What Are Your Family’s Holiday Traditions?

Very often the holidays can be a hectic, stress-filled time. Full of decorating, shopping, baking, wrapping, parties, over-spending, over-eating, and more.

What are bloggers Holiday traditions?

What helps lessen some of the frazzle?  Family, friends, and fun are what matter along with keeping holiday rituals and traditions alive. Holiday traditions are a big deal around my house every Christmas and that of many of my blogging buddies. I know your family has them, too. Traditions keep past generations of family alive and build a bridge to future ones.

Today, my friends and I are sharing some of our time-honored holiday traditions with you. The best moments of the holidays are the small simple ones that don’t involve wrapping paper and whopping credit card bills come January.

I know I am not alone in cherishing these special moments, presents under the tree get all the attention, but if you ask anyone, the holiday traditions that families keep alive every year are the real star of the holidays.

I love the music, putting up the tree, cookie baking, watching my favorite Christmas movies, but…

…It is not Christmas around my house without…

Christmas decorating candles in each window

Candles In The Windows – What I remember enjoying the most about Christmas growing up and still do is putting candles in every window when decorating the house.  Not wax candles, but electric candles that are meant to make the house look festive from the outside. When turned on at night, they create a magical ambiance inside, too. As a child, I loved falling asleep at night with the candle light glowing in my bedroom. My daughter’s feel the same way. When they were little, I put the candles on timers so they could fall asleep with them still lit in their bedrooms as they would go off automatically after they were fast asleep.

Since we moved, the lake house doesn’t have traditional windows like we did in our previous house. Now we have sliding glass doors.

Candles in the window for Christmas decor

To make up for this, the last two years when my daughters came home for Christmas, I put the candles on stools and placed them by the door in each room so they can still enjoy that magical feel of falling asleep with Christmas candle glow in their rooms.

Christmas Holiday Traditions - Countdown calendar

Christmas Countdown Calendar – I bought this countdown calendar from Avon 30 years ago. I would love to find another one so both my daughters who cherish it could have one since they both grew up counting down using it every Christmas.  They won’t have to decide who gets it someday.

Avon Christmas countdown calendar with mouse.

I have searched for one when out at yard sales and thrift stores, but so far I haven’t found one. I do see them on Ebay every year selling for $75 or more.  I have made bids, but am always outbid.


  • One very thoughtful and resourceful reader found one of these countdown calendars for me. Read all about it in this post: Countdown to Thankfulness.
Brewer's Advent Calendar

Last year, we started a another countdown tradition. Our daughter’s gave Ed a Brewers Advent Calendar they bought at Costco. He got another one this year. Every day in December you open it up to find a can of German Beer.

Christmas Ornaments that have a special meaning

Handmade Memory Ornaments

The Christmas tree is full of stories and tells our family’s history. Every ornament on it is special to all or one of us in some way.  Most are hand-made.  Some from our travels, other’s handed down through the generations, but the most loved are the ones that tell a family story. I refer to these as “Memory Ornaments”.

It is the story behind each ornament that means the most. My favorite are the heart ornaments I made a few years ago using the red velvet shirt my father wore every Christmas Day. The year he passed away, I made these heart ornaments from the beloved shirt.  Here is a link to the post:  Memory Heart Ornaments

Other memory ornaments that don’t require any DIY skills. Do you have any of these items in your house? 

What is a pickle ornament?

The Pickle Ornament

I didn’t grow up knowing about a pickle ornament. I learned about it as an adult when out shopping with a friend when we saw them on a store’s display. After reading about the tradition on the display, I bought one.

If you are not familiar with the tradition, in a nutshell…  When the parents go to bed on Christmas Eve, Santa hides the pickle ornament in the boughs of the tree. In the morning the children hunt for the hidden pickle, the child that finds it first, gets an extra present.

My daughter’s were little when we started the tradition of finding the pickle on Christmas morning. It would not be Christmas now without the ritual of searching for the pickle. The extra present is usually something small, but last year it was a very extra-special gift.

My daughter, Kelly’s boyfriend, Roger was here for Christmas and he knew about the pickle ornament tradition from spending previous Christmases with us. He asked if he could place a small gift pouch with an engagement ring inside over the hook on the pickle ornament and made sure everyone was on board to make sure that Kelly was the one that found it. When she did and was opening the pouch and saw the ring, Roger got down on hand and knee and proposed.  :-)

I bought this year’s pickle gift, it is really cute, but is not quite as special as last year.

There are no rules when it comes to creating holiday traditions. The real magic of them lies in the opportunity to experience special moments with family that last for generations to come. :-)

What are your family’s holiday traditions?

To read about more special holiday traditions, follow the links below to my blogging buddies posts today.

Duke Manor Farm 
 Kelly Elko      
Our Southern Home
Confessions of a Serial DIY’er
Town and Country Living
It All Started With Paint
Cassie Bustamante
Artsy Chicks Rule  
 Savvy Southern Style

Christmas traditions worth doing every year

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  1. tiny houses says:

    oh i love this content thanks for sharing.

  2. Christy @ Our Southern Home says:

    I just loved reading about your memories. I need to look for the beer advent calendar. So sweet to put the calendars on stools for your daughters. I must say, the velvet ornaments brought tears to my eyes. I need to do that. The engagement story is just priceless. This tour has been such a joy. It truly puts what is important into perspective. Thanks for sharing. XO Christy

  3. I have the same Avon Advent calendar…….I have hated it with the fires of a thousand suns forever….BUT my daughter adores it….so it is now her’s. Luckily, I only had one child who wanted it. When my daughter and grand daughter came to live with us, the baby would take the mouse out and carry it around like a toy. Thank goodness we were able to retrieve it.

  4. Here in Georgia, you see lots of candles in windows. My mom always put them in our windows, still does, and I do in my own home, too. I have seen some candles with suction cups for windows with no sills.
    My husband’s family always has their Christmas on Christmas Eve. Tons of food and people in his grandparents little house. So cozy! All the kids love it and play with the same toys my hubs played with! Great memories! Merry Christmas!!

  5. I have that same countdown. Ü

    Our Family Christmas Even Tradition: Watching The Muppet Christmas Carol while eating warm cinnamon rolls. Kids are grown but Roy and I still do it and I know my youngest does it now with her little girl.

  6. laura janning says:

    Diane, love all your holiday traditions . we too use to have those electric candles growing up and I also did when I was an adult for many years until we moved into our current home and our windowsills are wide enough to hold them. perhaps I have to get the Brewers Countdown and drink some beer instead! Merry christmas!

  7. Katy Beacher says:

    The pickle ornament tradition is new to me. But I cried when I read your story of the pickle ornament proposal. I loved it!

  8. You just put me right in the Christmas spirit!

  9. A family tradition that has been carried down several generations started as a necessity for my farmer ancestors. Feeding the animals and doing chores every morning was vital. After breakfast on Christmas morning, the chores were done, including washing breakfast dishes and making the beds. As a kid, we could look in our stockings, always with an orange in the toe. We weren’t allowed to touch or open gifts under the tree until everyone was finished with their chores. My mother thought her grandfather was unusually slow on that morning of the year! :) Friends who hear of this tradition thought it was cruel. As kids, it might seem unfair, but as they grew, they learned to appreciate the tradition and how the anticipation grows. One year my son slept on top of his bed covers so he didn’t have much to do to make his bed! Now that my kids are parents, I hope they continue the tradition.

  10. Christy@Confessions of a Serial Do-it-Yourselfer says:

    I loved reading about your traditions, Diane! Especially love that you created special ornaments with your Father’s shirt. I also love that you still try to create that warm ambiance when your daughters visit by adding a little stool to hold the candle. You can feel the love in your words. It is hard to top the pickle ornament engagement though! Merry Christmas! XO

  11. Norma Rolader says:

    wonderful ideas and traditions Thank you for sharing with us

  12. Hi Diane! I loved reading about your traditions!
    I made Christmas stockings for my 4 girls and still have them. I have made a stocking for all of my 14 grandchildren!
    All of the adults get a stocking too!
    So you can imagine, that’s a lot of stocking stuffers!! They all love it!
    I do candles, and many faux Christmas trees that I have purchased from HomeGoods and gift shops! I love the Christmas season! I have a real Fraser Fir! Always will!! Enjoy this magical time!!

  13. That stool with the candle and evergreens is so sweet. Love the engagement pickle story too.

  14. Kelly Elko says:

    Love all of your traditions! I actually have a bin full of those candles but I’ve never put them in my windows. That may have to change! I really love your memory ornaments – such a great idea to use your father’s old shirt. And we too used to do the pickle – until it shattered into a million pieces. Maybe Santa will bring us a new one. I’ll keep my eyes peeled for another advent calendar for you Diane – Merry Christmas!

  15. What a wonderful idea with your father’s shirt. My husband just passed away this last June and I think the grandkids would love it to have an ornament made from one of his flannel shirts that he always wore. Thanks for the inspiration!
    Did you ever try Etsy for the Advent Calendar? I have a friend that used to sell Avon, but I don’t know if she has a calendar. She does sell on Etsy though.

  16. Diane Henkler says:

    Hi DWF – Thank you so much for taking the time to tell me about the calendar. It is a great price I think because it doesn’t have the mouse. I am hoping to find one with the mouse. I told another reader that I may just buy it and try to make a mouse that looks exactly like the original one.

  17. Great traditions and what a great way to pop the question and on such a special day!
    Merry Christmas Diane!

  18. I love the “pickle proposal” idea! I didn’t know the story of the pickle ornament but you’ve inspired me to give one as a gift to my niece who has a new baby. She can start the tradition with him next year. I’m a Southerner and I do see a lot of homes with candles in the windows this time of year. NC to be exact. Sadly, I can’t do it because my pets think it’s a game to see who can knock them out of the window first!

  19. Linda Braden says:

    I love all your traditions! I, too, love the candles in the window. My sister would hang wreaths on each window and add a candle under. I try to recreate (sans wreath).

    The heart ornaments brought a sweet tear to my eye.

    And I never know of the pickle ornament tradition! New to me! And now if I can just get my mind out of the hide the pickle gutter. ;)

  20. Nancy @ Artsy Chicks Rule says:

    I love the idea of using your father’s shirt for ornaments. How very special! Lights in the windows is so pretty too! Thanks for sharing your lovely traditions! xo

  21. Jane Conheady says:

    I have the calendar! Yours is in WAY better shape! Mine looks like a can of soda was dumped on it but it’s a family favorite. Now I know the origin! It had to have been a gift from my mom ? I would love to give it to you but my daughters (ages 29, 28, & 23) look for it every year!

    Wish I could attach a picture ???!
    Merry Christmas to you!

  22. Because both our sons are in the military, we haven’t had Christmas with them and their family in years. So we figured just the two of us should start a new tradition, which we did several years ago.

    Christmas Eve we go to church then out to a fancy restaurant for dinner, just the two of us. We sleep in the next day, get up and make a great brunch then go to a movie matinee.

    Yes we have other long-standing traditions too (lots having to do with food…hahah!) and if we’re with other family members, we continue those as well. And of course we continue to follow some of them in our own home, even if it’s the two of us.

    Because we’re musicians the Christmas season is quite busy so by the time Christmas Eve and Christmas Day come around, we are happy to settle in to enjoy some quietude on our own. :-)

  23. Jennifer @ Town and Country Living says:

    Diane, the ornaments made from your father’s shirt are such a treat! Now I wish I’d done the same thing when my father passed a couple of years ago. What a special way to remember him at Christmas!

  24. Ebay has one right now. Buy it now category. $34.99 with $7.20 for shipping. Looks like the best deal to me. No bidding . Love your blog.

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Joan – Thanks for telling me. It is a good price. Sadly it is missing the mouse. He is really cute and is needed since it is all about moving him from day to day. I thought about trying to make a mouse or use something else, maybe I will have to end up doing that. :-)

  25. Marty Oravetz says:

    Oh I love the candle in the window, how fabulous is that.

  26. I would love to put candles in our windows…but we have no window sills, so I haven’t figured out another idea. Until now, that Is! Stools…of course! We do the pickle…we have three boys…so three pickles…different sizes. Smallest pickle = largest present. However…our boys are now grown men. And you have never seen anything funnier than three men scrambling to find pickles in a tree…the ornaments even shake! We do that as the last thing…after opening gifts. Enjoy Your Day! ;)

  27. Love the candle in the door idea, I bet it looks wonderful from the water. I am an avid estate sale shopper, I will keep an eye out for the Avon calendar. Thanks for sharing your ideas.

  28. Linda Swanson says:

    There’s a calendar on Etsy right now. $140. Search on Etsy.

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Thanks Linda – That seems to be the going price over on Ebay, too. Wish I could find it a little less expensive. :-)

  29. cassie bustamante says:

    i love these traditions, diane! my mom always did and still does the candles in the windows, too! and if i ever see that calendar i will grab it.

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Cassie – Since moving to the south, I rarely see candles in homes windows. It must be more of a northeast thing. When my girls were in college, I even gave them a candle to put in their dorm window so it would feel more like home :-) Thanks for keeping an eye out for the calendar.