Fashion Holidays

What Christmas Traditions Did You Keep From Your Growing Up?

What are your favorite Christmas traditions from your growing up? And which ones have you kept up with your own children for Christmas?

What are your favorite Christmas traditions from your growing up? And which ones have you kept up with your own children for Christmas?

Isn’t it fun being the parent?

I mean, not every moment (I would have happily handed over the potty-training reins to someone else over the past couple of weeks), but the holidays are a FUN time to be the mom.

I grew up in a home with lots of fun holiday traditions and we’ve carried many of them over to our little family.

Here are five that we’ve kept:


  1. A Christmas Eve movie. I swear, Christmas Eve is the LONGEST day when you’re a child and so when I was maybe 7 or 8, we started going to a movie in the theater every Christmas Eve. It felt like such a fun excursion and helped break up the day. I remember seeing Miracle on 34th Street the most, but we saw lots of fun Christmas (or not Christmas) films over the years. Bart loves loves loves going to see movies in the theater, so he wasn’t a hard sell on this tradition. This year, because Christmas Eve falls on a Sunday, we’ll go to a showing on Christmas Day of Ferdinand. I can’t wait!
  2. Christmas Eve shepherd’s meal. This is my very favorite Christmas tradition – we eat dinner on the floor on Christmas Eve by candlelight/Christmas tree light and at the end recite the Christmas story from Luke (we each have assigned parts that we have memorized). My family usually did soup and bread bowls, but we’ve gone to more of a snack dinner with the kinds of foods shepherds might have eaten if they’d had access to Trader Joe’s (crackers and cheese, dried fruits and nuts, sparkling cider, butternut squash soup, etc).
  3. Opening gifts one at a time. There was no tearing the wrapping paper off frenzy on Christmas morning. We started with my dad and went in age order with each person choosing a gift under the tree for someone else and then everyone watching as that person opened the gift.
  4. Sleeping under the Christmas tree. This will actually be the first year we’ve done this for our girls, but they are beside themselves excited. It was one of my favorite, most magical nights of each year when I was young, and we’ll probably let the three big girls sleep under the tree on the 22nd. After my youngest sister, Landen, got married, she convinced her husband that they should sleep under the tree at my parents’ house. My dad asked the next morning how it was and Adam, eyeing the wood floors, said, “That was one of the worst nights sleep I’ve ever had.” It’s definitely better when you’re a small child.

One tradition we haven’t kept? My family never eats breakfast until everything is opened and because of the afore-mentioned one gift at a time thing, it usually meant we didn’t eat until nearly lunch time and we just ate chocolate out of our stockings and basically felt ill.

Bart’s family eats breakfast BEFORE they open anything (and everyone is usually showered and fully dressed!) but I can’t wait that long, so we’ve compromised by doing stockings and a few rounds of gifts, then breaking for breakfast, and then returning to gifts.

What traditions have you kept from your family? I love hearing about the different ways families celebrate the holidays!

What are your favorite Christmas traditions from your growing up? And which ones have you kept up with your own children for Christmas?

VELVET FLATS (via thredUP; similar here and here)

What are your favorite Christmas traditions from your growing up? And which ones have you kept up with your own children for Christmas?

Photos by Christie Knight Photography

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  • Reply Jen December 12, 2017 at 7:29 am

    In theory I like the idea of seeing a movie on Christmas Day but I don’t like the idea of making someone else work and be away from their family.

    • Reply Janssen Bradshaw December 12, 2017 at 10:00 pm

      It’s a good point – maybe we’ll wait until the day after Christmas.

  • Reply Kate @ Mom's Radius December 12, 2017 at 8:51 am

    We also only open one gift at a time. I thought everyone did that. Haha.

    Another thing from my childhood – Santa always brings smaller presents (we actually got one big Santa gift when we were little) but everything else is from us. Santa presents are unwrapped, while presents from us are wrapped.

    And my son can look at his stocking without us (although he never has yet), but then we usually eat a quick breakfast before opening our gifts to each other. When I was little we always had to wait for my dad to get his food, and it took forever! It was torture.

    I also buy one ornament each Christmas for my son, which is something I wish my parents had done. I also do it for my niece and nephews.

  • Reply Sherry December 12, 2017 at 9:29 am

    This is a bit of a sore point for me because my family basically has 0 traditions, except for Christmas. It really is the only thing where we had traditions, whereas Eric’s family has lots of traditions year-round. My family always did a big celebration on Christmas Eve and opened most of our presents on Christmas Eve after a big Tex-Mex meal. I would love to re-institute the Tex-Mex meal, but it doesn’t make sense for us to ditch the rest of his family to do our own thing. So, basically I just rely on creating our own Christmas traditions that are unique to our family unit and don’t necessarily involve the larger extended family. (Man, I sound awfully whiny.)

  • Reply Diana December 12, 2017 at 12:48 pm

    We were definitely an “open one gift at a time” household too which may have driven my husband a little nuts when he first started coming around. Now with 13 grandkids and all 6 of us girls married, a few rounds of gifts can take most of the day! But I love it! And have definitely instituted the same at our house (although, with one kid, that’s pretty easy to enforce). I love the idea of sleeping under the tree! Maybe we’ll try that when our son is a little older!

  • Reply Rhonda December 12, 2017 at 12:48 pm

    The Christmas Eve tradition that from my family that I kept and slightly modified…we opened one gift as children after church. It always took the edge off the craziness and allowed us to sleep! I kept that tradition, but for my kids and my husband and me the gift is always our Xmas pajamas. I don’t do a Xmas theme since we wear the pajamas all year round, but I coordinate us so we look sort of matching in pictures in the morning. 🙂 I even re-use the gift bags every year so when I put them out each Christmas Eve my now teens and pre-teen all say, “Our pajamas!” It’s fun! My husband’s childhood Christmas traditions included hitting every family in the area. He was lucky enough to have all families within minutes of each other so that entailed stopping by a great grandmother and having two separate Christmas Eve parties for each side of the family. Since our families live an hour apart and I grew up having a nice quiet Christmas Eve with just my immediate family I nixed that after one year. Too stressful! We rotate families year by year (the other family gets Christmas afternoon) and then end the night with just our five, cocoa and pjs.

  • Reply Maggie A. December 12, 2017 at 2:06 pm

    I also love the idea of sleeping under the tree! The movie night on Christmas Eve is fun, too.

    I have carried on a few traditions that my mom started with me and my 4 siblings. The first is that every year, we each received an ornament. (Mom was extra smart and always wrote the year on it!) This is because when she and my dad first got married ,they were broke and had no ornaments to put on their first Christmas tree together. So she decided she wanted her kids to have lots of ornaments when they got married and were also broke. It worked! I have a bunch, and they all have memories. Now, I get an ornament for my son every year.

    Another tradition is that we always received a book for Christmas. My mom would select an age-appropriate book every year for each of us, until we graduated high school. It’s been really fun to share books I loved as a kid with my son. Of course, before bedtime on the 24th, we always read Twas the Night Before Christmas and the story of the nativity from our children’s Bible.

    My siblings and I also did our version of Secret Santas (we called them Advent Angels). In addition to a small gift under the tree (maybe a box of candy or a picture we drew), we also would secretly do nice things for each other. I remember being a kid and when I wasn’t looking, my Advent Angel would do something like make my bed for me or pick up my toys. Sometimes they would leave a kind note or work through our parents to send messages. It was really fun to spend all of Advent trying to figure out who our AAs were. We always opened up our AA presents on Christmas Eve. We still do this today, as adults! Unfortunately, we don’t live anywhere close to each other now, so we can’t do the secret acts of kindness part anymore. But we still have AAs — and now our spouses all join in, too.

    We also used to have a birthday cake for Baby Jesus every year, and we are going to start that one this year. At 2, my son is just beginning to grasp the idea of Baby Jesus’ birthday.

    Oh, one more — every year, my mom makes the same thing for breakfast on Christmas morning, after we’re done opening presents. We always have that sausage-egg-and-cheese casserole, milk, oj, and sometimes pancakes or waffles. Then we lay around in our pajamas all day, enjoying our gifts, food, and each others’ company. Usually it ends up being a board game or movie marathon.

  • Reply Cait December 12, 2017 at 4:53 pm

    We open one gift at a time and have a lovely brunch afterward in my house as well. My mom to avoid the feeling ill, has us sing “Happy BIrthday” to Jesus after we open stockings. We usually use a coffee cake, loaf of bread w/jam or banana bread for the cake. It’s a nice reminder of what the day is about and keeps us sugar crashes from happening till Brunch at 1 or even 2pm.

  • Reply Abby Johnson December 12, 2017 at 5:47 pm

    When we were kids, my family always went to my grandparents’ house for Christmas Eve dinner and opening presents from them/that side of the family. Now us kids are grown and my brother has a daughter, and I think we’re going to keep that tradition of Christmas Eve dinner at my parents’ place, doing our Christmas with my niece (and any future nieces/nephews) on Christmas Eve. Hopefully when she’s a little older we’ll get to come over for some Christmas mornings, too!

    Last year, we ended up doing Christmas with my husband’s family on Christmas Eve morning and we were on our own for Christmas Day, which was quite lovely!

    • Reply Abby Johnson December 12, 2017 at 5:51 pm

      Ahhh, the other big tradition in our family is to have a smorgasbord while decorating the Christmas tree. We never put the tree up earlier than a week or two before Christmas, often just days before Christmas. Sometimes we’d save it for family to help with if they were coming in from out of town. And we’d request any foods we wanted and have a feast (in fact, we call it The Feast!) while decorating. Shrimp, quiche, M&Ms, barbeque… whatever anyone requests will be put on the menu. This year we’re surprising my mom with White Castle hamburgers!

  • Reply Kim December 12, 2017 at 6:50 pm

    Both my husbands family and mine always watched muppets Christmas carol on Christmas Eve, so we do that. We also both grew up opening one present at a time which we kept. My husbands family always wrote nice little notes to each other to put in stockings on Christmas Eve. This is hard with our tiny kids but we try. My family always had a big nice dinner. We’ve switched up the actual food but try to do this as well.

  • Reply Cheryl December 14, 2017 at 9:56 am

    We open presents one at a time too but only after playing the movie quote game. Our family loves Christmas movies so we pick a quote and the person who gets it right gets to open the next present. We laugh a lot and talk about our favorite Christmas movie scenes. Merry Christmas.

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