Barbie Christmas tree

Rebecca Howell, left, and her daughter Ava Michaels have a Barbie Christmas tree, a tradition that was started by Rebecca and her mother, Candy Sefcik, left. 

I’m a sucker for holiday traditions. Whether it be special meals or heirloom decorations around the house or an old family custom, I take great comfort in the sentimentality of it all.

When our daughter, an only child, got married, some of our traditions had to change, but with the arrival of grandchildren, new ones began. For instance, every Christmas Eve-Eve (or Christmas Adam, I’m told it’s now called), she and her husband gift their children with new pajamas, which they change into before heading out to look at Christmas lights.

Speaking of kids in their pajamas, Laura and Thom Pratt have always insisted their children stop for a picture before rushing to the tree to see what Santa left them on Christmas morning. Just because those kids are now teenagers doesn’t change the tradition. “They’re half asleep with bed hair,” Laura said with a laugh. “But we still take the pictures.” She has saved them all.

What Michelle Bain saves is Christmas cards. In fact, she still has every Christmas card she’s ever received, including those her great-grandmother sent her when she was a child. She keeps them in a Christmas box and reads them every year. “People don’t send cards like they used to and it makes me a little sad,” she said. “The numbers are less and less each year.”

Many holiday traditions center around special meals.

My husband, Tim and I, are members of a group at Sacred Heart Catholic Church that polishes brass. The Sassy Brassy, we call ourselves. In the early morning hours of Christmas Day, immediately following Midnight Mass, the Sassy Brassy gather for breakfast at the home of Mandi and Don King. On New Year’s Day, we assemble again at Jack and Shelia Thrasher’s house for black-eyed peas, collard greens and a smorgasbord of holiday foods (as well as Jack’s decadent eggnog).

Patrick Doss and his family hosted a December holiday breakfast for friends and family back in 1993 after settling into a new home in Golden Springs. “It was a combination house-warming, pre-Christmas shopping, come-visit-us-on-your-way-to-the-stores kind of party,” Patrick said. The event has since become an annual tradition with hungry guests enjoying such things as breakfast casseroles, sliced ham and biscuits and gravy. “We also serve fudge and peppermint bark, chocolate-coated peanuts, cakes and cookies,” Patrick said. “Because it’s Christmas and that’s just what you do.” This year marks the family’s 26th annual breakfast party. “My mother has announced that it’s the last one,” Patrick said. “But whether or not that holds true, we’ll find out in 11 ½ months.”

Brittany Birchfield and her family also enjoy a traditional meal. They celebrate the holidays with a Christmas Eve prime rib dinner and what she describes as a “homemade boozy eggnog.” On Christmas Day, it’s much more casual. “We stay in our pajamas all day and watch ‘A Christmas Story’ over and over,” she said.

Just like the family in “A Christmas Story,” Jon and Iveta Martin enjoy the tradition of going out for Chinese food on Christmas day. It wasn’t anything they planned in advance, but rather a tradition that came from lack of planning. “It started one year when we did our grocery shopping for a Christmas Eve family meal,” Iveta said. “We were so caught up with those festivities that we didn’t plan anything for the day after.”

Rebecca Howell was only 5 years old when her mother gifted her with a Barbie Christmas ornament. “It was a tradition born simply out of love,” she said. “My mom wanted me to have a small gift that would create a special memory during my childhood.” The tradition continued throughout Rebecca’s growing-up years and beyond. “I unwrapped my last Barbie ornament when I turned 25,” she said. “The following year I had my own beautiful daughter.”

And with her own child, the tradition continues. As her daughter’s first ornament was unwrapped, Rebecca was “overcome with the same love and emotion that I am certain my mom had as she watched me unwrap my first one.”

Rebecca purchased a special tree to display the ornaments, which she and her little girl decorate together. “The ornaments represent more than just a gift on Christmas morning; they instill memories of love shared between a mother and daughter,” Rebecca said. “After all, Christmas is a day that represents the greatest gift of all — love everlasting.”

Donna Barton’s column appears every Sunday. Contact her at