Family Traditions: It's a Wonderful Life !

Tradition #1 Baking Holiday Cookies

What do George Bailey, Russian Tea Cakes, and Chinese food have in common? It is all part of our family’s Christmas traditions.

Russian Tea Cakes

My mother handed the recipe down for Russian Tea Cakes. It is one of the holiday cookie recipes that we cherish each year. When I was a young mother in my early twenties I began the tradition in my own family. The cookie party begins with making the dough, chilling it for a few hours or overnight, then rolling and baking. The results are a wonderfully flavored ball of goodness that is lightly rolled in powdered sugar-just like a snowball. Both of my grown daughters carry on this tradition with their own families now.

One year my oldest daughter, then 8, decided to make them without any guidance of assistance. I had confidence that she would be able to handle it. She read well and had helped make them in previous years. Encouraging her self reliance I set the oven temperature, assisted her in placing the cookie sheets in the oven and pulled them out when the timer went off.

After the long awaited cool down and roll in the sugar she and her sister, along with me, grabbed a cookie and gave a big bite. Imagine our surprise when what our tongues met was not at all the flavor we expected. Greeting our taste buds was the complete opposite of the sweet cookie we had become accustomed to and instead there was an unmistakable salty flavor.

On investigation I discovered she had misunderstood the tsp and tablespoon symbols adding one tablespoon of salt, not the quarter teaspoon it was calling for. Telling this story has become another part of the history of our Russian Tea Cake baking tradition.


Family Traditions

Family Christmas traditions are fun and memorable
Family Christmas traditions are fun and memorable | Source
Dining together as a family is important.
Dining together as a family is important. | Source

Tradition #2 Dining Together on Special Occasions

Chinese Food

I was raised Catholic, a religion that I continued to follow when I was raising my children. As a young girl my favorite time of mass for the Christmas holiday was midnight mass on Christmas Eve. I loved going into the candle lit church in the middle of the night to pray and sing Christmas songs. The image of Baby Jesus being born in the stable seemed to come to life more when the stars were out.

As my daughters grew older, and were able to remain awake and alert through mass, I returned to attending the midnight service. My second husband shared the faith of Catholicism and one year following mass he drove around in search for a late night restaurant. There were none to be found, of course, nor was there even a party store open to pick up a few groceries.

Then, as we drove down a busy main road the lights of a local Chinese restaurant flashed its neon sign: ‘OPEN’. It was a delicious meal full of merriment and a wonderful way to end the year, which was receiving our fortune cookies. Thus, a family tradition was started, which again, lives on with each of my daughters’ families on Christmas Eve.


Tradition #3 Sharing a good movie together

Favorite Christmas Movies

My sister and I shared a room growing up. One year my parents hosted a Christmas party and we were instructed not to disturb the adults, but we could bring the small, black and white television into our room and stay up as long as we liked. One of the movies we watched, which we still reminisce about, is White Christmas with Bing Crosby.

Through the years the old classics like Miracle on 48th Street starring a very young Natalie Wood; and Charles Dickens’: A Christmas Carol would be televised, along with the animated Charlie Brown Christmas and Seuss’s, How the Grinch Stole Christmas. These were all family favorites that my siblings and I enjoyed and have been passed on through the decades for my own children and grandkids to relish.

Of course, with new material coming in each year, my daughters now have their own favorites and the tradition in their homes is the nostalgic recounts of one boy’s desire to get a bb gun from Santa in the humorous Christmas Story movie.

For me Christmas would not be the same without watching two movies: The hilarious adventures of Chevy Chase as Clark Griswold, in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, and the touching life story of George Bailey in: It’s A Wonderful Life. The attempts of these two men to be successful hold universal truths for all of us.

Fun times with grandkids: Photo moment

Photo shot: 2011
Photo shot: 2011 | Source

Tradition #4 Christmas Photo and Cards

Although my husband and I did not take an annual photo to send to the relatives in the Christmas card, like so many families do, we did send out cards each year. As time goes on the Christmas card exchange has sadly dwindled to just a handful. Most people skip spending the money on cards and postage, and opt instead to Skype, email or text. It is the nature of new technology to desire instantaneous pictures.

I am one of the last ones standing in the card department. I love to give and receive cards. Now that my children are grown I take an annual Christmas photo with my grandchildren. I always keep one for myself and it's fun to see how they've grown and the smiles, with or without braces, that shine from that photo as they eagerly await Christmas morning.

Holiday Tradition Poll

Do you have a Holiday tradition that you or your family follows? Please share in the comment section below, if Yes.

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Christmas Ornaments

Olivia with her latest ornament
Olivia with her latest ornament | Source

Other Favorite Traditions

Christmas Lights: Watching Clark Griswold struggle with those lights and seeing the obnoxious outcome of his effort inspired my husband and me to drive around with the kids during the holiday season in search for the best Griswold look alike home in the neighborhood. Would we find it? Yes, we would-every year, not necessarily the same one.

Christmas Ornaments: Another family tradition when my children were born was to give an annual Christmas ornament. I now share this same tradition with my grandchildren choosing something that is their current interest, such as a Disney Princess, or something classic, such as an angel or a version of Saint Nicholas. I envision the ornaments as part of their ‘hope chest’ for when they will celebrate this holiday on their own.

Pajamas and Storybooks: Two traditional gifts that started with my own children and are now carried on with my grandchildren are new pajamas and a brand new book. I'm not sure how the new pajamas tradition started, actually. Perhaps it seemed like a good time to buy a warm pair of pi's for the winter nights. Whatever the thought behind it the annual gift stuck and my own daughters carry this on with their children. As for the storybooks-there's always a 'right time' to give a book to someone you love.

My daughters now share these traditions, along with creating new ones, with their own families. One of the new ones that was inadvertently created was the 'passing on of the Christmas sweater'. This started when one hubby received a homemade Christmas sweater that was one that could be described best as, 'obnoxious'. Rather than sending it to the Salvation Army to recycle, he wrapped it as a present for his brother-in-law and made it a gift that would last and last. Back and forth the sweater went, much like the hard rock traditional fruit cake-something you had, didn't want and were eager to get rid of.


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Comments 51 comments

zzron profile image

zzron 6 years ago from Houston, TX.

Awesome hub, thanks for the walk down memory lane.


VioletSun profile image

VioletSun 6 years ago from Oregon/ Name: Marie

This was heartwarming, how nice to create these traditions, they are wonderful bondings of love between loved ones. I should start a tradition here at home, things have changed as family is scattered, but will be thinking of one, thanks for inspiring me!

Rated up and beautiful.


carrie450 profile image

carrie450 6 years ago from Winnipeg, Canada

A beautiful hub full of precious memories of Christmases past. Very well written Denise.


richtwf profile image

richtwf 6 years ago

Thanks Denise for sharing these personal and beautiful memories with us.

It's almost that time of year again when people are about to enter into the festive spirit. Times flies and it's great to hear that you're passing down family traditions to the next generation.

Christmas is a very special time for family. I can remember my childhood times at Christmas - being with my English family, Christmas Day dinner, watching the movies, listening to Christmas carols ... great memories indeed!

Thanks again for sharing your memories. God bless you and your family and peace to all of you over the coming Christmas and the coming new year.


De Greek profile image

De Greek 6 years ago from UK

Not fair! What's the recipe for Russian Tea Cakes??? :-)


AnnieRoseVA 6 years ago

This is a very heart-warming walk down memory lane. Our family shared some of your family traditions and we had friends that made the wonderful Russian Tea Cakes. Thank you and Merry Christmas!


Erin LeFey profile image

Erin LeFey 6 years ago from Maryland

Voted up and beautiful - what a wonderful way to share your creativity in making christmas traditions and wonderful memories with us. Thank you for that. And now you've inspired us to pen our own traditions, acknowledging and giving rightful honor to those we are passing down within our own families. Thank you for reminding us that we make traditions, and in their repetition, the love lives on. Happy Holidays!


jill of alltrades profile image

jill of alltrades 6 years ago from Philippines

What a beautiful hub about traditions! Very heartwarming!

Voted up and beautiful!


b. Malin profile image

b. Malin 6 years ago

Traditions are wonderful, thanks for sharing yours with us, what an upbeat and warm Hub!


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 6 years ago from North Carolina Author

Thanks everyone, I'm so glad you enjoyed sharing the memories with me.

Hello Zzron, thanks for stopping by. :)

Marie-I am thrilled that you are going to start your own tradition. It's great fun!

Carrie-thanks for your comments. I appreciate them.

Rich-I'm glad my hub triggered your own Christmas memories. Thank you for the holiday blessings. :)

De Greek, LOL I missed the 'Christmas Recipe' hubmob challenge, so the recipe will be in the future. They are awesome. YUM!

AnnieRose-thanks. Maybe it is a Midwestern thing???

Erin-I appreciate your beautiful words. Thank you.

Jill-I'm glad to see you stopped in. Thank you for your kind words.

I had alot of fun bringing the memories of our family traditions to life through this hub. I appreciate all of your comments. Thanks, and Merry Christmas to all of you...right around the corner...


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 6 years ago from North Carolina Author

Hi B.-I'm glad you enjoyed this hub. Thank you for your comments. :)


schoolgirlforreal profile image

schoolgirlforreal 6 years ago from USA

Hi Denise I love the tradition of giving ornaments for the future Christmases.

Nice article, enjoyed it.


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 6 years ago from North Carolina Author

Hi Rose, thanks. I actually got the idea when my first born was given a Christmas ornament by a dear friend of mine when she was born. She is a December baby. I continued this annual collection as my kids were growing up and they actually still have some of the original pieces. Glad you enjoyed it. :)


Eiddwen profile image

Eiddwen 6 years ago from Wales

Hio Denise,

A great hub, an useful and up here. Also it will be bookmarked for easy reference.

I now look forward to reading more of your work.

Take care Denise.


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 6 years ago from North Carolina Author

Thank you Eiddwen, for your 'cheers' :) and feedback.

Likewise, to you. Thanks for stopping in.


Happyboomernurse profile image

Happyboomernurse 6 years ago from South Carolina

Great hub. Heartwarming and so easy to relate to. And the story about your young daughter adding all the extra salt was sweet. Thanks for sharing this beautiful hub.


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 6 years ago from North Carolina Author

Good morning Gail, thanks for stopping to read and comment on this hub. Oh, yes, my daughters and I were together over Thanksgiving and reminiscing about that. Hope your holiday was a good one.


PaperNotes profile image

PaperNotes 6 years ago

Oh Christmas! A few more days to go and I feel quite excited already. My daughter and I are going to make some sweet desserts.


acaetnna profile image

acaetnna 6 years ago from Guildford

This was a brilliant read Denise - what wonderful memories.


warm_whispers profile image

warm_whispers 6 years ago

The great use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it.


MonicaRobinson profile image

MonicaRobinson 6 years ago

Great hub, Denise! I remember making tea cakes with my mom. I also have many Christmas ornaments that hang up my tree with my name and the year it was given to me as a child. Now, though, Christmas seems way too stressful. Reading about your traditions reminds me to breathe and relax.


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 6 years ago from North Carolina Author

PaperNotes-thanks for stopping in to read this hub. I am also excited about Christmas this year. Will be sharing it with my kids this year.

acaetnna-thanks for your comments. I've been around awhile longer than you, so I have alot of memories to share, LOL

Warm whispers, thanks for reading this hub. I agree with you, the nonmaterial things are what counts most of all. Thanks for your comment.

Monica-so good to hear from you. I know the holidays can be hectic and we can forget to enjoy the moment. I'm glad you enjoyed the hub.

Happy Holidays to all of you. Thanks for your comments.


carolina muscle profile image

carolina muscle 6 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

ahhh... Midnight Mass. Unless one has attended a midnight mass, they cant really understand the appeal of it.

Great post!!


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 6 years ago from North Carolina Author

Hey CM, good to see you again. Yes, (big smile here) I have fond memories of midnight mass. Happy Holidays to you.


carolina muscle profile image

carolina muscle 6 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

Thanks... same to you.. I think we're doing the Polish high mass this year.


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 6 years ago from North Carolina Author

My nephew will be in Minnesota visiting his cousins this year...I'll be travelling NORTH, LOL and spending Christmas with my daughters in Michigan. Maybe we'll get to enjoy that midnight mass and Chinese dinner I wrote about. :)


carolina muscle profile image

carolina muscle 6 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

I hope you get to do that... and I hope you have great time!!!


BobbiRant profile image

BobbiRant 6 years ago from New York

I love when people share their favorite holiday memories and traditions. Those, not the presents, are what children carry into adulthood with them. Wonderful hub about a wonderful life.


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 6 years ago from North Carolina Author

Thanks, CM-don't know if that will happen, but whatever I'll be doing, I'll be with family, so...that's always a good time. :)

Bobbie-thanks for your comment. Yes, the memories: It's a Wonderful Life, isn't it. Merry Christmas.


Deborah Demander profile image

Deborah Demander 5 years ago from First Wyoming, then THE WORLD

Thanks for sharing these wonderful traditions. I love George Baily. I have a ceramic piggy bank who reminds me of Clarence, though no one else sees the resemblance. Have a blessed holiday season.

Namaste.


remaniki profile image

remaniki 5 years ago from Chennai, India

Hi Denise,

What a beautiful hub! Nice memories to cherish throughout

one's life. Very happy for you! MERRY CHRISTMAS!!

Warm Regards,

Rema


remaniki profile image

remaniki 5 years ago from Chennai, India


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 5 years ago from North Carolina Author

Hi Deborah-yes, George Bailey sure is one of the good guys, isn't he? He was played by the perfect gentleman, too. LOL I loved your comment about your piggy bank reminded you of Clarence. That's a nice reminder. Thanks for the blessings and back to you.


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 5 years ago from North Carolina Author

Hello Rema, thank you for stopping in to read this hub and comment. I'm glad you enjoyed it. Merry Christmas to you and may you have joy and peace this holiday season. :)


Micky Dee profile image

Micky Dee 5 years ago

Visiting your hubs is now a Christmas tradition!


Str8up Hookups profile image

Str8up Hookups 5 years ago

Good stuff Denise!

I was brought up with rich family traditions,many have dwindled with the times.Family smaller,relocation of loved ones,kids away at school,etc.

So my son and keep the old traditions like making and decorating gingerbread houses,stringing popcorn but my son added any toy that he received last year for Xmas that hasn't been opened is donated to an organization for other kids to benefit.

He thought of this on his own and I am really proud of that.

Hub up!


ladyjane1 profile image

ladyjane1 5 years ago from Texas

Great hub and great memories...I will be visiting your Russian Tea cakes hub because my husband is Russian and he would love for me to make these. Cheers and thanks.


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 5 years ago from North Carolina Author

Thanks Micky, S.H. and Ladyjane for stopping by for a read and comment. I appreciate it. HAve a joyful holiday and keep it safe!


epigramman profile image

epigramman 5 years ago

..yes indeed it is a wonderful life when I can come over here to your hallowed hubspace and read these wonderful thoughts of yours - and say to myself - yes Hubpages is special because of people like you!!!!


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 5 years ago from North Carolina Author

Sir Epigramman-thank you for your kind words. You are a charmer! :)


iamalegend profile image

iamalegend 5 years ago from EARTH

Absolutely stunning! Traditions are very special especially when they are very old.I like this exciting memories of wonderful life. Rated up and enjoyed.


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 5 years ago from North Carolina Author

Thank you IAM for your comments and vote up. I'm glad you enjoyed.


Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 5 years ago from The English Midlands

Thanks for that hub ~ it was lovely :)


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 5 years ago from North Carolina Author

Ahh, thanks Trish_M Nice to meet you. Glad you enjoyed it.


stessily 4 years ago

Denise, It's heart-warming to read of your Christmas traditions and to learn the context in which they were created. And it is wonderful that more traditions are added by your daughters so that everyone has their part in creating these traditions which instill the magic of anticipation and appreciation for Christmas.

Kind regards, Stessily


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 4 years ago from North Carolina Author

Stessily-you have been so busy reading many of my hubs-I appreciate this and your comments. Thank you.


jclaffee profile image

jclaffee 4 years ago from Winston-Salem, NC

It's a Wonderful Life was also aChristmas family tradition when my Grandpa was still alive- some of my favorite family memories. Great hub, thank you!


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 4 years ago from North Carolina Author

Hello jclaffee-thanks for sharing your thoughts about this movie and traditions. Nice to meet another writer from NC. :)


teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 3 years ago

I love reading Christmas articles for the reasons you mention: traditions are what make it so meaningful. We love to make Christmas cookies and then later we drive around the town looking at lights while munching on a few. Oh yes, we also take along a mug of hot cocoa. Thanks for encouraging the Spirit of Christmas.


Vellur profile image

Vellur 3 years ago from Dubai

You have a wonderful Christmas Tree and wonderful heartwarming family traditions. Enjoyed reading your hub and thank you for sharing. Voted up.


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 3 years ago from North Carolina Author

Hi Dianna-thanks for sharing your tradition. Whenever we drive around we try to spot the best Grizwold Christmas house, lol Thanks for your comments.

Hi Vellur-thank you for reading and commenting on this hub. I appreciate the votes and share! (BTW that beautiful tree is my youngest daughter's. Both of my girls do a fantastic job decorating their huge trees!)

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