Growing up we celebrated Christmas and no matter what was going on in my parent’s world they always managed to make it special for us.  They didn’t make it special by giving us everything we wanted (and I am sure asked for).  They made it special with traditions, little things that we looked forward to each year.

I can still remember the sound of the scratchy “Jiminie the Christmas Tree” record we would play on my parents old record player (over and over).  The sound of the needle skips etched into my heart as I think about listening to it with my sisters.  I remember riding around town in our tan Buick station wagon looking at all of the Christmas lights with wonder and joy.  I remember my mother’s wooden candle holder with pine scented taper candles that my sisters and I fought over who would set it up each year.  I remember all of the crocheted mailbox ornaments from my grandmother, each with the year they were made crocheted into them and how carefully we placed them on our tree.  I remember.  I remember so many things.  Little details that created the magic of Christmas for me as a child.  Looking back I know there were times when money was tight for my parents (four mouths to feed and butts to keep clothed) but my parents never let on and we always had a wonderful Christmas.  Sure there was the time my brother rolled down the broken window on the way to visit our relatives and it got stuck but we still laugh every christmas about driving for three hours with a garbage bag taped to the window, flapping like a jackhammer.  I hope I can create traditions for my daughters now that will one day mean as much to them and bring them as much joy as my parents brought us as children.

Here are a few of the traditions we started for our girls.  We dress up and attend a Christmas Eve service.  We open up one present on Christmas Eve and it’s always new pajamas.  We watch Christmas movies with popcorn.  We make Christmas cookies and goodies and always make a huge mess.  We pick out a Christmas tree and drink apple cider at Summer’s Tree Farm.  We read holiday books.  Bianca and I go to the Nutcracker Ballet (hoping Iyla can join us next year). We leave Santa cookies, milk and raw veggies for the reindeer.  I love seeing these things evolve as the girls get older.  This year they both were very excited about decorating the tree and I loved hearing Iyla’s little voice say over and over “wift me up Daddy, wift me up” so she could put another ornament on the tree.  We still have crabby days and moments where everyone is on the naughty list (highlights from today include an entire container of pumpkin seeds being dumped in a store while christmas shopping! ps. I apologize to anyone shopping near us and the employees who cleaned that up).  It’s not the big things you buy…it’s the little traditions that create warm memories and joy in our hearts.

What traditions do you remember from growing up? What traditions did you start with your family?

The ornament I embroidered as a child
New Pajamas!
This Christmas dress tastes good!
All ready for Santa
In search of the perfect tree
Tree hunters at it again
Enjoying the ballet

Tara is mom to two energetic daughters Bianca and Iyla. Passionate about inspiring others to cook healthy, delicious and allergy-friendly food, she owns Yummy Sprout, which provides healthy culinary adventures through classes and more. Check out Tara has been featured in the Wisconsin State Journal and on Channel 3 WISC-TV on topics including “making your own baby food”, “cooking with kids” and “packing healthy school lunches”. She adores living in Madison and all it has to offer family life. Her favorite ways to spend time include messing up her kitchen while recipe testing, running, yoga, writing, painting, traveling and reading books with her girls.


  1. This is SO adorable!! I love the traditions you’ve started and reminiscing about your childhood brought back some wonderful memories for me. My grandmother, who passed away 5 years ago this Jan, used to bake and bake and bake! I loved to help her shape her famous kieflies. We all miss those cookies:) A crazy tradition we have is a penguin swim. My Dad and his friend started this club before the more popular Polar bear dip was established. I personally am an official member because I have done the swim 3 consecutive times. It happens on Boxing Day and yes, it COLD!!!

    • Sounds like your Grandmother was very special Kristi. Traditions are such a great way to keep peoples memories alive. I’m pretty impressed with your penguin swim!! I’m not so sure I would be as brave.

  2. Adorable Girls Tara! We have a lot of different holiday traditions. Making sugar cookies and visiting family on Christmas. We celebrate Hanukkah with the kids and that has become really special since its just our little family. The children love getting a gift every night, playing games, having favorite foods and lighting the candles for a week. We also read about miracles in scripture and honor Jesus as the Light of the World during the festival of lights, and they watch Lamb Chop’s special,

  3. As a child, we’d set up our artificial tree the day after Thanksgiving and play Christmas music constantly from that day forward. Garlands hung from the ceiling like streamers at a birthday party. Throughout the month of December, my brother and I would cut and decorate batch after batch of sugar cookies. I don’t even know most of the people who got all of these cookies, but I saw my mother fill tin after tin with them and give them to my older brothers to deliver.
    My mother always did all of the gift shopping except for her gifts. My father took all five of us to K-Mart, Wal-Mart, or whatever store actually stayed open on Christmas Eve back then, to buy gifts for Mom. Then I would help him wrap his gifts along with my own.

    For my own family, I’ve had challenges incorporating both my own family traditions and my husband’s family traditions. In some cases, we’ve made new ones neither of us ever had, such as writing letters to Santa, going to see him every year, and acquiring our little shelf-elf, which has been a lot of fun. Instead of cookies, we leave wine out for Santa.

    Since my husband dislikes artificial trees, we go choose a real one as a family and decorate it together in the second week of December. I have a 24 inch pre-lit artificial tree in each of my children’s room (which I bring out the day after Thanksgiving) on which they hang their special personal ornaments.

    Even with all the new, upbeat holiday music, there is nothing that says Christmas like Bing Crosby, Perry Como, Frank Sinatra, and Nat King Cole. I have yet to see “It’s a Wonderful Life,” but we’ve seen “The Christmas Story” every year. It’s tradition after all.

    • I loved reading about your traditions Gail! What a great idea putting a little tree in each kid’s room. I have to agree about Nat King Cole and Bing Crosby – so classic and “A Christmas Story” is my favorite Christmas movie “You’ll shoot your eye out” 🙂


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