Our Holiday Traditions

I love  the holiday season, and it’s hard to deny that I’m the one in the family who demands that we stick to tradition. This year, I’m looking forward to several of our long-standing traditions, as well as a few newer ones.

Holiday traditions for families | Christmas traditions for toddlers, preschoolers and young children


This is a new one for us this year. My mom gave Emme an adorable Advent calendar, and we started opening the doors on Monday. Behind each door is an ornament to decorate Emme’s own tiny tree. I love this, and Emme seems to be into it. However, with a two-year-old, the following conversation was required on days one and two: You can only open one today… only one… only one… hang the ornament… only one… you can open the next one tomorrow… oh look shiny thing over here! On day three, she seemed to “get it,” and we didn’t have quite the negotiation over opening more than one door.


In 2012, we celebrated our first Christmas with baby Emery. Excited to make some new holiday memories with our little one (who had no idea what was going on), we took her to Breakfast with Santa at the Brookfield Zoo. We went again last year, and we made it an official tradition by signing up to go again this year. The actual photo with Santa did not go well last year. We’ll see how that goes this year.


Simbang Gabi is Filipino for “night mass,” and in the Philippines is a series of daily Catholic masses during the nine days leading up to Christmas Eve. In the Chicago area, various Catholic churches participate in a traveling Simbang Gabi mass, and the church around the corner from our households the mass on the third Saturday of December. My husband’s family is Filipino and for six years (and despite the fact that we’re not particularly religious), we’ve been attending this celebration. It’s always followed by a big Filipino dinner, which is a highlight of the holiday season for me.


My family has always gone out to dinner on Christmas Eve. It’s a tradition my mom started, and for years, we went to an Italian restaurant in Columbus, Ohio. Now that we spend Christmas in Chicago, we’ve tried a few different restaurants, but this year we’re heading back to The Chew Chew in Riverside for the second time. Maybe that will become the tradition? Time will tell.


We always have brunch on Christmas Day (this year my sister is hosting), and for several years now, it’s tradition to make this Baked French Toast recipe, which literally has corn syrup in it. I’m not a sweet breakfast person, but this is so worth it once a year. We’ve also decided to start a new tradition this year–an informal Christmas dinner. In the past, we’ve done a more formal Christmas dinner, but after brunch then celebrating with my husband’s side of the family with a big lunch, we’ve decided that we’re going to do soup and sandwiches or something similarly simple for dinner with my sister, her family, my mom, and her husband. I think a holiday movie might also be in order.

Do you have long-standing family holiday traditions? Are you making any new ones this year?

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