Our favorite Christmas traditions

30 November 2016

Without a doubt, one of the best parts of having children is reliving the magic of your own childhood, but through a new lens. This time, we get to be the ones creating the magic, introducing our sweet babies to some of our favorite experiences that produced our most vivid memories!

Truthfully, it can actually be a bit overwhelming when you start thinking that it’s your responsibility to make everything “magic,” but I’m comforted when I remember that some of the experiences I loved best from growing up were far from perfect. The one thing they all had in common, however, was that they were rooted in time with my family–and that’s a kind of magic I’m confident I can create. Here are a few of my favorite memories from childhood, and things we love doing now…


Growing up, I danced in the Nutcracker every year, so I started listening to Christmas music in August! The opening notes of Tchaikovsky’s prologue still make my heart race a little with excitement.

My family cut down our tree at the most idyllic farm. (This one, for those in Connecticut/Rhode Island!) I remember eating buttery springerle cookies and warming my hands on a paper cup of hot chocolate while we traipsed through the yellow fields looking for the perfect Fraser fir.

Every night, even if it was just for a brief moment between dance class and basketball practice, all five of us would gather to pin a felt ornament on the tree of our Advent calendar, made by my Dad’s cousins before I was born. A few years ago, Kate made Kim and I exact replicas for our own homes, down to the felt colors and sequin placement.

On Christmas Eve, we’d eat ham, baked beans, and coleslaw, then attend the seven o’clock candlelight service at our church. Since it was usually freezing in Connecticut, we’d wear our fancy wool coats with the velvet bows.

On Christmas morning, my sisters and I would squeeze across the top of the stairs while my Dad turned on the Christmas music, “checked to make sure that Santa had come,” and then gave the okay for us to race toward the tree in our pajamas. Opening stockings for our family of five usually took about an hour and a half, after which we’d eat gooey, cinnamon-y monkey bread before moving on to presents.


I could go on… but let’s chat about 2016 :)

My absolute favorite North Carolina tradition is going to the Christmas concert at Duke Chapel (pictured here). Getting to sing along to my favorite carols in that beautiful space is nothing short of magic.

We love our town’s Christmas parade, which winds through our historic main street at twilight, with high school marching bands, dance schools, jump rope teams (!), and floats from local churches. We always bring our own peppermint hot chocolate in thermoses, and have a particular hilltop spot we’ve secured for the last few years!

We love gathering with a few friends and family members to carol at a local assisted living home. The babies are always extremely popular :) Everyone brings their holiday party leftovers for a cobbled-together feast afterward at the Ray’s.

Now that there are several nieces and nephews on each side, matching Christmas jams are a thing! There was a long text chain on the Thomas side to decide on the perfect pair, but we just snapped up this one.

In addition to attending our church’s candlelight Christmas Eve service (still the thing I look forward to most every year), our Christmas Eve giving has become an important part of our family’s story.


There’s so much more — the ornaments John and I exchange every year, our end of year celebration dinner, the treats we shower on the post man, teachers, and other friends who help us throughout the year, sending Christmas cards — but I’ll stop there, for now :)

With that, I’d love to hear: what are your most vivid memories from Christmas as a child? What are your favorite parts of the holiday season now? Please tell me below!!

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December 1, 2016 10:06 am

I loved reading this thoughtful account of your family traditions, friend. I too, feel the same way about this year and have already treasured making new memories while savoring the old. One fun tradition we decided to tackle is going to the tree farm the day after Thanksgiving and then grabbing cheeseburgers afterwards (naturally). Then the Saturday after that is spent decorating, listening to holiday music, and drinking the first glass of egg nog. I have so many other fun traditions to share but I’ll save those for another day.

Also! June! So cute.

December 4, 2016 3:07 pm

I loved reading this post, Em and I’m so happy that you get to experience all of your holiday favorites “through a new lens” with June. Lots of love to you three!