Holiday traditions are so important because they can build strong family bonds, create bridges to our past and connect us to our communities. Traditions can keep memories alive by cooking your grandma’s recipe or eating with your great aunt’s silverware. The importance of holiday traditions dates back thousands of years and is a way for us to feel a part of something.
We can start our own traditions such as gifting our children an ornament every year or a special day of baking cookies. Maybe you already have some traditions and just don’t realize it. Holiday traditions are a great way to express ourselves. Do you prefer to decorate in red and green, or all white, maybe lots of color? Either way, we give our own touch to a magical time of the year.
List Of Holiday Traditions
- Advent calendars
- Homemade stockings
- Yearly ornaments with name and date
- Trimming the tree
- Sending holiday greeting cards
- Watch the NORAD Santa tracker online on the 24th
- Set out a collection of holiday books for the kids
- Create boxes of cookies for family and friends
- Have a Christmas simmer pot on the stove
- Celebrate the Winter Solstice
How We Celebrate Our Family’s Holiday Traditions and Why They Are Important
Below you will find some of our family’s favorite holiday traditions explaining why they are important to us. I’m hoping to inspire you to create your own, celebrate the ones you already have, or start some new ones!
This includes eating! These are a few of our favorite holiday recipes:
- Easy no-chill Norwegian butter cookie recipe with chocolate chips
- The best Norwegian Christmas Bread with cardamom (Julekake)
- Healthy low-carb pea soup
- Low-sodium chili and setting up a chili charcuterie board
Advent Calendars are a wonderful way to get excited about the season. We can count down the days until the big celebrations. See the days pass until we have the big feasts and gift exchanging with family.
We are blessed every year with these wonderful cut-out evergreen trees that my kids’ Papa makes for them. We usually hang them on the back of a door in the kitchen. The kids get to put a number sticker on the date every morning. It is a great way for them to visually see the days progressing.
There are so many advent calendars out there to choose from, some with chocolates, some with candy, or some with coins. Anything you choose will be a little something exciting every day.
There is something so magical about stockings hanging from the mantel. What makes that even more special is having homemade ones. My mom made my stocking (the red one) when I was little and I still hang it to this day. It fills my heart with such warm memories that I decided to make one for each of my kids and my husband.
To make homemade stockings, all you need is a little inspiration. There are so many ways to go about it from difficult to easy. The following are some ideas to get your creative juices flowing.
- Go to the thrift store and buy a sweater with a pattern you like. Lay it flat with the back and front together inside out. Trace out a stocking pattern using the bottom edge as the opening. Get a needle and some thread or yarn and whip stitch it together leaving the top open. Cut out the shape of your stocking and turn it right side out. Use ribbon or cording to make a loop for hanging. Level: Easy
- Transform an old pair of corduroy pants by cutting out the shape of a stocking 2 times. Right sides together, stitch together by hand or sewing machine leaving the top open. Use a contrasting fabric or fur to make a cuff at the top. I used some of my grandmother’s old fabric to add a special touch Level: Medium.
- Whip out your crochet hook or knitting needles. I crocheted this green one for my littlest and love how it turned out. See the tutorial here. Level: Medium to Hard
- Buy an already-made stocking and add your own touches. Hot glue felt shapes, sew on beads or buttons, embroider initials, the possibilities are endless. Level: Easy
Every year since I was born, my mom has given me an ornament with my name and date on it. I have amassed quite a collection at this point (laughs). When I had children of my own I carried on this tradition. Every year I try and choose something unique to their personality. It varies from year to year. This holiday tradition is so important that my mom also gets one for my husband. These are this year’s ornaments and we can’t wait to hang them on our tree.
You can order ornaments that can be personalized, make your own or buy wooden ones from a craft store and paint them yourself. Any inspiration you have just go with it, it’s never too late to start. These yearly ornaments are something they can take with them and something they will treasure always. This is definitely an important holiday tradition that we will carry on.
Trimming The Tree
Did you know that the tradition of decorating an evergreen tree began with the Norse and Celtic peoples? Evergreen trees were seen as eternal, a symbol of eternal life because they stayed green throughout the Winter. They would decorate these trees with nuts and carved wooden symbols of gods, food, and clothes and ask the forest to return Spring with abundance. Over time the decorations became more elaborate with popcorn, gingerbread, and candles. And eventually with the lights and baubles of today.
Our family’s evergreen trees over the years are full of memories. Memories from all the ornaments received and collected hang lovingly on the boughs. Our tradition is a day spent all together pulling them out of boxes and sharing all the stories of each one. Some were my grandmother’s and some my kids made. Some are so old that I put them towards the top so they aren’t knocked off, and some are crocheted by me.
It wasn’t until the mid-19th century that decorating an evergreen tree became popular around North America due to its Pagan heritage. As Christianity swept through the area, it absorbed most of these old-world traditions giving people what is commonly referred to now as the Christmas tree.
Send Holiday Greeting Cards
One of my favorite holiday traditions is sending out greeting cards by mail. So many of our days are lent to technology, but taking the time to send out cards during the winter celebrations is a wonderful tradition. It dates back to 1843 in the United Kingdom by Sir Henry Cole. Click that link for a wonderful story!
Getting my cards just right is something that I plan for months. It all starts with taking just the right photos of the family in just the right setting. Then select the design and layout usually with Shutterfly or Photo Affections and print them off. Making a list and checking it twice for the correct addresses of the recipients, stamps, and off to the mailbox with the flag up.
Now that we have sent ours it’s time to check the mail. It is so exciting to see the holiday cards come in. Much better than bills, huh?
There are a couple of ways I have found to display all your greeting cards if you don’t have a lot of counter space. First, you can make a string tree on your wall using small nails and zigzagging ribbon or twine into the shape you like. Hang cards on the “branches” with clips or clothespins.
The other display method that I enjoy is to clip greeting cards onto my lampshades. I tend to have large vintage-style lamps that have large white shades and the cards look really neat displayed in a circle. Plus the light helps you see them.
NORAD Santa Tracker
Possibly one of the most fun things to do online on the 24th is to watch NORAD Santa Tracker. It is a beautifully made program showing just where Santa is at that moment. Santa’s sleigh is pulled by his reindeer over countries and oceans with interactive controls that help you learn about everything you see. He flies right over the Pyramids of Giza and the Taj Mahal. And my kids can’t wait until he starts flying over the Atlantic Ocean because they know he is headed for our house. Check it out here.
Set Out a Collection of Holiday Books
The holidays are filled with warm blankets and cozy fires, hot cocoa, and good books. I keep a box of holiday-themed books for my kids and bring it up every year for them to enjoy. There are some classics in there like “The Night Before Christmas”, “The Sweet Smell of Christmas”, and “Rudolph”. Snuggle up and read some holiday books to really get in the spirit.
Awwww, the infamous holiday cookies. What is it about this time of year that we just have to have all these yummy sweets? Making cookies during the holiday season has been a tradition in my family for many years. Some years it gets pretty elaborate and in others just a few varieties. Nevertheless, it is a holiday tradition that deserves a mention. It is something that we get to make from scratch and share with others. Let’s make that a part of exchanging gifts with others, a tradition that has been around for more than 2,500 years.
Whatever you fancy becomes possible with so many cookie recipes out there. One staple that I make every year without fail is peanut butter cookies. Chocolate crinkle cookies and thumbprints with homemade lemon curd are other favorites. Make sugar cookies and cut them out with fancy cutters. Chocolate bark is simple and delicious. Most cookies (or shaped dough) freeze well so you can prepare them ahead of time.
Get creative with containers. Use foil baking pans, dollar store tins with lids, or blank cardboard food boxes and let the kids color designs on them. Pass them out to family and friends, and don’t forget the mailman and your delivery drivers.
Have A Christmas Simmer Pot On The Stove
Fill a pot with fresh greens, citrus fruits, and berries. Let it simmer away on the stove while the aromatics dance in the air stirring our feelings. Some smells bring nostalgia – for me, it is cardamom and baking bread with my grandmother.
It can take as little as 5 minutes to forage your outdoor space for some goodies to use. See my full guide on easy Christmas simmer pot ideas (and get a FREE printable gift tag). Fill jars with wonderful-smelling things and give them as gifts.
Celebrate the Winter Solstice and Other Ancient Traditions
Holiday traditions such as the yule log, hanging of wreaths, lighting candles, and decorating with evergreen boughs can be traced back to Norway hundreds of years BCE. The Norse people celebrated the Winter Solstice and the 12 days after with feasts, decorating, and the exchanging of gifts. Much like we all do today at this time of year.
A lot of the holiday decorations and traditions date back to ancient times. Decking the halls with holly, decorating an evergreen tree, and large feasts have been a part of the winter celebrations for a very long time. It just shows us how important these holiday traditions are throughout time.
These traditions have been handed down from generation to generation, and however, they change with time the roots remain the same. It was and still is important to recognize the transition from the darkest day of the year to the return of the sun’s light. And we give thanks for this by celebrating the Winter Solstice.
Holiday Traditions can have many different reasons why they are important. But one thing is for sure, they give you a burst of holiday spirit. The darkest days of the year are brightened by the stringing of lights and the beautifully lit candles. For some of us following the ancient customs, this time of year is a wonderful time of celebration to give thanks to the Earth and for the fellowship of family.
Gathering with close friends and family can strengthen these traditions and give you a sense of belonging. So set your table with your best dishes or take a walk to look at the lights, just get going on your traditions.
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Great Holiday Recipes
No Knead Rolls