Bellingham & Vancouver Wedding & Lifestyle Photographer Mikaela Ruth »

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Christmas Traditions

Everyone has them. That thing you do each year at Christmas…that thing that, without it, Christmas just wouldn’t be the same. It’s something that contains years of memories, has the ability to transport you to the past, and represents comfort and familiarity. It’s not Christmas until my mom bakes her spritz cookies shaped like trees and wreaths. It’s not Christmas unless we go to Grandma and Grandpa’s on Christmas Eve and eat a traditional Christmas Swedish dinner, complete with Root Beer. And candy cane ice cream. And Christmas wouldn’t be as shiny and wonderful if it didn’t include my mom’s tree that literally drips with glass vintage Christmas balls. That’s one of my favourites!

Now that Shane and I are celebrating our first Christmas as husband and wife, it has me wondering what our traditions will be, within our home. Last year he joined me and my dad on one of our favored Christmas morning traditions; after stockings and before breakfast, we drive the quiet streets down to the one open Starbucks in town and bring back drinks for everyone. It’s simple but it’s something that my dad and I have done together for years (like back when I’d go still in my Christmas pajamas…), and so it’s special. Speaking of Starbucks, for years I’ve been collecting their Christmas ornaments for the tree and it’s grown so much that this year, naturally, we have designated one tree just for Starbucks. And so I imagine that will be one tradition that will carry on in our home.

Now it’s your turn: what are your Christmas traditions, what is your favourite, what would you like to begin doing? Leave a comment and – here’s the really fun part – your name will be entered in a draw to win a Starbucks gift card! Yay traditions!

  • toviah morris - December 12, 2011 - 10:25 am

    watching christmas 1987 video. i was 8, my sister was 1 and it’s family dysfunction at its finest that year. we laugh, we cry and then we think “omg, that’s enough.”ReplyCancel

  • robyn - December 12, 2011 - 10:29 am

    one of our favourite traditions (that we’ve carried on from my childhood, which had been carried on since my mom’s childhood) is to open a gift of pyjamas on christmas eve and sleep in them that night… i know that since we’re away from home this christmas, it will make holiday feel more home-y! and, this year, we’re adopting some of the traditions of paris – the christmas market on the champs elysee, the midnight mass service at notre dame, the bubbly and oysters on christmas afternoon…


  • Stacey Sparks - December 12, 2011 - 10:30 am

    Every year my family makes chicken and dumplings from scratch. The recipe has been in the family for over five generations!ReplyCancel

  • ashlee - December 12, 2011 - 10:30 am

    Every year since I was born my mom buys us a new Christmas decoration so that when we moved out we had enough to decorate a small tree…it still continues and I will pass it on to my future kids :)ReplyCancel

  • Becca - December 12, 2011 - 10:33 am

    We always switch where we have Christmas between my aunt and uncle’s house and our house. One of our most recent added Christmas traditions is our Family Christmas Scavenger hunt, complete with a video making competition. This year’s favorite part? switching clothes with one player on the team – my aunt wore my 7 year old cousin’s clothing, while he wore her skirt :]ReplyCancel

  • kelsey loewen - December 12, 2011 - 10:35 am

    Up until a few years ago, my parents and brother and sister, along with everyone else on our block, would create paper bag lanterns and line them up along our driveways and along the street on Christmas Eve. We were the only street in town that created such a sight, so other people from the community would do drive-by’s and admire the beautiful lights after their Christmas Eve services! It’s one tradition that seems to have got lost in the expansion of my parent’s family; but one that I will do my best to uphold in my own :)ReplyCancel

  • Brittany - December 12, 2011 - 10:35 am

    Two treasured traditions: 1. My parents always allow us to open one gift on Christmas Eve, 2. The gift is always new pajamas:) Love this time of year!ReplyCancel

  • Melissa E - December 12, 2011 - 10:38 am

    Every year growing up my mom, brothers and I would listen to Evie on cassette as we decorated our Christmas Tree. And every year my parents would wrap a new ornament for us kids to put on the tree, that would match what meant or matched what we as kids loved year.
    I’m excited to carry on those traditions with my husband and our baby girl! :)ReplyCancel

  • Carlee - December 12, 2011 - 10:47 am

    Every Christmas Eve my Mom gathers us all together and hands us our Christmas PJs. Once we put them on we cozy up by the Christmas Tree and fireplace and watch a Christmas movie. Love your Starbucks tradition with your dad Mikaela. The small traditions are always the best. Happy holidays!!ReplyCancel

  • Erynn Plewis - December 12, 2011 - 10:56 am

    Openning matching pj’s with my sisters Christmas Eve and of course wearing them to bed that night is one tradition. My mom always bought us an ornament every Christmas too. I’ve carried on both traditions with my boys. No presents, except the pj’s, are under the tree until Santa comes on Christmas Eve. And we always go to a Christmas Eve service at our church.ReplyCancel

  • Jill F - December 12, 2011 - 11:12 am

    My family’s Christmas tradition is to let our dog (German Shepherd) open his presents first. He absolutely loves it, tearing up and ripping the packages into a million pieces and trailing them throughout the house- making a huge mess. Then one by one we will each open a present and have our dog open it for us. It’s an all-morning process, but we get to laugh and take photo’s, and it allows us to savor the morning and makes an entire hilarious experience out of gift giving. :)ReplyCancel

  • Debbie K - December 12, 2011 - 11:15 am

    Our tradition is every year get each of our kids an ornament that represents something about them or the past year. It’s so much fun to look at the past year ornaments.ReplyCancel

  • Jill de Bruin - December 12, 2011 - 11:41 am

    When we were kids, my mom would always put out all the presents Christmas Eve after we went to bed…so in the morning it was a surprise to see all the presents. Not to make us think it was Santa Claus, we knew they were from our parents, but it was just so much fun and so exciting to go out and see all the presents under the tree Christmas morning.ReplyCancel

  • Jennifer Anderson - December 12, 2011 - 11:53 am

    Every year my brother and both parents pick a night to decorate the entire house. We play Christmas music or Christmas movies while we put up the real tree and decorate. There is always laughter and so much love even though we don’t get to see each other very often. We also always go back to my parents house on Christmas eve after late church for some snacks and Christmas drinks and enjoy the time together. It wouldn’t be Christmas without the few times we spend laughing and enjoying each others company. (that also includes Christmas morning of opening gifts which always includes new pj’s and goofy socks!)ReplyCancel

  • Loria - December 12, 2011 - 11:55 am

    My husband and I are celebrating our first Christmas as a married couple too!
    We have one tradition so far – spend a day together decorating. We hang up the lights outside, put up and decorate the Christmas tree, then finish up by decorating fresh-baked sugar cookies! Christmas music in the background is a must, of course. We get lots of photo ops in one day, and we can take the cookies with us to the next family get-together and let people vote on the best one :)ReplyCancel

  • Nadine S. - December 12, 2011 - 12:12 pm

    Some Christmas traditions from childhood:
    As a child, my siblings and I would sit upstairs at the top of the stairs. We weren’t allowed to go downstairs until my Mom was finished making breakfast and setting the table, and until my Dad actually woke up! Some years it felt like TORTURE waiting! Yet there was something magical about when he would open his bedroom door because we knew it was SO close to the time to go downstairs. He would go down first, and usually within a few minutes my Mom would call us down.
    We’d usually go sit by the tree after a quick hug with Mom and Dad. My Dad, or one of us kids, would read Luke 2 (the story of the birth of Jesus in the Bible), and then we would open our stockings!
    Once we were done stockings, we would head to the table and eat breakfast. Each year we were served orange juice and cinnimon buns. The orange juice was always served in wine glasses. The cinnimon buns would be on a pan arranged in a design (like a candy cane or christmas tree). On each of our plates there would be 3 bells (chocolate bells from Purdy’s). As breakfast went on, we would always try to fashion our bells (after we ate them) into bells again because we wanted to switch them with someones uneaten bell and fool them. I don’t think we were ever successful.
    After breakfast, we’d go sit by the tree and open presents. We always opened one at a time. I usually went last because we always wanted to start with my parents first.

    The rest of the day would be spent at grand-parent’s hanging out and having fun! My Grandma ALWAYS put oranges in our stockings. There were other things as well, but getting oranges was the worst part!

    There’s other traditions as well; each Christmas Eve was spent at my aunts church. We would go there for the service and then head back to her house to eat treats and play games.

    On boxing day, my cousins would come over and we’d exchange gifts and have a huge dinner. So fun!

    My favourite tradition was Christmas morning with my family. It was a lot of fun. That’s always the one I wish I could be doing. Now that we’re all grown up Christmas is a lot different now. I’d love to get to go back to the top of the stairs.


  • Emily - December 12, 2011 - 12:17 pm

    Every Christmas morning, we eat the same breakfast: cinnamon rolls and orange rolls (both from the can!) with eggnog (and now coffee, too). I recently found out that this was what my grandmother fixed for my dad’s family when he was growing up and it just carried over into our family. I know it’s a simple tradition, but I love it!ReplyCancel

  • Summer Dotinga - December 12, 2011 - 12:18 pm

    Each year I opened one present on Christmas Eve night, a tradition I will do for my little girl. This year I bought a vintage ‘hide the Elf’, so that will be a fun tradition and next year she will be old enough on Christmas Eve night we will fill her shoes with oranges, a chocolate letter ‘O’ for Olive and other goodies and put them outside her bedroom door. Christmas morning we stay in our PJ’s for as long as possible, drink coffee with Bailey’s and whip cream, listen to Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack and make a big breakfast! So excited!ReplyCancel

  • the whyte house - December 12, 2011 - 12:50 pm

    justin’s family tradition was to have cinnamon rolls on christmas morning, so we do that at our house, too. there’s a show that airs in kansas called ‘santa’s workshop’ that use to air in the 70’s and 80’s each christmas. the man who played santa has since passed, but they show re-runs every yr of santa and his helper, toy boy, a little funny, high-pitched puppet that we all adored as kids. around here, his famous line, “zooming and zooming around the big, wide world…” is frequently quoted.

    (here’s a short clip that i found on youtube :))

    as a kid, we always had to look at christmas lights on the way home from christmas eve service. this year, however, we are planning cinnamon rolls and light looking a week early, just for justin (who plans military trainings over christmas, honestly?!?!), as he will be “zooming” without us.


    how in the world is your starbuck tree not any bigger?? i like that you’ve been collecting ornaments for it for so long. we haven’t had the opportunity to do that as long here. wichita has only had a starbucks for the last 6 years or so. :)ReplyCancel

  • Lindsay Vallas - December 12, 2011 - 1:33 pm

    I love when my mom and I put on our Christmas aprons that say ‘Christmastime is the perfect time to be fat and jolly’ and bake cookies & apple cider for the family while decorating the tree. We have a friend, Bader, from Iraq that decorates with us each year. He decorated his FIRST Christmas tree, ever, with us 5 years ago, and continues to come each year. We are his ‘American’ family now. We love seeing him each year.

    I also love when Santa comes to visit the family on Christmas Eve and all the kids run to the window to get a quick glimpse of him before its bedtime. So many wonderful memories from this. Santa is real, ya know. ;)

    But my favorite is worshipping the Lord, especially during this season. How blessed are we!ReplyCancel

  • Danelle Erickson - December 12, 2011 - 1:58 pm

    While I love the craziness that makes up the Erickson Christmas (there can be as many as 70 of us crammed into Grandma’s basement!), when I think of Christmas traditions, my thoughts immediately turn to Christmas on my mom’s side. When we were younger, Christmas would sometimes spread over several days, but as “us kids” have grown up, work and other responsibilities make it hard to find more than a day when we can all gather together. While some of the traditions – sledding, watching “White Christmas,” midnight games of Shang-Hi with the dads, and our annual theatrical production – have died out, our traditional Christmas morning and Christmas supper live on. Christmas morning involves a game of Jenga, stockings, and Christmas breakfast. Once Jenga has fallen and the caramel rolls are ready for the oven, we gather around the dining room table where we find our “stockings,” a huge pile of presents of all shapes and sizes. When the signal is given, we begin to sort through the gifts, everyone putting their own in their oversize grocery bag. The kids open first, then comes breakfast, followed by the parents opening their stockings. Our Christmas supper is our traditional Swedish supper made up of dup, lefsa, potato sausage, pork, lutefisk (if the dads decide to make some since they are the only ones who will eat it!) potatoes and white sauce, whipped cream fruit salad and Dad’s Rootbeer in glass bottles. Dinner is followed by Christmas carols and the reading of the Christmas story (sometimes out of Grandpa Ed’s Bible). Rice pudding with cranberries follow as dessert. Coffee and Christmas cookies are, of course, ready and waiting at anytime of the time we spend together!ReplyCancel

  • Rachel - December 12, 2011 - 2:26 pm

    My favorite Christmas tradition is watching National Lampoons Christmas Vacation on Christmas Eve with the entire family just before we go upstairs and wait for Santa. Even though we’ve all seen it a thousand times over, I love how we all laugh at the jokes that never seem to get old through the years. This tradition has meant so much more after the passing of several family members who always got the biggest kick out of this tradition – and enforced it yearly.ReplyCancel

  • Britt Erickson - December 12, 2011 - 5:47 pm

    Danelle Erickson pretty much covered all of them that we still do. :) I’m very excited for Christmas to be able to spend time with family!ReplyCancel

  • Krista - December 12, 2011 - 8:51 pm

    Making paper snowflakes, decorating the Christmas tree & watching Elf!!ReplyCancel

  • Maren - December 12, 2011 - 10:16 pm

    Aren’t Christmas decorations the best :) My favourite that has been happening for many generations and I will continue is that for our Christmas dinner we have Goose (not Turkey). It is super delicious and my grandparents have a special way of cooking so its extra tasty. I crave it all year long, but eating it at Christmas with my family just makes it extra special. I always have to watch “White Christmas” as well (I probably could say the whole movie in my sleep!)

    Merry Christmas :)ReplyCancel

  • Hannah - December 13, 2011 - 1:14 am

    I know it’s officially Christmas time when we watch Home Alone 1 & 2 with my family. Usually we do this right after Thanksgiving. I’ve done this with the two sisters and parents since we were little and now as we are all getting older we still carry on this tradition that always gets everyone giddy for the holidays. I hope to carry on this tradition with my family one day!ReplyCancel

  • Falcon - December 13, 2011 - 11:29 am

    How adorable are those Starbucks ornaments??

    My Christmas tradition has always seemed to change. When my brother and I were younger my family would celebrate Christmas at my maternal grandparent’s house every year and my grandmother, who was part Chinese, would cook up a big Chinese feast–the only one of the year. Now that my grandparents have passed away and my extended family is spread out throughout the country our tradition really varies from Christmas to Christmas. Just last year I celebrated my first Summer Christmas in Australia with my boyfriend!ReplyCancel

  • Sarah - December 13, 2011 - 2:18 pm

    Our Christmas traditional is going to a candlelight service on christmas eve. Christmas morning, we read the Christmas story followed by homemade pancakes, cider, and other delicious treats. Presents come next, and every year we somehow try to open the presents carefully to “save” the wrapping paper. We purchase a family gift that the whole family can use and the rest of the day is family time, usually playing with the family gift!ReplyCancel

  • Holly Findlay - December 13, 2011 - 6:14 pm

    Christmas isn’t Christmas till we head down to our local Christmas tree farm, Starbucks in hand, and walk around(usually for hours) till we find -and cut down our perfect tree. Then we drink hot cider and listen to the choir they have every year. Christmas also isnt Christmas till I wake up at 5am and head for grandmas, again Starbucks in hand, for a day full of Christmas baking. We bake give or take 12 items with enough for the whole family to take some home and eat some christmas eve.

    I just find Christmas is about the traditions that bring family together. I hope you two find all the happiness in the world making traditions that you will cherish through the yearsReplyCancel

  • Nicki - December 13, 2011 - 6:41 pm

    Every Year Just before the kids turn in for the night, Christmas Eve, we sit together and I read the story of the Nativity out of the Bible.ReplyCancel

  • Jill B - December 13, 2011 - 6:57 pm

    Ahh, Christmas.. Growing up, our family’s tradition was going to a Christmas service @ church — hearing the Christmas story and then leisurely opening gifts early afternoon before dinner.
    I just got married too and so am excited to see what traditions develop for us this month :-)ReplyCancel

  • Kirsten - December 13, 2011 - 7:07 pm

    My husband and I will be sharing our 3rd Christmas together this year. Our tradition is “Merry Christmas to Us” day. We love the time we spend with our families, but we choose one day, the week before Christmas, to celebrate just the two of us. We wake up, exchange stockings, head to Granville Island and a day of exploring in Vancouver. We love it!ReplyCancel

  • mike - December 13, 2011 - 8:04 pm

    Christmas Eve we stay up late after the church service and eat appetizers and play board games. The morning contains the slowest ever present unwrapping while eating butterhorns and leftovers.

    Oh…and Mystery Science Theatre 3000’s “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians” is the newest addition to “Must Watch Before Christmas is Actually Christmas” list.ReplyCancel

  • Kathryn - December 13, 2011 - 8:13 pm

    Hey Mikaela!

    Hello from Saskatchewan! I love your work and have been following your blog for about 6 months now :) At Christmas time my family always watches “Chevy Chase Christmas Vacation”. It doesn’t matter that I’ve seen this movie probably 10+ times, what matters is the laughter that we all share together. That movie never gets old! I also make sure to wake up my family early Christmas morning; usually around 5 or 6am (used to be earlier). It may not seem like a big deal, but I forgot to mention that I’m 20! Haha. Merry Christmas to you and Shane! Thank you for being an inspiration and someone to admire :)ReplyCancel

  • Paula - December 13, 2011 - 8:52 pm

    HI! :-) I have had several traditions growing up around Christmas but as I have moved out, I have begun new traditions. One tradition, my fiancé and I have started is going to look at Christmas lights on Christmas Eve. Another that we have just started recently is going to a Christmas Eve service.
    One tradition that my family has had for years is going to Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri and seeing all of the Christmas lights and seeing the Christmas Carol. It is spectacular to see in person! All of the buildings and trees are covered in lights.
    It also becomes a race to see how many different Christmas movies such as The Muppet Christmas Carol, Love Actually, etc. I can fit into the last few days before Christmas. I love Christmas time!! :-) Merry Christmas and enjoy starting your new traditions!ReplyCancel

  • Diana - December 13, 2011 - 9:20 pm

    I’m american married to a canadian living here in Abby, so a tradition I have missed and finally got to bring my husband to this year, was our annual Christmas tree hunt. My dad is a forester so we would go into the woods in Northern California and cut down our christmas tree the day after American Thanksgiving. It was our way to start the Christmas season. This year my 2 kids and my husband got to join in on the tradition for the first time. A tradition I hope never ends.ReplyCancel

  • Courtney Krause - December 13, 2011 - 9:42 pm

    We always have Chinese food for Christmas Eve and sing Christmas carols around the table before going to look at Christmas lights and then watch It’s a Wonderful Life together.ReplyCancel

  • Lisa @ MMT - December 13, 2011 - 11:50 pm

    This is so sweet! I love hearing about others family traditions. Just three years ago we had our son, and since then we have developed many Christmas traditions including giving our little one new pj’s every Christmas eve, a Christmas ornament every year, and waffles with lots of whip cream and green & red sprinkles Christmas morning. It’s fun creating new traditions as a family :)ReplyCancel

  • Rhonda Hollister - December 14, 2011 - 8:53 am

    I remember as a child when it was time to decorate for Christmas. The big “Christmas Box” would come down from the upstairs storage and we would all chip in. We had to be very careful with the glass ornaments, I recall a couple breaking over the years. On Monday I went back to help the “old folks” with decorating for the first time in over 30 years. We didn’t bring a fresh tree in from the porch but rather an artificial one up from the basement, and we didn’t hang silver tinsel on the tree or wrap the lights in angel hair. The tree is mostly decorated with cardinal ornaments now. But the “Christmas Box” is the same big long cardboard box that was always used. And mom is wanting to reclaim some of her glass ornaments that we took off her hands years ago. The little yellow “angel on the moon” candle is still there. A favorite as a child. And mom and dad are still the same. And of course Jesus. The most constant of all Christmas Traditions.ReplyCancel

  • Heather - December 15, 2011 - 8:29 am

    we always go to a Christmas Eve service then go to my aunt’s house with all extended family. We have treats and an annual ping pong tournament going on through the mingling. Christmas morning we open stockings, read the Christmas story, open presents then have a big breakfast together. A Christmas walk is a must at some point throughout the day. We also started signing a tablecloth at dinner and writing a little somethin somethin about the year…happy tradition making!!ReplyCancel

  • Kristen - December 20, 2011 - 12:15 pm

    My Christmas tradition is to designate a specific day out to watch “It’s a Wonderful Life”. I used to watch it with my father every year before I got married. Now that I’m married & not living with my parents, I’ve transfered the tradition over to my husband & I. My husband had never seen the movie before so it was so special to see his reaction to it. The movie is so meaningful & when we watch it, it’s like the 1st time all over again. Although I know almost all the words, I still cry at all the special parts of the movie & my husband is a pretty sentimental guy & he, too gets emotional as well. “No man is a failure who has friends”. Merry Christmas & God Bless!ReplyCancel

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