It’s the holidays!! Time for fun and food and tradition! My debut release, NEVER DESIRE A DUKE, is a Christmas themed Regency romance. In it we see the hero, Claxton, return to his childhood home, and for the first time in years, enjoy some of the traditions of his youth to include eating the housekeeper’s special sugar plums, playing a game called “Lookabout” and wondering what mischief Lord Misrule will get into. There’s also some smooching under the kissing bough.


Just a few weeks ago, my daughter brought home an assignment from school. I bet a lot of you who are parents have seen this one. She had a set of interview questions that she was supposed to ask her family, whether that was Mom or Dad or grandparents and all of of the questions were centered on the topic of family origins, culture and traditions. From which countries did our families immigrate? How do those cultures affect our lives today? What are some of the cultural traditions we continue to practice?

Hmmmm. Well, my family is…er…Germanic and Welsh…from what I’ve been told. My husband’s family is Czech/Romanian/Hungarian.  As far as traditions, we…um…eat a lot of kolaches? We’ve been to the SPJST (Slovanska Podporujici Jednota Statu Texas) a couple of times, and attended some funerals where they play a lively polka at the gravesite.  

Quite honestly, I felt a little embarrassed at how sketchy our responses were. We are Americans, yes, but being that we descended from immigrants, shouldn’t we preserve and identify with more of their traditions? With the holiday season approaching, I started thinking about what traditions my family observes, and the reason for that, I admit, is because of my kids. I think traditions give us all a comforting anchor in life, and ensure that no matter how crazy and unpredictable things get, there is something special we can do—even if we can’t come home, to feel like we are home, and loved and with family, even if only in spirit.

I wouldn’t call these cultural traditions, just traditions that are special to our family.

  1. We go to Christmas Eve services at church.
  2. We pass the phone from person to person to talk to relatives who are out of state, and can’t be with us for the holiday. Sometimes this is fun. Sometimes, this is torturous. You know what I mean. **wink**
  3. We know when Santa’s been in the house, because he always leaves a particular song playing on my dad’s old phonograph (or playing on Dad’s Mp3 player, if we’re not at Grandpa’s). Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, sung by Gene Autry.
  4. We recycle gift bags and gift boxes. This started with my grandmother, who has always been notoriously frugal and a recycler – a quality I admire more and more as I get older. As an example, we have some gift boxes that look like toy soldiers that have been in “family circulation” since the 70s and are now held together with tape. Someone always ends up with a gift in them, and then brings them back the next year. Their appearance is always giggle-worthy.

I could list more, but you get the idea! What are some traditions you or your family observe each year, cultural or not. Serious or silly?

11 thoughts on “The Importance of Holiday Tradition by Lily Dalton

  1. Kristan Higgins Kristan Higgins says:

    Hiya, Lily! One of my favorite traditions, and one the kids still like, is that on Christmas Eve, after our guests have left, we go outside and look at the sky to see if we can spot Santa’s sleigh. And one year, we did! It looked very much like a shooting star, but please. What are the odds, right? So nice to have you with us today!

    1. Lily Dalton says:

      Kristan, that’s a wonderful tradition, and one that will be a special memory for the kids! I bet they’ll do it with their kids! Even though mine are older now (14 and 11) we still put out cookies and milk for Santa, even though…you know. They KNOW. **boohoo**

  2. Jesse Hayworth Jesse Hayworth says:

    Howdy, Lily! Congrats on the new release! I love the recycled boxes from long ago-we have a few of those. My hubby’s family does a very silly, low-dollar Yankee swap rather than oodles of gifts, which I adore. Last year there was lots of high-level strategizing and multi-player swaps with the goal of sticking a motorcycle-riding uncle with the pink plastic Barbie mirror.

    1. Lily Dalton says:

      Jesse, how fun! I bet the uncle LOVED it!! :D I’m going to have to get a picture of some of our silly old boxes, and share. We can compare whose is the oldest!

  3. catslady says:

    I started many years ago a tradition of having a tree trimming party. It started out with an Uncle who at the time didn’t have anyone. It has now grown to friends and family and we so look forward to it. Now my older daughter has one too. We always give each other at least one ornament every year so we have quite a collection in addition to the ones that were homemade or bought when traveling etc. I too recycle those boxes and ribbons but my family never lets me save all the paper lol.

    1. Lily Dalton says:

      Catslady, I love the idea of a tree trimming party. We don’t have family close by, so it’s usually just the four of us decorating the tree. We drink hot chocolate (even if it’s 85 degrees outside–I live in TX) and listen to Christmas music! I try to save bows and decorations to reuse and it drives my neat freak husband crazy! He’s always purging our “clutter”. (Which I don’t see as clutter, of course!!)

  4. Vanessa Kelly Vanessa Kelly says:

    Hi, Lily! I love your traditions, and my family shares some of them. We pass the phone around (oh, God) and we recycle gift bags and boxes. I always have to check the tags to make sure they’re blank! BTW, I was lucky enough to score a copy of your book from my GCP editor, and I’m really looking forward to reading it. Happy Holidays!

    1. Lily Dalton says:

      Vanessa, Ha! Yes! The gift tags. We’ve actually had some gift confusion when someone slaps a new tag on a bag, and forgets to remove the old tag or sticker. I hope you enjoy the book! Happy Holidays to you as well!

  5. Marcy Shuler says:

    Hi Lily! We always fill our CD player and set it to random when we’re decorating the tree. That way we get a good mix of new and classic songs. Stockings are a huge deal in my family. My mom made one for each of us and now that she’s gone I’ve taken over that task after each marriage and birth. Much thought is put into the items that go inside. We open them first and then pause for breakfast which usually is fruitcake and Christmas cookies. Once everyone is fortified with coffee we move onto the gifts.

    1. Lily Dalton says:

      Marcy, I love that your mom made stockings for everyone, and that you’ve taken that over. They’ll be treasured heirlooms for a long time to come. What a gift!

  6. Laurie W G says:

    My in-laws came over from Hungary, German descent. My family is of German, French and English descent.
    we decorate the tree with the whole family while Christmas music surrounds us ,then we bake spritz cookies (buttery goodness)
    we have cheese strudel for dessert on Christmas day
    we have to sing Silent Night first before opening any presents
    we reuse boxes and ribbons too
    we now only give presents to immediate family members before we had a name exchange for a $25 gift.

    Kolaches are served at weddings, banquets etc in my hometown, a Polish tradition. Cream puffs are also popular. I’m from Wisconsin.

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