Home for the Holidays | Locals and Natives Reminisce

We asked locals and natives who’ve moved away to share their favorite holiday traditions, whether whimsical, hilarious, or sentimental. We are grateful for so many generous offerings and delighted to share them with our readers at HOME!

Blitz’s Mom used to make small boxwood Christmas trees for her friends at Westminster Canterbury and for the family cemetery plots. They had tiny ornaments and meant a lot to the people who received them, including those at the cemetery, I’m sure! —Heidi James

When [our daughter] Helen was a toddler, our Jewish neighbor in Manhattan came over to teach us how to make Christmas cookies. She brought me a copy of her recipe and had her own Christmas cookie cutters. I still have her recipe and Helen (now 17) and I make the cookies every Christmas to give to our neighbors. —Dabney Giles Treacy

Since we moved to New Orleans we now grill steaks—beef and tuna— because we can. —John Morgan

Christmas Eve we tour the city for holiday lights, then watch a Christmas Story and unwrap two gifts.—Makena Yarbrough

When we wrap our presents we don’t label with correct “from” names—for example, “to Ann from Father Time.” The name is a hint of what’s in the package. —Betty Hutter Blankinship

It was traditional for my mom’s crazy, wonderful family to always be together for all the holidays! I remember a Passover celebration during my college days when about 30 of us were gathered around two long tables in my mom’s sister’s house. My aunt is a very warm, loving and super-vocal woman with no filter. At this particular event, after we were all seated, she stood up and said, “Everybody got wine except for Alan—his is grape juice, so he is ok.” Thing is, my brother was in recovery, and not all knew until then. We all ended up breaking into laughter as the mood changed from uncomfortable silence to hilarity.—Richard Gordon

One Thanksgiving when my children were young, we were sitting at the dinner table and one child asked for a roll. For some reason that I can’t explain, as this was totally out of character for me, I picked up a roll and tossed it to him. My children thought this was great and then wanted to throw rolls all the time, so I made a “You can only throw rolls on Thanksgiving,” rule. —Sherrill Pulley Mulkearns

I have a leaf from my two older children—[the first] that they picked up in the fall. It’s pressed in the family Bible. I believe my daughter was one and my son was 10 months or so. I plan on doing it with my youngest child who’s almost a year; my other two are 14 and 10 now.—Elizabeth Franklin

As a child my older brothers and I looked forward to seeing our “Happy Chanukah” banner hung since we didn’t really get to decorate our homes with a tree or special mementos like our Christian friends. We would light the Menorah… and open a gift that “Shlomo Klaus” had miraculously left us while we were out of the room. How did he do it so quickly?! We could never catch him!— Susan Amowitz Schlossberg

I started giving [my family] a special ornament each year. When they married, they were given unique ornaments for their first Christmases as newlyweds. My sons still have their first ornaments; they are in their 50s now. —Mary Ann Dodd

My sister gets all the kids matching pajamas to wear on Christmas Eve. —Mia Lenae

Being of Polish descent we break oplatek (christmas wafer), usually on Christmas Eve. Each person has some of the wafer and we share it with everyone… wishing them a Merry Christmas and blessings… there is a [special] pink one to be shared with the animals…to remind us of this very holy night when even animals were able to speak and.. .that we are all God’s creatures.—Linda Radgowski

We visit the Christmas lights at the Elks Home in Bedford and then…get pizza. [We’ve] been doing it for years! —Carol Bryant

For about 25 years, a day or two before Christmas Eve, my dad and I traipsed out into some field or other—not a Christmas tree farm, just a field dotted with scrub pines— and cut one down. We always used the same rope, the same saw. We’d put the tree up on Christmas Eve. We still have the rope and we still get our trees together, though these days they come from a tree lot.—Victor Millner

A large group of family and friends gathers at midnight on the 23rd to have breakfast at a local late-night spot to celebrate Christmas Adam, because Adam came before Eve. —Christina Moore

In Mexico… many families celebrate Navidad by celebrating a Posada. They travel from house to house singing and playing guitar. When they reach a house, they knock and ask to come in; they are refused entry and move on to the next house, symbolizing how Mary and Joseph tried to find shelter before Jesus’ birth. At the last house the group is let in. They sing, pray, and have a wonderful meal together. It’s really a beautiful celebration!—Pamela Rivière-Gonzalez

My sweet Mama, [known as Oma], used to label every gift she gave as “Underwear.” Now that she has passed on, everyone gets a new package of underwear from Oma on Christmas.— Mary Lou

[We have] a Christmas Eve pajama party for family and friends… lots of games, food, adult beverages, music, laughs and interesting pjs! —Tammy Stuart

[We] always had fried oysters for breakfast and still do at 58! —Ruth Pash Palmer

Dan Payne’s special Clamato Bloody Mary’s that he gives as gifts!—Paige Riordan

Hiding a glass pickle on one of our trees. Whoever found the pickle would receive an extra gift from Santa. We were always told it was an old German tradition, until some friends visited from Germany and told us they had never heard of [it]! We all got a good laugh from that; I gave them a glass pickle that year so they could start their new German tradition! —Roger Trent

Each year, on Christmas Eve, we write down our hopes and dreams on a piece of paper and put it in our own [painted] boxes for next year; we open the boxes and read out loud what we wrote down the previous year. It’s fun, heartwarming, sometimes emotional after dinner at the table, with a giant tray of beautiful Christmas cookies we’ve made.—Erin Graves

We write a clue or pun on every gift tag that the person opening reads out and everyone yells out and guesses the gift before opening. The best are the clues the little kids give. It slows everything down and makes us really think and laugh about the presents people give!—Langhorne Sydnor Preston

We never have a holiday celebration… without oysters on the grill. Lots of fun for the grandkids who shuck them. —Pam Baldwin

We had a special Christmas gathering for adults only… after a cocktail hour that ensured everyone was relaxed and happy, we led them all to the dining room where there was a large platter of undecorated sugar cookies on the table to decorate. The husbands moaned and objected… but part of the fun was teasing them into it. It’s surprising how “mature” adults… can let down their hair and have some silly fun. —Jan Bennett Collier

Last year we did Christmas cards for the troops; that will be our new tradition. —Demi Mitchell

Every year between Thanksgiving day and New year’s day we have a Scrabble tournament. —Terri Pike

We have an ornament our daughter made in third grade with her photo—I always put it in the front of the tree and she hides it in the tree when she arrives. It gets moved several times.—Arline Ore

My husband and I always hang our “First Christmas Together” ornament on the front of the tree. —Juanda Davidson Harper

I buy everyone in my family an ornament specific to their interests that year or special landmarks in their life. We all get together and hang our ornaments and remember and reminisce from years past.—Kim Reed Collurafici

I make oyster stew every Christmas morning for my husband. Also, we collect ornaments from every trip—even weekend getaways. We try to find hand crafted ornaments. —Danielle Peterson Ore

Every year we decorate our house and yard with tons of figures and lights. We include six stars… alongside a giant inflatable yellow duck with a sign that says “Vaden’s Ducky”. The stars represent the one in six babies born premature… the duck was picked out by my son Vaden, who was born at 30-weeks old & stayed in the NICU for the first six weeks of his life… We look forward to setting it up here in our first year in the Lynchburg area! —Karen Fitzgerald

Ever since my daughter was very young, she would make our Thanksgiving place cards—every construction paper Thanksgiving [theme] you can imagine…She even made origami swans one year. Now, each year, we simply select from the collection based upon who’s attending! —Farah Marks

We play bingo after Christmas Eve dinner. I buy everyone new Christmas pjs; they put them on and put their clothes in a prize bag. By the time we quit, the kids are worn out and ready for bed, and their bags are full. —Cissa Basten

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