Adding Holiday Traditions to Family History


When preparing for Christmas, many traditions and customs come to mind. What are these traditions that your family has today? How was it for your ancestors? Will the traditions and customs be the same in the years to come? Will our great-great-grandchildren be curious about how we celebrated Christmas?

During the Christmas and New Year holidays, write down your family customs and rituals. Then, after the new year begins, take time to use these notes to add the celebration of Christmas to your family history.

Keep researching customs and traditions and go back the years to see how your ancestors celebrated Christmas. Settlers arriving in the New World brought with them the Christmas debate. Anglicans and Catholics celebrated Christmas when they came to America in the 1600s; but some, including the Puritans who sailed from England in 1620 and founded the Massachusetts Bay Colony, forbade the observance of Christmas because they considered the traditions of giving gifts and decorating trees as related to paganism.

What were the customs and traditions of years past in the United States? Christmas trees date back to the symbolic use of evergreens in ancient Egypt and Rome and carry on the German tradition of candlelit Christmas trees first introduced to America in the 1800s.

Did the family have a Christmas tree? If so, what materials did they use to decorate – nuts, berries and fruits as edible ornaments, light bulbs or lit candles, garlands or popcorn garlands, handmade or purchased ornaments store ? Don’t forget to mention other decorations that were placed inside or outside, if any.

Add other customs, such as the food served for Christmas dinner. Baking was and still is a family tradition. Items were baked or baked for the special occasion. Over the years the menus changed and the type of food was usually based on what was available.

Share some of the ways they had fun that day. In the 19th century, people played card games or simple games; because it was necessary to take into account the space available in the houses for these activities. Gift exchange with examples of the type of gifts given is a good idea to include. Hanging stockings were a tradition that started over the years. When and why did your ancestors start hanging stockings and what was put inside?

Christmas carols were usually performed by family units or various groups, such as church members, who walked around the neighborhood and sang Christmas songs. Later, they could ride in wagons full of hay. This activity was usually followed by hot chocolate by the fire or perhaps roasting chestnuts.

Another custom was to send Christmas cards. They started being printed in the late 1800s and early 1900s, so most people could afford them. Perhaps you can describe what the maps look like from that era.

It is possible that some of your ancestors had Yule logs, plum pudding or a kiss under the mistletoe.

Christmas traditions also reflect the cultural diversity of European groups in specific regions of America. New Englanders, representing a largely Puritan background, did not celebrate Christmas. The culture of southerners has been influenced by England, Germany and other European countries. The Wild West had a tough time due to the December weather. Soldiers could be heard singing in their remote outposts with the smell of venison roasting over an open hearth. These pioneers were determined to celebrate Christmas however humbly.

Adding Christmas to your family history will also add interest to your family tree.

Take the time to examine the social activities of your ancestors’ lives. Learn what their life was like and how it may have influenced their important life decisions. You might just discover that elusive clue you need to advance your research.

Email your ancestry questions with Ancestor Search@ in the subject line to For information on the opening of the library and upcoming events, visit


Comments are closed.