Creating family traditions strengthens Christmas memories

Everyone knows the reason we celebrate Christmas. We must never forget Christ is the reason, but every family can make the season personal by enjoying certain foods and activities that make us think of Christmas. What may become a tradition to me might not be one to someone else, but that’s what makes it special.

My children always looked forward to our traditional Christmas breakfast. On Christmas Eve I mix up a batch of yeast bread dough and let it rise overnight. In the morning I get up early and pinch the dough into rolls so they can rise again. While they rise I heat some oil to just below the smoking point. Then I fry them and serve them with maple syrup.

It’s important to me to use only real maple syrup. After all, we usually only eat these at Christmas and Easter. My mother called them singing biddies. I don’t really know where the name came from, but they’ve been a Christmas tradition for my kids as long as they can remember.

We always make homemade eggnog too. My children are all eggnog drinkers, but I rarely make it at any other time of the year. Perhaps I should. It’s good for you and it tastes great.

Mincemeat pie is another family tradition for dessert at Christmas time. Occasionally I make it for Thanksgiving, but usually Christmas is when I get to enjoy its rich spices of cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg and their interaction with raisins, currants and finely chopped apples.

All traditions need not be the same. I know many other people have different ones. That’s one thing that makes the season so personal. We can equate foods and other activities we like with the season when we celebrate the coming of Christ.

Some folks have a certain cookie recipe they only prepare during this season. It could easily be prepared any time, but the cookies become more special because we associate them with Christmas. It’s also more fun when everyone in the family gets in on the act. Children remember the fun of the activity and pass it on to the next generation.

Nearly everyone has recipes prepared only at Christmas. Who has ever heard of eating fruitcake in the summer? Fig pudding is a food tradition for some. I’ve made it, but it has never established itself as a family tradition. That might be a good thing as it’s quite calorie dense.

When I was much younger we used to go Christmas caroling. This was usually a cold activity, but it was fun. Caroling was important to my wife when she was growing up, too. She and her family and friends would hitch the hay wagon to the tractor and ride several miles through the rural West Virginia hills, singing and keeping each other warm.

I’ve just scratched the surface of Christmas traditions. The important part is that while we might enjoy these activities and foods, we must always remember why they are special. I know celebrating Christmas is a personal thing, but there’s a reason it’s called Christmas.


Nice platter of singing biddies on Christmas morning


Ted Manzer teaches agriculture at Northeastern High School (

About tedmanzer

I grew up in Old Town Maine and got a B.S. at the University of Maine in Plant Sciences/ minor in Botany. From there I moved to West Virginia and earned a M.S. in Agronomy at WVU. I also met my wife there. She grew up in rural WV as the daughter of tenant farmers who raised cattle and hogs. Their lifestyle at times was one of subsistence and I learned a lot from them. I've always been a foraging buff, but combining my formal botanical knowledge with their practical 'Foxfire-type' background opened up my eyes a little more. I recently retired from teaching high school agriculture after 25 years teaching with my wife. Until recently I wrote a weekly nature/foraging column for the local paper ( I also have written several Christian nature/adventure novels that can be purchased on Amazon in Kindle format. One is a five book family saga I call the 'Forgotten Virtues' series. In the first book, Never Alone (presently out of print), a young boy comes of age after his father dies in a plane crash, and he has to make it alone. The second book, Strange Courage, takes Carl from his High School graduation to his recovery from a nasty divorce. The third book, Second Chances, takes Carl from his ex-wife's death and the custody of his son to his heroic death at age 59. The fourth book, Promises Kept, depicts how his grandchildren react and adjust to his death (this one is not yet published). In the final book, Grandfather's Way, his youngest and most timid granddaughter emerges from the shadow of her overachieving family and accomplishes more in four months than most do in a lifetime. I use many foraging references with a lot of the plants I profile in these articles in those books. I also wrote a romance novel titled Virginia. It is available on Amazon and is a different type of romance from a man's perspective.
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