and interacting with the locals and animals, there was an inn where the innkeeper shared the story of Jesus and led groups to the manger where Mary, Joseph, and a live baby Jesus were surrounded by animals and the wise men. The meticulous attention to detail brought the story to life and was a powerful reminder of the profound significance of God entering our world as a vulnerable baby.
One tradition we started with the grandkids is to give them each a Silver Eagle $1 coin. They don’t fully understand the value of the coin now, but when they turn 18 and are headed to college the coins will be worth a pretty good chunk. A lesson in delayed gratification, and from a spiritual perspective, the growth in understanding about the baby in a manger will hold their attention at their age level, and as they age and mature, they will come to see the infinite value of Emmanuel.
My most cherished Christmas custom involves our family coming together to celebrate the hope we find in Christ. The extended celebration stretching from the week of Christmas until the new year typically consists of food-sharing, gift-giving, family karaoke, nature walks, and movie marathons. Additionally, December 25 marks my parents’ wedding anniversary, making this gathering particularly meaningful for our family in the Philippines. This year’s gathering will be a different experience as we navigate the absence of my mother, who passed away on New Year’s Day of 2023. We look to Christ as our eternal source of hope, now and always.
My Christmas tradition is spending the holidays with my precious family which I affectionately call my “girl world.” From left to right: Sarah, Elizabeth, Riley, LeeAnna and yours truly.
We like to decorate our house and open it up to friends, family and the entire neighborhood for a day to share the joy and beauty of Christmas. If you’re in the area the evening of December 2, feel free to stop by and say hi!
For my daughters, I assembled ornament collections. Every year, I would buy a new ornament for each, and mark with the current year and their names. On the day we put up and decorated the Christmas tree, I would give Sarah and LeeAnna their new ornament as a present to unwrap. Their collections were stored in two special boxes, and they looked forward to hanging their own ornaments on the tree each year. As was always the plan, they each took their ornament collection with them when they became adults and had their own Christmas trees to decorate. It was one of my favorite Christmas traditions in our family.
Every year during Christmas, Joe and I would go away, somewhere special and reflect on the past year, giving God thanks, praying and talking about the coming year, asking God’s blessing on our life together. It was very special, and we enjoyed the joy at that time of year and all the different places we would go to celebrate.
My favorite tradition is spending time with each other as a family. We don’t necessarily have a Christmas tradition because all in the family are often with their in-laws. We are typically all together for Thanksgiving.
We typically go to a Christmas Eve celebration together, and then the family comes over to the house for a Christmas dinner. Because all three kids have in-laws, they spend Christmas morning with them, and we meet for the afternoon and have meals and games. Cheryl and I make Christmas special for the grandkids by making snowmen out of their gifts. The bottom gift is usually a toy or two, the middle is clothes, and the top is some of their favorite snacks. They also get a new scarf, hat and gloves, which the snowperson is wearing.