When I think about my favorite Christmas traditions, I often conjure up memories from my childhood. Over the years, though, Bill and I have created new customs of our own, and today I’m sharing my ten all-time favorite memories…


1. My earliest Christmas memories start with my brother and me helping my dad find the perfect Christmas tree. For this little wide-eyed girl, it was one of my favorite days of the year. A day that would start with clomping around the evergreen groves on our farm and end with staring in wonderment at the beautiful multi-colored lights sparkling on a fragrant pine or spruce in our cozy family room.

Circa 1976

2.  When we were little, my dad woke my brother and me up on Christmas morning while it was still dark outside. I’d wake up sleepy-headed in my dark bedroom, but with the hall light on I’d gain my bearings quickly as I’d realize that it was finally Christmas morning. You see, Dad would wake us up before he left the house to milk the cows because he wanted to see us find our Santa gifts. We would play with our new toys while Dad milked the cows, and Mom made a huge Christmas breakfast.  To this day (even in July) if I wake up in the middle of the night at my parents’ house, and the hall light is on, I’m instantly flooded with fabulous memories of Christmas mornings so many years ago.


Circa 1963

3.  By the time I was in high school, my mom and I had started a tradition of baking a few batches of Christmas cookies every weekend starting in early October.   By mid-December we’d have enough cookies in the freezer to make elaborate trays of cookies and fudges to give to everyone we knew.  My teachers, mom’s hairdresser, the mailman, and elderly neighbors were just a few of the lucky recipients of those delicious trays of calorie-laden goodness.

In later years, I’d dedicate a weekend with my parents for a cookie baking marathon.  I think it was my dad’s favorite weekend of the year since he always assumed the role of quality control manager, tasting a sample cookie from every batch.



4. A childhood favorite memory of my parents taking me Christmas shopping as a child has transformed into me taking my mom shopping now that I’m an adult. Back then we shopped the five and dimes in the magically decorated quaint little downtown, and today we shop at Hallmark, Target, and Bed Bath & Beyond in the sprawling outskirts of town. The highlight of those shopping trips when I was little was telling Santa what I wanted for Christmas and the highlight today is just spending time with my mom.

5. Now that our sons are grown and we no longer have soccer tournaments to camp out at for the Thanksgiving weekend, I get up early on Black Friday and transform our house from fall decor to a Christmas wonderland. I save decorating our tree for while watching rivalry weekend college football games on Saturday.


6.  Book Night has become a favorite holiday tradition for our family, especially our sons.  We started it back when they were very little, and it’s become an annual event.  We start at Barnes and Noble and after everyone selects as many books as they want (within reason), we head on to a nice restaurant for dinner.  For several years we went to Reston Town Center, then Tysons Corner Center, and this year we’re going to try out the brand new Barnes and Noble at One Loudoun. The new location combines a bookstore with a cafe which serves wine and beer. It’s the first Barnes and Noble of this type in the DC area and only the fifth in the nation.


7.  These days we go to the 8 PM Christmas Eve mass, but when the boys were little we went to the earlier children’s mass.  We were founding parishioners of our parish (meaning we attended church in a local high school auditorium until our school/church was built).  Once St. Theresa’s had a building of its own, we just happened to be the family chosen to present the gifts for the very first Christmas mass in our new home.  Daniel was a pre-schooler at the time, and got to carry Baby Jesus to his crib for the very first time.  After mass, our friend and paster, Monsignor McMurtrie reminded Daniel of what a special honor he’d had during mass.



8.  Now that our sons are young adults and we have a daughter-in-law, we have a new tradition after Christmas Eve mass.  We’ve always driven around our neighborhood admiring all of the beautiful Christmas lights, but now instead of putting the boys to bed when we get home so Santa can come; we have a delightful evening of snacking on sausage roll, homemade sweets, and wintery cocktails.  It’s family time, and a pure delight for Bill and me to have a new tradition with our adult children.


Photo credit: Bill

9. Back when Bill was still able to run, he and I went on an evening run at least once every holiday season so we could admire the neighborhood Christmas lights. Now that I’m running before daylight and Bill is biking, I enjoy Christmas lights on my early morning runs; however, many people do not leave their lights on overnight so I see far fewer Christmas decorations. Our MRTT chapter plans a nighttime run every holiday season, but I haven’t been able to join them for several years.


10. In 2013 I started a new tradition of running in a Santa themed race. That first year I ran with my Cruiser friend Chuck, but it’s since become a huge MRTT event filled with lots of laughs and shenanigans. It’s easy to get into the Christmas spirit when you’re surrounded by people dressed in silly elf and Santa costumes and are treated to hot chocolate and Christmas cookies after the race.

Circa 2014


  • Questions:
  • What are your favorite holiday traditions?
  • Do you have any triggers that cause a flashback to your childhood? ~ For me, it’s waking up in the middle of the night and seeing the hall light on – it always takes me back to my childhood Christmases!
  • Who’s racing this weekend?