The holidays are a great time to revive family traditions. Whether your family spends the day together singing Christmas carols, eating special holiday foods or watching your favourite yuletide movie, the holidays wouldn't be the same without them. See what Canadian Christmas traditions some Canadian Living.com readers celebrate every holiday season.
12 children for Christmas
I belong to a wonderful family of 11 siblings; only one lives out of town. My mother is still alive, bless her soul. My mother taught the tradition that I still do today with my children. As you can imagine, or maybe you can't, having that many kids in one household can add up to a lot of housework. One of the household chores that we all did well on Christmas morning was making our bed. The tradition was that everyone had to make their beds before anyone could open their gifts. So when the first one awoke, they woke up everyone else and made sure that each bed was made or looked made. Even Mom and Dad had to have their bed made. We still have fun doing this every Christmas.
- Gwen Legacy
An old holiday tradition is to take my small children to either a dollar store or a kid's only store and give them a token amount of money to buy presents for whomever they like. They usually come away with some real gems for everyone in the family. They are so proud to buy something for each other and parents and grandparents and are so excited about wrapping and hiding it until the big day. I love the lesson they learn about how much fun giving can be.
- Darlene Sandquist
When I was young, our family Christmas tradition was on Christmas Eve to light real (!) candles on the Christmas tree, unwrap the big cheese wheel & nougat sent from relatives in Italy (signaling the official start of Christmas!) and then (extinguishing the candles first!) go out carol singing door to door with our family, friends & neighbours. The money given to us for singing would be dropped into a charity donation box. We'd come home and have hot apple cider & more carol singing. It was wonderful - we had family, friends, neighbours, fun and giving all wrapped up into one special evening.
I never forgot the focus my family had on giving to the less fortunate, especially at Christmas time and I wanted to pass this on to my own three children, now all teens & young adults. Every year, from the time they could walk & talk, we involved them in a Christmas 'good deed'. It ranged from them selecting a toy for the McDonalds toy drive, giving coats they'd outgrown to the Salvation Army children's coat drive, handing out sleeping bags or blankets to the homeless in downtown Toronto, packing a box of goodies for a needy family or serving in a soup kitchen. We've had a lot of fun, gathering together to do our traditional 'good deed' at Christmas and we still do it to this day! In fact, I'd have to say that it's become the most meaningful & enjoyable part of our Christmas and it's a tradition that I hope that the children will continue in their own families.
Page 1 of 4 -- Read about the special holiday foods Canadian Living readers can't live without on page 2.
Visions of sugarplums
My family tradition is making homemade doughnuts. Every year, my mother and I set aside one day for making doughnuts for the holidays. Some years, we are lucky enough to have my sister and niece join us. If it just the two of us, we make about 24 dozen doughnuts. If there are four of us, we make closer to 40 dozen. We freeze them to eat at Christmas and of course, give some away. One year, we actually made our doughnuts on Christmas Eve, because as my mother puts it: "We cannot have Christmas without homemade doughnuts." Of course that year, we only made a few dozens to get us through the holiday!
- Christine Cayer
There are so many little things that we do during the holidays that make them special - some old some new. However, there is one thing that we have year after year - without it, it simply wouldn't be Christmas. It bubbles and simmers on the stove all day long, infusing the house with its charismatic odor; making us salivate all day long. Each one of us tries to sneak into the kitchen to lift the lid and sneak a bite.
I know once I tell you just what it is - many will turn up their noses, but we LOVE it. Kapusnica is sauerkraut soup; it's made with (surprise!) sauerkraut, dried mushrooms, peppercorns, and the secret ingredient... Chabi, a spicy sausage. The whole concoction is simmered all day long and it starts off a huge loving meal that we share with family and friends.
It wouldn't be Christmas without...
In 1938, my mom arrived in Cranbrook, B.C. from Texas as the new bride of a young seminary graduate coming to serve his first pastorate. Steamed Christmas puddings were a new experience for her and she embraced Carrot Puddings. By chance, she spotted a sauce recipe in the local newspaper...Sterling Sauce. The sauce has been used every year since - except one! During a move that spread over six months, the recipe ended up in storage. I spent three hours in the library searching for the recipe in stacks of cookbooks - unsuccessfully! The sauce I served was similar, but the family voted the recipe into the garbage. We joke that Sterling Sauce likely has a thousand calories per tablespoon - and who could have only one tablespoon!
No leftovers, please
My mom's family is fairly large and extended, so there is a lot of preparation for the Christmas holidays. We (my mom, my 2 brothers and myself, my brother's spouse and 2 of my moms sisters) start on Remembrance Day by making cabbage rolls using 50 pounds of cabbage. Then a week later we start our bake-a-thons, this consists of a group of us (aunts, uncles, cousins, sons, daughters, grandkids) getting together at one persons house and baking as many sweets and dainties in one day as possible. This is done every other week until the 21st of December. We also get together to make our other regular dishes as well. Our first day of feasting is on the 24th of December, then another meal on the 25th. We continually get together every night until the 30th of December, each night a fresh meal, no leftovers until the 31st, at a different house. Our biggest group in one house was achieved last year on the 25th when we had 67 people for supper at my mom's. The family is close and in touch with one another, it is better then presents.
Since I was a little girl Christmas Eve was always a time for fun. It was a time when everyone seemed to be in a good mood and excited about the next day. Over The years out tradition was born and has become a special day for me. Now the tradition has carried over to my children. Christmas eve at our house is pretty much an open house. All friends and family can drop by for the as long as they can. There is lots of food and laughs. Then the kids get to have a pizza bake off. The younger ones pair up with an adult. The man of the house (which is always a debate between my husband and father) will choose whose pizza is the best. It's always funny to watch them eat the one that could only be loved by its creator. The children go to bed exhausted and full. It's always nice to see friends that we don't see throughout the year.
- Dawn Clark
Page 2 of 4 -- Read on to page 3 for fun family traditions that everyone can enjoy.
All in the family
Nova Scotia Christmas
One of my favorite traditions in Nova Scotia would be on the first weekend in December to go to a town called Forties, just out side of New Ross. Where they have a wonderful Christmas festival every year. First we go to the farm and go on a sleigh ride into the woods. Some years have been very soggy. Then we cut down our Christmas tree and play in the snow, which is a lot of fun because we don't usually have snow in Halifax that early in December. Then we come out of the woods to enjoy the hospitality of the farmer and his wife and children with some hot chocolate and homemade cookies. Then off we go to the community center for one of the best deals. Hot Turkey Dinner for $6 and a free craft table to keep the kids busy while you enjoy this lavish meal. I have moved from N.S. this May and this weekend will be a sad one thinking about what I am missing in the thriving community of Forties.
- Judi Wensel
The day of the Santa Claus Parade, we pull out all the Christmas decorations and get them sorted out and test all the lights. We head out to the parade with our friends and neighbours to watch for Santa. The kids are all excited, dancing to the bands music and screaming for joy as the cartoon characters approach them. As Santa approaches they all get so excited, it is well worth the wait in the cold to see their faces when he finally pulls up past them yelling "Merry Christmas".
We head home to make hot chocolate and start decorating our home. My youngest (5) gets the bottom of the tree and she has her own pile of decorations to hang. My eldest (18) helps me decorate the top of the tree. Once the entire house is done we sit down and watch Miracle on 34th Street and eat pizza for supper.
The first Sunday in December is always my open house Christmas Party where all my friends and colleagues come by for some goodies and wish each other a Merry Christmas. Sometimes I have as many as 70 or more people through my house. It gets more and more expensive each year as more and more people come. Although it is an expense I find hard sometimes, it is worth it because I am sharing that special time with my friends and family.
Christmas Eve we go to the family Carol Sing at the church.
Christmas day we are on our own, but Boxing Day we all get together at one sibling or another's house for our big Christmas dinner. It is one of two times per year that we all get together. The other is Easter at our parents place. Family is one of the most important things in our lives and we value the times we can share together.
- Lynne Bard
My great aunts have handed down my holiday tradition. With no children of their own they put a lot of effort into their nieces and nephews and then great-nieces and nephews.
Every Christmas Eve they would host a bingo party. Each child received three numbers. When your numbers were called you went to the middle of the room where there was a HUGE basket overflowing with gifts. You would choose a gift and sit down. As all the numbers were called the basket became empty upon which time the real fun began. When you called Bingo the next time you would steal a present from another child (a unspoken rule says you stole from cousins not siblings!) When the buzzer went off the presents still in your possession were yours to keep!! All the presents were small things my aunts would collect over the year -- restaurant jams, hotel soaps, homemade cookies etc.
Now every year 2 weeks before the holidays I have a huge Bingo party. My daughter, my 7 nieces and nephews, my husband's 10 nieces and nephews, a few godchildren and neighbours make up the party. I now have all the kids choose 2 gifts to bring wrapped to add to the pile in the center and the tradition continues!
I have so many things that my family and I do for Christmas from parades, to cutting our own tree, cookie baking and singing carols BUT I have to tell you about our family's favourite. On Christmas Eve, we set up a bunch of delicious appetizers and go down to our family room, which is all decorated in colored lights, garlands, Santas, etc. You know the kind we all had as children, kind of tacky. Then my three kids, my husband and I all sit down and watch our favorite Christmas movie, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. We watch a Christmas movie a day for the month of December but we always save this one for last. We all laugh our heads off, its a break in a busy season that we all love. Now we are ready for Santa!
Sand and snow
It's amazing how the small things you do with your children over the holidays end up being traditions. I grew up in 100 Mile House, B.C., where there was always lots of snow at Christmas, and once I was married and lived on Vancouver Island, I missed the skiing, ice fishing, and skating. We've made many new traditions.
We visit the beach every Boxing Day, armed with a thermos of hot chocolate and a picnic snack. We walk on the beach, listening to the waves and collecting seashells. Our Christmas dinner is the sumptuous buffet at a nice hotel in town. Every Christmas Eve, we read "The Polar Express" and drive through town, looking at the lights.
We also go to Bethlehem, a wonderful event put on by a local church where they literally transform their gym into the town of Bethlehem, complete with actors, live animals, a market, a synagogue, and Roman guards.
However for me, my favorite tradition doesn't have to do with going anywhere or doing anything. My son was born December 21st. I will never forget his first Christmas Eve, where in the hospital I held him sleeping in my arms while I gazed out the window at twinkling Christmas lights and snow lightly falling, and "Silent Night" played softly in the background. Eight years later, every Christmas eve, I still hold him in my arms for a quiet moment and remember that I have my very own Christmas angel.
Page 3 of 4 -- Heart-warming stories from Canadian Living readers on page 4.
Those special moments
Breaking open Christmas
For the past 14 years I have been making a piñata for Christmas. The stepchildren, nieces and nephews, and grandchildren have all loved taking a turn at trying to break the piñata and then taking part in the dividing up of goodies - candy, pencils, erasers, little toys, etc.
Each year I put together an advent box with small gifts wrapped and numbered from 1 to 24. The gifts are various items such as Christmas tree decoration that I make or purchase, packages of hot chocolate, popcorn or little things to make you smile, like crazy Christmas socks or small dollar store toys (ex. slinky type). I deliver each box to my grown children (27 and 25) so they can open one gift each morning before starting their busy days and remember when they were small children opening their advent calendars counting down the days till Christmas.
The mixed up elf
When my daughters were very small, there was one year that I was pretty broke, and had only odds and ends of wrapping paper. So one of the presents got a large variety of paper on it. I signed it from "the mixed up elf". They thought it was neat and thought some elf was losing it. So every year since then, one gift is wrapped with scraps of wrapping paper and signed by the mixed up elf. They are now 14 and 15, but still look for that present.
We don't have family close by so I started family traditions with my own. I try to make the Holidays more traditional with lots of crafts and things made by and with the kids. We make paper chains, and hundreds of paper snowflakes to decorate the house. My favourite tradition one is our annual Gingerbread house or creations! Throughout the year we collect all sorts of treats, candies and things that will adorn it, we have a special box we call our Gingerbread box. Each year is a different theme. From Santa's Village, a church, cabin, Tudor house, a train station and train, a complete farm with barn and animals and all are made of gingerbread. The kids are totally involved in the whole thing from the planning to the decorating. The kids also make gingerbread ornaments and handprints to decorate the tree and packages. We have a preserved gingerbread handprint from each year and they go on the tree each year! Then the gingerbread creation is the centerpiece for the season and the Christmas table.
Not only is this yearly tradition fun, the house smells so good also! I hope that when they grow up and are on their own they will have wonderful memories and continue on with our family traditions!
A Christmas tail
I have a favourite story from when I was little. I can remember my Grandmother reading it to my sister, brother and I on any Christmas Eve that she spent with us. Now that my grandmother has passed away, I have started reading the book to my children on Christmas Eve, and after they go to bed I sit and read the book again and remember my Grandmother, and wish how she could have been here to see my babies. That very special book is Santa Mouse.
Page 4 of 4 -- Check out page 1 for heart-warming, reader submitted hoiday traditions.