Haley Homemaker: 50 Holiday Traditions in Southwest Michigan

Welcome back, I’ve missed you! I’ve taken a little break, but I’m looking forward to writing articles again in the new year! You can be on the lookout for articles once a month on recipes, cleaning tips, and an occasional DIY. Now for the fun stuff:

I don’t know about you, but I love listening to other peoples’ holiday traditions. Many people think that their traditions might not be very special or unique, but I’ve found that every family has a different twist on the holidays. This year, in addition to my own family’s traditions, I reached out to gather 50 traditions around Southwest Michigan. The holidays might look different for a lot of people this year, but our memories can never be taken from us. 

I’ll start—

  1. Growing up, we would gather with our family from Detroit, and my cousin Renee and I would always have matching Christmas outfits. It was always such a fun little thing. 
(Matching outfits, #1 – Haley Hogoboom)

2. In more recent years, my mom has started a tradition that we discovered from The Netherlands called “The Almond Gift.” My mother brings an adult gift, and a kids gift and after dinner, everyone picks a bowl of rice pudding. Whoever finds the almond in their rice pudding wins the gift. 

3. This year, my husband and I are in Louisville with my sister and her family. She has started her own family tradition called “The Christmas Box.” Throughout Christmas Eve, each person takes turns drawing from The Christmas Box, which includes strips of paper with various instructions. They could read that one person in the room presents another with a gift, watching a Christmas movie, reading a story, decorating cookies, or playing a game. 

(Christmas Box, #3 – Haley Hogoboom)

4. When my husband’s “G-Pa” passed away in 2002, the family planted a pine tree at his church. The tree is very tall now, and every year we all gather to decorate the tree with bird seed and popcorn strings. After taking a few pictures we sing songs and head back to “G-Ma’s” for warm drinks.

(G-Pa’s Tree, #4 – Haley Hogoboom)

5. My husband’s mother told us about traditions they had growing up in rural Southwest Michigan. There were nine children in the family, and their father would tie up nine sleds behind his tractor to pull them around. On Christmas Eve, they would sing “We Wish You A Merry Christmas” to their neighbors after dinner. On Christmas morning, they would all wake up at various times throughout the night so see if Santa had come, starting around 3 am. Their parents would tell them to go back to bed, until eventually they were persuaded and allowed for the rest of the house to be woken up. As they got older, traditions included Midnight Mass, and making candy together. 

I couldn’t get all 50 with just our family, so I reached out for a little help from others on the social internet. The following are what was sent back!

6. “Fondue for Christmas Eve dinner.” – Beca Welty

7. Jessie Ann sets up the same Christmas village every year that her Grandmother and her Great-Grandmother had. Her children now enjoy setting up the village while listening to music and eating cookies. 

8. “We make poppyseed strudel.” – Tara Ann Fosdick 

9. “We sing Christmas songs by the piano and eat cheese and crackers.” – Zach Bear

10. Phyllis Key mentioned that in her family, Santa came on Christmas Eve and they would open one gift before going to bed. They kept Santa alive no matter their age!

11. “My family has some Swedish background, so almost every Christmas we make Spritz cookies, which are essentially butter and sugar with a bit of flower. We put the dough into a press that squishes out little cookies in shapes of trees, wreaths, and suns. They’re really lovely and delicious!” – Annelie Haberman 

12. “Christmas breakfast is waffles with strawberries and ice cream.” – Diane Noble

13. “Meat Fest: we typically eat all kinds of meat with breakfast. We also watch A Christmas Story.” -Malachi Carter

14. Pat Newcomer mentioned that in addition to spending time with family and friends, she does what she can to help people in need over the Holiday Season. 

15. “We make or purchase a photo ornament with a family photo for every year. The tradition began when we purchased a heart-shaped photo ornament at Bronner’s on our honeymoon 28 years ago. One of my favorite things every year is to lay them all out in order and see how the family has grown through the years before we hang them on the tree!” – Dena Rose

16. Karl Armstrong mentioned that his wife’s family comes over every Christmas Eve and the family gathers around as his Father-in-law reads The Night Before Christmas to their children. 

17. “Our family puts a large planter on the front porch, fills it with sand, and then decorates it with boxwood and cypress cuttings, pine boughs, tall grass fronds and other cuttings from around the yard. A Christmas porch display is created. Some lights, a bow, and glass ornaments are added. It is different every year. – Terry Terpstra

(Christmas Planter, #17 – Terry Terpstra)

18. “Michigan Lottery Tickets! Everyone gets some in their Christmas stocking and then we have fun scratching them off to see if anyone won big!” – Patt Johnson

19. Kimberly Evans’ family has a tradition where on Thanksgiving, they put every country in the world into a hat. Each household draws a country, and then on Christmas Eve they make one entree and one desert for a competition. A trophy goes to the household that gets the most votes. It’s very competitive! This year, her household’s country is Ecuador. Good luck, Kimberly!

20. Edward Ross shared with a tradition he and his wife share. Monika was a first generation German immigrant, so the holidays involved over-seas packages. In Germany, presents are opened on Christmas Eve, so for their family, that became the norm. Monika’s parents would send very large packages, often by boat, that were “filled to the gills” with candies, cookies and presents. When our sons arrived, we began to enact Monika’s tradition of celebrating Christmas on Christmas Eve. I also learned a new word from him, Bescherung means the giving of presents. 

21. Kassandra Hochstetler shared many traditions with us! On Christmas Eve, they watch It’s a Wonderful Life, and then go look at the luminaries on Main Street. They end the evening with pajamas and a book right before bed. On Christmas morning, they have homemade waffles and fruit and then watch A Christmas Story. 

22. “Decorating Christmas Cookies at Grandmas with all the grandkids.” – Miranda Slentz

(Christmas Cookies, #22 – Miranda Slentz)

23. “My cousin Mike and I have a tradition where we trade a paper hatbox back and forth each year at Christmas. It started out when I took the hat box, which was part of an Easter display at the shoe store I worked at in college, to wrap a gift I bought him. The next year he put my gift in it and gave it back to me. We’ve been doing that for over 25 years now.” – Charles Thomas

24. Mary Hovenkamp’s family listens to Handel’s Messiah over the holiday season. 

25. Brian Ramirez’ family sits around the table and makes tamales together on Christmas Eve.

26. “I make a couple traditional treats—a Dutch pastry called banket, and a German cookie called pfeffernüsse—from family recipes.” – Amy East

27. Maggie Rothney shared a new tradition for her family, inspired by the show The Great British Bake Off. They have a baking competition! Last year was Yule logs, and this year the competition is savory hand pies.

28. Lolita Foster said that they always pray to God in thanks before opening gifts.

29. “We read Icelandic folklore aloud.” – Eddie Leboeuf

30. “Every year, since I was a kid—the house is decorated with lights inside and out and the family gathers for dinner on Christmas Eve.” – Michael Willard King

31. Tracey Nofs commented that her family gets matching pajamas on Christmas Eve.

(Matching Pajamas, #31 – Tracey Nofs)

32. “My mom used to make a big loaf of banana bread when all us kids were still in the house. Now, every year, we get a mini load for each family.” – Clayton Lyczynski II

33. Jill Shaaf mentioned Chop Suey for every Christmas Eve dinner. 

34. “Swapping ornaments that signify something memorable that year. A vacation, a new hobby, a funny story, etc.” – Marie Lindo

35. Brigitte Romanelli shared that in Venezuela, they would roller skate in Public Parks and squares on Christmas, while enjoying Christmas decorations. They eat hallacas, and ham bread, and listen to gaitas a specific type of music that is listened to during Christmas time that is not Christmas music.

36. “I have an aunt that buys everyone pajamas, and we all get to open them the night before Christmas to sleep in new PJs for Christmas Eve.” – Torrey Brown

37. Sara Burnau told us that over the holiday they bake cookies and pie.

38. Molida Khim-Thach’s family makes hot pot for Christmas dinner. 

39. Carol Higgins emailed us about a tradition where they hide a nutcracker for each grandchild somewhere in the house. Attached to them is a note (sometimes in secret code!) that describes a location for a family trip later in the year. 

40. Shan Pileri’s family watches all of the Hangover films and enjoys Corona with lime. “A weird tradition, but it was a good time,” he says.

41. Robin Gales commented that her family puts out food for the animals in her backyard. They decorate the trees with cranberries and popcorn, and also put out nuts, seeds, fruits, and vegetables. The food is usually gone the next day!

42. Mike Weber has kept a tradition alive for 32 years with his family. Before opening presents on Christmas morning, they read the Christmas story in Luke chapter 2. 

43. Nancy Joan Buck shared another pajama tradition! In her family, Santa’s elf brings Christmas PJs on Christmas Eve, and they are usually matching. They still continue this tradition after 41 years!

44. Mandy Christophel shared that every year, her household picks a different cause to donate to. They get excited to pick a cause, do the shopping, deliver the items, and try to be as hands on with it as possible. It really helps them to remember to be thankful. They pick local causes that are in their price range & capability, so that there isn’t stress involved. “Its nice to take the time to do something helpful, and it has helped us put more thought into gifts we give to family & friends too,” she shared.

45. Kendra Deuel commented that they have cinnamon rolls for breakfast on Christmas morning, and they watch A Christmas Story. They are not allowed to watch the movie any other time!

46. Crystal Bailey Mast has been putting socks, candy, and toothbrushes in stockings for 38 years. She also now enjoys making Christmas cookies with her granddaughters. Her youngest daughter, Courtney, also makes a video every year to recap the years events. 

47. Melissa Skinner’s family goes to Wahmhoff Farms every year to cut their own Christmas tree! As the family has grown, and some have moved, they still travel in to get their trees from Wahmhoff. 

48. “Our Christmas tree is always the most important thing. When my siblings and I were little my Mom didn’t have a lot money but she collects Christmas ornaments so we would always have the most beautiful tree. I collect ornaments now and I will continue the tradition of attempting to have the most beautiful tree possible.” – CJ McGhehey 

49. “My family would wait until Christmas Eve to put our gifts under the tree. Just before bed on Christmas Eve, my dad would make homemade eggnog and a snack, then we’d sit in the living room and watch each other fill stockings and put gifts under the tree.” – Lisa DeVine

50. Nicole Cover shared with us that they have a tradition of Christmas pajamas after church—all eight children, spouses and grandchildren; even their dog!

(Matching Pajamas, #50 – Nicole Cover)

I hope you all enjoyed reading through these as much as I did, and your heart is as warm as mine. Thank you to everyone that participated!

Find me on Instagram by following @haley.homemaker