Whether your family has a tradition of gathering for a large Christmas dinner, opening presents around the Christmas tree, or simply enjoying a cup of hot cocoa in front of the fireplace, there is nothing like having everyone together for the holidays.
Here at Balsam Hill, we think of each other as family. No matter how busy we get during the holidays, we never forget to spend a few moments together to enjoy the festive atmosphere the season brings. This year, we would like to celebrate the holidays with you by sharing some of our most cherished holiday memories and traditions. Here’s to a season of making new memories, and remembering all the beautiful moments of holidays past.
From our family to yours, Merry Christmas!
Every Christmas Eve my mom’s side of the family gathers at my grandpa’s house for dinner and presents. The house is getting a little small for all 30+ members of our family, but my grandpa is 88 years old and wouldn’t have it any other way. It is one of the rare times everyone is together in the same place.
My family has a big tradition of opening our presents on Christmas Eve each year and meeting up at our Grandparent’s house for a German dinner. This is my favorite meal of the entire year that consists of spätzle (homemade noodles), red cabbage, spinach, and a different type of meat each year!
My favorite Christmas memory is decorating gingerbread cookies with my family. We give the cookies as gifts to friends and tailor the cookies shapes and decorations for each recipient. This year, I made them with my 2-year old daughter for the first time.
Each year, I know it is already Christmas whenever I see the quilted stocking my favorite great aunt made for me when I was just a newborn hanging on its peg on our fireplace mantle. I still hang that stocking every year. And though my Aunt Clara passed away years ago, I still hang a stocking adorned with the name “Clara” on our mantle next to mine in honor of her and my daughter who bears the same name as hers.
Every Christmas morning stateside, we eat my mom’s cinnamon bread for breakfast. It’s special because it’s the only time of year she bakes. We look forward to it every year.
I remember making and decorating Christmas cookies during the holidays. Then leaving those cookies out for Santa and seeing if they were gone on Christmas morning. I was always so excited to find the cookies gone.
Also, I would go sleep in my sister’s room with her on Christmas Eve. I would wake up so early that she would bring in games for us to play before we woke up our parents. She also passed the time by having us open up “sister stockings.” These were stockings she made for the both of us where we put little presents in there for each other. I really loved those sister stockings. It was a tradition we did year after year. If I were to have daughters someday, I would definitely make them sister stockings to keep the tradition going.
Since the age of 9, I have traveled with my family over the Christmas holiday. We’ve been to places such China, Portugal, Thailand, Korea, Hawaii, and Norway. Back then, I thought the tradition was a pain because I wanted to celebrate Christmas the way they do on TV, with evening treats and morning presents. It was in my college years that I really came to appreciate the time together as a family and to be grateful of the amazing opportunity to see different areas of the world during a time of festivity.
Since I moved across the country from New York to California, I don’t get to go home very often for Christmas. Actually, I haven’t been home for Christmas in 3 years. So my sister and I started the tradition of buying each other an ugly ornament every year. Last year, she bought me the Christmas pickle, which was a bedazzled pickle – stunning yet gaudy. It will dress the branches on my Christmas tree for years to come.
Our Christmas tradition started with my mom and I. We would take turns getting fun Christmas socks for us to wear Christmas morning. We have since expanded this tradition to include my sister-in-law, daughter and niece. Everyone is always so excited to see what kind of silly socks we get and try to top the ones we made the year before.
When I was a kid, my parents used to own a retail store, so they were very busy during the Holidays. My brothers and I didn’t see them much as they worked long hours, sometimes even seven days a week. But on Christmas Eve, they would close the store early. I would always get so excited on Christmas Eve whenever I hear their car pull into the driveway because I knew that signaled the end of their busiest season. For the rest of that night and the entire next day, we’d get to spend time together as a family.
Since we started dating in 2002, my husband and I have each painted a ceramic ornament every year, and now we have quite a collection. This makes decorating our tree seem like a trip down memory lane.
One of my favorite Christmas memories is riding all over the countryside in northern Kansas on a wintry afternoon. I heard stories about the places, towns, and people that my parents had grown up with and interacted with in their childhood to high school years.
We drove by the house my dad was born in and visited many of their old friends, some neighbors, and family along the way. We probably hit three or more houses with abundant displays of cookies laid out once they knew my sister and I were along. We were probably early elementary. Each time we got back in the car to go to the next house, we would see these rolling snow-covered hills with browns stripes of fence posts along dirt roads everywhere, like an etch a sketch.
In later years, I remember seeing Currier and Ives tins that were so indicative of that afternoon. I learned so much about my parents and what had shaped them. It gave me such a sense of where they came from and, indirectly, where I come from as well. It was so grounding for me, and helped me launch into who I wanted to be and how life would be a road ahead for me. It was so great to know how my parents had navigated and processed their own lives. It seems silly, but Christmas cookies remind me of that day. Several of the women had Swedish spritz, of course, and then these cornflake wreaths. I usually make the wreaths, but have yet to master the spritz.
The holiday season has always been about cherishing our bonds with family and friends. How does your family celebrate Christmas? Share your stories with us in the comments.