Traditions are part of what makes the holidays so special. After all, what would the holidays be without our family and community rituals? Whether you celebrate with a meal, worship, song or silly game, ’tis the season! We polled readers and our office mates to find some unusual family traditions, and here they are:
Every Christmas, volcanoes erupt in the Pabich family kitchen. Volcano cookies, that is! I keep my mother’s tradition of baking filled cookies for the holidays. These cookies are made from a rolled cookie dough and filled with a fruity jam mixture of figs, dates, apricots, raisins and lemon juice.
I cut a small, circular hole in the top to expose the filling. What looked to me like a small tart looked to my oldest daughter like a tasty volcano. As a toddler, she descriptively dubbed them “volcano cookies,” and the name stuck. Many years later, my children and grandchildren look forward to receiving a batch of Christmas “volcano cookies” every year. I am happily confident that their future holiday baking lists will continue the tradition and include an eruption of yummy miniature volcanoes!
— John Pabich
I buy a Christmas ornament from wherever we go on vacation and add it to our tree. It’s a great memory of where we’ve been. I also buy an ornament for my family related to what activity they are involved in that year or something that was important to them that year. [My] wife has gotten into bird watching, so I found the perfect birdhouse ornament.
My family eats the same two breakfast bakes every Christmas morning, followed by a family viewing of The Grinch. Tequila usually ends up getting passed around that night at Christmas with the extended fam.
Christmas Eve in the Twin Cities with my family and traveling to Sister Bay every Christmas Day to celebrate Christmas with Julie’s family. It’s changing a bit now because of kids marrying and starting their own traditions, but this was our tradition for decades.
Polar Express with all the grands since they were babies!
Like the good Norwegians we are, my grandma always sets out a smorgasbord (buffet) on Christmas Eve consisting of lefsa, meatballs, ham, beets, cheese, rice pudding, pickled herring and plenty of wine. As a child, I hated it. As an adult, I love every last bite! I look forward to it every year.
Santa hides a pickle-shaped ornament in the Christmas tree, and whoever finds it gets a fun extra gift.
— Jordan Altekruse
We put up our tree a couple of weeks before Dec. 25 and leave it up until Jan. 7, Eastern Orthodox Christmas.
Ever since I was a child, we would start Christmas morning off by watching The Santa Clause, starring Tim Allen, and looking through our stockings to see what Santa left us. After my father passed away in 2008, we started a new Christmas Day tradition: After opening presents, we would go to the movies. Hoping to see Cats the Musical this year! (Pretty please, Mom?)
— Grace Johnson
Putting on our Christmas PJs early in the evening on Christmas Eve and watching our favorite movies (Home Alone), all packed in the living room. For another family gathering, we have a large collection of ceramic Santa shot glasses, and we do several rounds of Baileys shots throughout the evening. Family members share both the store-bought and homemade varieties. Yum!
Ever since I was a kid, my parents have taken my brother, sister and I to see The Christmas Carol at the Goodman Theater in Chicago around the holidays. We’ve been doing this for 30-plus years, can pretty much recite every word of the play, and enjoy discussing our opinions on even the most minor changes they make in the performance from year to year. Plus, it’s just such a great story.
When we were kids and both stores were still open, we’d go check out the FAO Schwarz giant keyboard and the Marshall Field’s windows. We now take our spouses and get a drink at Petterino’s before the show and go out for a family dinner in the city.
Christmas Eve and Day, we spend a lot of time with the extended family, so it’s nice to have one day around the holidays with just our crew.
— Anne Dannhausen