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Holiday Memories & The Decor, Food and Traditions That Made Them

By: DenXYZ Staff

When I was a child, as I laid awake anxiously on Christmas Eve, I could swear I heard the stomp of reindeer hooves on the roof. Barely getting a wink of sleep, I'd creep down the stairs with ninja-level skills in the moonlit darkness...sometimes even taking a pause to see if I could hear my parents turning in their bed. Once I got to the living room, I'd sit on the couch and wait, wait in the dark for my eyes to adjust so I could make out the shapes and figures of what presents Santa had left. 

This is but one memory I associate with Christmas and there are plenty. For many, the holidays revolve around family, food, gifts and traditions. Yet, there's also the smaller memories we associate (and hold dear to) that aren't as general as picking out a Christmas tree or visiting Grandma's house.

Here at DenXYZ, we've rounded up our favorites and are excited to share them with you on this most magical of days!

Decor

After we lived in Moscow for almost 10 years, as a family we have amassed a large collection of Russian Santas – know in Russia as Father Frost. We made many friendships in Russia with the Santa carvers and painters, often husband and wife teams. Every year we would search out the open markets for the perfect Santa to add to the collection. We certainly had favorite artists that we would return to year after year. We have collected over 100 Russian Santas and display them around the house and under the tree every year. We truly love them and when we bring them out every year, we welcome them like long lost friends, reuniting.

-Susan, co-founder

The ceramic tree is making a comeback this year, and it wasn't until Kayla Blanton pitched her story did I realize I had a deep-rooted memory unlocked. My Grandma had this exact tree and much like Kayla, I was mesmerized at the glowing lights exuding from the center and frosted tips of branches. Aside from Grandma's house, my mom used to work in interior design and did such a great job of decorating the house each year. Weirdly, my favorite decorations were the wreaths she hung from the hearth, the China cabinet and draped across the dining room table. I always felt like these transformed the house into a Christmas village and I was always sad to see them go after Christmas!

-Emory, Editor

Food

Since S and I love to cook and bake, we began a holiday tradition of holding a midnight dessert buffet on Christmas eve. Many of our friends would attend a late mass, and then stop by for homemade desserts. We would bake for days, making cookies, cakes, and other sweet treats. We would pull out all the tried-and-true recipes. We loved this time of friendship and look forward to when we can do it again. 

This one of my fondest Christmas memories - we would cook a big one-pot-wonder meal (like Susan’s famous beef stroganoff) that would feed any hungry people that came through. Everyone else would just stop by to feast on coconut cream pie, linzer cookies, white chocolate bread pudding, and other family classics. We would usually have hot cider on the stove and hang mistletoe just for fun. 

Susan & S - Co-founders

Christmas has always been about the food: Stegman Christmas in Maryland consisted of Oysters Rockefeller in vintage crab dishes and sauerkraut  -- a German/Maryland tradition. On my mother's side, we have always celebrated Christmas Eve with The Feast of The Seven Fishes, an Italian Tradition. We spent hours making seafood dishes like Chilean sea bass, lobster bisque and crab cakes.  On Christmas Day, we made fresh pasta by hand: pear ravioli, vegetarian and meat lasagne. 

Kelly, Social Media 

Traditions & Gifts

My love language is gift giving, so I tend to go overboard with the number of gifts under the tree each year. In the same way I like a bountiful table, I like bounty when it comes to gifts under the tree. When the kids were little, Santa would come and leave Santa gifts/toys under the tree, but these would not be wrapped. They would be set up and displayed, grouped for each child.

-Susan, Co-Founder

In our house, no one was allowed up before 9am (so mom and dad could sleep in and to give Santa time to set up our presents). Since Santa didn’t wrap gifts, we would then always run downstairs and check our piles from Santa. You could just tell from the pile whose toys were whose. Mine were almost always filled with arts and crafts – I was always into the latest creative craze – beading, painting, embroidery, sewing, cooking. We would then break for family breakfast and after that open the wrapped gifts from the family. We'd sit in a circle and I would run around like a little elf delivering gifts to each person and collecting the trash in their wake.

 - S, Co-Founder

Minus my tradition of sneaking down to get a glance at my gifts, my grandparents (father's side) would always have a fire going at Christmas. It didn't matter if it was 70-degrees that day, we'd have a fire and gather round as we opened gifts and my younger cousins ran wild through the house. A bittersweet memory, my Grandfather was diagnosed with cancer a few years ago right before Christmas. It was pretty advanced and knowing this might be our last Christmas together, we made sure to have a fire. It was, again, one of those freak 75-degree Christmases you can sometimes experience in North Carolina. We all sat sweaty around the fire but I could tell it made my Grandfather so happy to be able to tend to the fire and keep this one core tradition on what was, his last Christmas with us. I hope one day, if I have a wood-burning fireplace, to do the same in his honor.

-Emory, Editor