Holiday Favorites

It’s no secret that the holidays ignite a sense of cheer inside of me that I simply cannot shake. Rather than fight it, I happily embrace it and soak up all of the fun surrounding the holidays. 

Since I know a lot of you share my enthusiasm, I thought it might be fun to play a little game that I’ll call “Holiday Favorites.” It’s similar to last year’s Holiday Survey which I thought was a lot of fun! Please feel free to play long in the comments section of this post so we can all get that warm, fuzzy feeling that comes from talking about the holidays and our favorite holiday traditions.

Christmas Morning

  • Favorite Holiday Cookie

My grandma Mimi’s sugar cookies. There’s nothin’ better!

Grandma's Sugar Cookies

  • Favorite Holiday Song

O Holy Night.

  • Favorite Holiday Movie

Christmas Vacation.


  • Favorite Holiday Tradition

When I was growing up in Illinois, my favorite Christmas tradition was my family’s annual Christmas Eve Rudolph walk. My dad would hide a red flashlight deep in the forest behind our house and after the evening Christmas Eve church service, we would all bundle up and head out on a walk in hopes of seeing Rudolph’s nose glowing from afar. When my family and I moved to St. Pete in 2003, my new favorite tradition became our Christmas Eve boat ride in the dark.

Newlywed Christmas

Now that my parents moved to Jacksonville and the boat is gone, we’re in the market for a new tradition! Oh! We do still have the pickle ornament tradition, but if you share a family tradition that sounds especially fantastic in the comments section, my family and I may steal yours. You’ve been warned.

  • Favorite Holiday Breakfast

Every Christmas morning, I know I can count on monkey bread and my mom’s cheesepuff casserole. They’re family favorites and I love them!

  • Favorite Holiday Meal

A seafood feast with lots of shellfish and crab legs.

  • Favorite Person to Shop For

My sister.

  • Favorite Way to Open Presents

Stockings first while eating breakfast!

Christmas Stockings Pottery Barn

Once the stockings are done and our bellies are full, my dad puts on Christmas music and we all seem to take turns opening our gifts. Watching everyone open their gifts is the best… especially the ridiculous gag gifts. 

vizsla dad

That little gem was a gift to Ryan on Christmas Day in 2008. Ryan will occasionally wear it on our evening walks with Sadie and we laugh because whenever he wears that shirt, we always seemed to get stopped by our neighbors to talk and he’s left standing there looking like a dog-obsessed crazy…. which he is. Winking smile

  • Favorite Tree Topper

After our half-lit mini Christmas tree died a slow death last year, I’m sad to say Ryan and I never got around to buying a tree this year. Oh the horror! We kept flip flopping as to whether or not we should buy a new fake tree or go for the real deal and in the end we settled on… nothing. Next year we will have a tree! I’ll default to my family’s favorite tee topper for this question and say that we have a beautiful angel that sits atop our family tree. My dad waits to put the angel on top of the tree until the whole family is together and we do a ridiculously obnoxious drumroll a la Christmas Vacation.

Question of the Afternoon

  • Pick some of your holiday favorites from the above list to share! Favorite holiday tradition? Favorite holiday cookie? Favorite way to open presents? Favorite holiday breakfast?


  1. says

    What a fun list!

    Favourite Holiday Breakfast – cinnamon buns with fresh fruit
    Favourite Holiday Movie – Muppet Family Christmas, Muppet Christmas Carol and Home Alone
    Favourite Holiday Cookie – the roof off a gingerbread house!

    Julie – what are your favourite Christmas light colours?


  2. Laurel says

    I will answer them all bc I’m here at work wishing it were 5 PM and stuffing my face full of cookies baked by your favorite gal, Joan McCain.
    1. Cookie: My great grandmother’s angel wing cookies
    2. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas or Mary Did You Know
    3. Movie: the really old version of A Christmas talking b&w
    4. Tradition: Singing christmas carols around the piano while someone with as much skillset as a squirl plays along
    5. My grandmas breakfast cassarole and bran muffins with the Christmas muffin papers!
    6. We have a different one every year….
    7. No favorite person to shop for…too many siblings…we do a secret santa…but I prefer shopping for a sister over a brother 😉
    8. Slowly and enjoying the moment…and watching my grandpa watch everyone else with a big smile on his face
    9. The angel my grandma made that sits atop my mom’s tree 🙂

    Merry Christmas ya filty animal! Miss you! xox


  3. says

    Ooh I’ve never seen Christmas Vacation! Must check it out! My favourite holiday movie is Home Alone…so predictable! Christmas Breakfast this year will be cranberry orange and chocolate scones with lots of fresh fruit, cranberry sauce, yoghurt and SunButter on the side! 🙂


  4. says

    Oh how I would love to go for a boat ride during Christmas! In Minnesota we get 5 feet of snow instead! 😉
    My favorite xmas treat is definitely my grandma’s napolean bars (they’re probably the most delicious and richest holiday cookie out there. So worth it.)
    One of my favorite holiday songs is Night of Silence/Silent Night. My least favorite has to be Santa Baby. I cringe everytime that song comes on!
    Good luck on finding a new tradition!


  5. says

    My family’s most fun Christmas tradition is that our stockings are always gag gifts. My dad goes to the dollar store or the $1 clearance section at Target and loads up on the silliest stuff he can find (and he’s pretty good at it!). We always open stockings first, too, so it’s fun to start Christmas morning by cracking up at the diaper rash cream, Hotwheels hearse, or glow in the dark Buzz Lightyear sunglasses we’ve received from Santa (all true examples haha)…


  6. Tessa says

    My favorite cookie is the chocolate crinkle cookie. Panera has a new warm red velvet crinkle that I must try. For breakfast my mom always makes pancakes, eggs, and bacon after we open our presents, and stockings are always are last thing to open! Finally, I would say one of my favorite traditions to going to see Christmas lights at a park on Christmas Eve. Merry Christmas, Julie!


  7. Emily R. says

    After a few Christmas drinks (wine or Tom & Jerry’s to be specific) we sit down and listen to The Polar Express read aloud by someone in our family. There is even a train! As you can imagine, if there’s been enough Christmas cheer, things can get a little silly… but we all know the reason for the season 😉 Happy Holiday’s to you and your family, Julie!


  8. says

    Favorite holiday cookie is called the Magic Middler. It’s basically a PB Cup in cookie form.

    Funny story. My sister is obsessed with these honey cookies that my grandma used to make. She always talked about them, and I couldn’t remember them for the life of me. When she made them last year, I was expecting this flash of memory with one bite. Nothing happened.

    My mom made magic middlers, which I didn’t remember, but when I bit into one of those, it was like that scene in “Ratatouille” where Anton Ego (The Food Critic) at the Ratatouille and was immediately sent back to his childhood.

    Now, that’s a good cookie.


  9. says

    I fully embrace the holiday season too!

    Favorite holiday cookie – molasses spice
    Favorite holiday movie – A Christmas Story (Christmas Vacation is a very close 2nd)
    Favorite person to shop for – my mom!
    And Favorite way to open presents – we do the one by one method too, I love watching my parents open gifts from each other, and watching everyone open the gifts I got them. My favorite part of the holiday for sure!


  10. Alison says

    Favorite holiday cookie….. not a cookie, but a sweet: Rice Krispie treats! No one’s are as yummy as my mom’s, and she makes them every time I come home.
    Favorite way to open presents…. we don’t really do stockings (unless I do them for my sister, sister-in-law, and me, which isn’t happening this year). We open presents Christmas morning, one at a time, going around in a circle from youngest to oldest. It’s always my job to pick out the present every person will open… and since I wrap a good chunk of them, I know what they all are, so it’s fun. I’m basically Santa..
    Favorite Christmas movie….. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (claymation style). Love me some Hermie the Elf. I used to have a “I want to be a dentist” shirt that none of my friends got.


  11. Bonnie Johnson says

    My favorite tradition is setting out luminarias all around our sidewalks, driveway, front walk on Christmas Eve. We picked that up while living in Spain years ago. They stay lit for hours into the early morning (barring too much wind/rain/snow) and look so pretty. This past Christmas morning, someone stopped their car and told us how it “made” their christmas as he used to live where they did that when he was a kid … made us feel good, too 🙂


  12. Lisa says

    Favorite way to open presents: youngest to oldest
    Favorite Christmas Movie: Elf (“Have you seen these toilets? They’re GINORMOUS!”
    Favorite Christmas Tradition: Christmas Eve church services.

    Somehow, I think your family would wholeheartedly embrace the Elf-on-the-shelf tradition–but that’s not really a Christmas Eve exclusive!


  13. says

    I totally go all out for the holiday season! It’s simply the best time of the year. We don’t have too many traditions except having the whole family and our neighbours over every Christmas eve to celebrate.


  14. Brandi says

    One of our Christmas traditions, is Christmas Eve, my sisters and I find the most, random, obnoxious articles of clothing, make a contest out of the outfits we wear and have a dance party, our parents usually join this as well after seeing us break out our amazingly awesome dance moves.


  15. says

    These are way too much fun to answer for my own good! Really hoping my boss doesn’t expect too much work to get done today…

    My favorite holiday movie, without a doubt, is It’s a Wonderful Life, followed by the original version of a Christmas Carol.
    My favorite holiday cookies are these things my mom makes called melting dreams – literally a crap load of butter melting in your mouth.
    I have two favorite holiday traditions.In my family it’s decorating our tree. We each have 1 special ornament that goes up before anything else does. The last ornament to go up is always a picture of my dog who’s no longer with us and we cry, without fail, each time.
    On a lighter note, each year my fiancee’s family hosts an off key Christmas singing contest or a christmas charades battle for the most ridiculous gag gift…last year’s gift was a santa toilet seat cover!


  16. Jillian says

    I love these kind of surveys 🙂 My favorite family tradition is also my favorite cookie. Since I was 4, my dad and I have been making our secret family recipe cookies together. He has had the recipe in his family for years, and he started making them with his grandma and mom when he was a little kid. They are called Peppernut cookies, but the recipe isn’t like the one you will find if you Google them. They are not sweet whatsoever, but they stay soft for at least a month! They are my favorite cookie of all time, and mostly everyone that has tried them loves them too! Family traditions are the best! Happy Holidays Julie to you and your family (and Sadie too of course!)


  17. says

    Well now that I am older and married we go to my parents house on Christmas Eve and we eat a big meal-different each year really, just normal yummy holiday food. We always try to read the Christmas story (THE REAL ONE) in the book of Luke 🙂 Mom always wants us to open one present first. When we were kids, we got to open this present on Christmas Eve, it was ALWAYS pajamas 🙂 and we totally still open our pjs and wear them at moms while we open presents 🙂 Its a night I am totally looking foward too…the most peaceful night of the year for me. And probably the happiest too.


  18. says

    My parents’ golden retriever Gracey runs around with her jingle bells around her neck, acting crazy as we all open gifts. Also, Christmas Vacation wins every “favorite movie” category in my family 🙂


  19. Casey says

    Favorite holiday movie: All I Want for Christmas (with a very young Thora Birch!) No one ever seems to have heard of this, haha. But it’s my favorite!

    Favorite Christmas Cookie: Buckeyes! (For people who are not from the Midwest: peanut butter balls)

    Favorite person to shop for: my twin sister!


  20. says

    I love my mom’s swiss cookies she makes (she is Swiss) 🙂

    Christmas Eve is a bigger deal for me & my family because of our strong Christian beliefs (night He was born) & our European roots. I love this time–we eat Swiss cheese fondue, sing holiday religious songs, light real candles on a real tree, read from Luke 2, do the nativity scene (ends up being kinda funny), and share beautiful stories about the Savior.

    Then the 25th is more about presents, santa, & stuff like that 🙂


  21. Franzi says

    My favourite Christmas tradition was decorating the tree on the morning of Christmas eve.. then my mom would come home and try to change everything, lol. I’m from Germany, so decorating the tree on Christmas eve is normal for us. I will be spending my second Christmas in Canada this year and I don’t know if I’ll ever get used to put up the tree so early!! Also, we exchange presents on Christmas eve and then we have 2 holidays where we visit family and eat lots of food and exchange more presents!

    I’m wishing you and your family a very Happy Christmas, Julie!


  22. says

    I have a huge family–our Christmas Eve dinner/celebration has about 40 people at it…at the end of the night we all sit around in a (very crowded) circle in my great-grandma’s basement, read the Christmas story out of the Bible, and then everyone opens gifts at the same time. It’s loud and crazy, but SO much fun 🙂


  23. says

    My favorite tradition is my parents’ scavenger hunt! They make up little poems that lead us from one place to the next around our house to find our final Christmas gift of the year. My brother and I took turns running around to find the next clue, and it was so dramatic and fun. I did one for my husband one year and hope to do it with my kids eventually.

    I love that you’re so flexible with finding new traditions and embracing them! Things change, but Christmas is all about joy and family. 🙂


  24. catherine says

    Random question – what kind of blender do you use for your smoothies? I just burned through another blender motor last night. I’ve tried basic to mid-range blenders but never last more than a year or two. I do use it a lot for frozen fruit so I want something durable but I certainly don’t need the super expensive blender that can handle an iPhone (besides, I like my iPhone and have no desire to find out if it will blend or not)! Thank You!!!


  25. says

    My favorite holiday cookie has always been peanut butter blossoms, but your peppermint chcocolate pudding cookies are my new fave this year. My favorite Christmas breakfast is my families traditional danish pancakes, known as aebleskiver. So excited for Christmas!


  26. Elisabeth says

    Holiday Cookie – Andes Mint Cookies, Church Windows

    Holiday Song – O Holy Night (esp the Josh Groban version)

    Holiday Movie – Home Alone, Christmas Vacation

    Holiday Breakfast – cinnamon rolls, egg casserole

    Holiday Meal – our Christmas Eve meal, which is a ‘snacky’ meal of appetizers, BBQ beef sandwiches or sloppy joes, potato casserole & all sorts of cookies/candy

    Person to shop for – my mom!

    Way to open gifts – after breakfast, taking turns until they’re all opened

    Happy Holidays!!


  27. Valerie says

    Favorite Christmas Song: Jingle Bells (Robbie Hardkiss Remix)
    Favorite Christmas Movie: Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas
    Favorite person to shop for: my sister Pamela
    Favorite Christmas Cookie: those butter cookies that come in the drum-like tins…
    Favorite Christmas Tradition: watching A Christmas Story marathon when exchanging gifts with the fam


  28. says

    I love cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning. And I agree, the best way to open stockings is before everything else.

    I also love lounging around on Christmas day and watching Christmas movies (and snacking, all day long). So relaxing!


  29. Brittany says

    I love this!!! This season is my all-time favorite part of the year! Okay so:
    1. Favorite cookie: my mom’s sugar cookies 🙂
    2. Favorite song: Baby It’s Cold Outside
    3. Favorite movie: Rudolph (a classic!)
    4. Favorite tradition: Every year, several families join us to go “Christmas tree hunting”, where we meet at someone’s house early in the morning to have a huge breakfast then all drive to a local farm where we look for trees. It’s a very long, but fun day, and I love every minute of it 🙂
    5. Favorite breakfast: My mom always makes chocolate pancakes!! Not chocolate chip, but CHOCOLATE. It’s heavenly 🙂
    6. Favorite meal: Christmas Eve dinner with ham!
    7. Favorite person to shop for: my mom
    8. Favorite way to open presents: stockings first while eating breakfast!!
    9. Favorite tree topper: we have this angel that my mom had as a kid- each year we rotate out who get’s to put the topper on the tree
    10. Favorite part about the holidays: just the happiness that’s so tangible all around. I love seeing how joyful people are, towards family, friends, and complete strangers. It’s a great time of year 🙂

    Happy Holidays everyone!!!


  30. Sarah says

    NO CHRISTMAS TREE?!?! How does it even FEEL like Christmas without one? 🙂 You need to get that one down pronto.
    Fave Holiday Cookie: My sister’s lemon ricotta cookies w/ lemon glaze.
    Fave Holiday Song: Sleigh Ride
    Fave Holiday Movie: Its A Wonderful Life!
    Fave Holiday Tradition: Driving downtown to see the lights in the historic area!
    Fave Holiday Breakfast: Ours always changes-this year it’ll be the pancake bar out of Southern Living Christmas issue along with my mother’s cant-be-beat french toast casserole.
    Favorite person to shop for: umm, myself? haha, jk…my best friend!
    Favorite part: Getting to make gifts for our friends (cookies and fudge this year!), enjoying the church musicals, and telling others about the reason for the season: Jesus’s birth!

    Merry CHRISTmas!
    ” Today in the town of David, a Savior has been born to you; He IS Christ the Lord”


  31. Brittany says

    Favorite Holiday Song: Let it Snow
    Favorite Holiday Movie: Elf, and as of more recently Christmas Vacation thanks to my fiance
    Favorite Holiday Tradition: Decorating the tree with my parents and Christmas Eve at my grandparents on my Dad’s side along with my aunt and uncles and cousins and parents, we have a ham dinner and lots of other food
    Favorite Person to Shop For: My niece and nephew
    Favorite Way to Open Presents: We always did stockings first on Christmas morning usually while eating breakfast and then moved on to other gifts

    My fiance and I just got engaged on Saturday so this year is going to be even more exciting and we will hopefully start many more traditions! 🙂


  32. says

    Such a cute blog post idea. My favorite cookie is frosted sugar cookies – a Christmas staple. And my sister is also my favorite to shop for – basically because we love the same things so it is like shopping for myself! Also, love the new blog design!!!


  33. Traci says

    Holiday Cookie – peanut butter cup cookies with a mini reeses in the middle
    Holiday Song – Last Christmas
    Holiday Movie – Elf!
    Holiday Breakfast – usually an omelette or some pastries my parents pick up
    Holiday Meal – my Christmas day meal, which happens around 2pm and goes until 9! it starts with homemade manicotti (we’re italian), soup, ham, all sorts of veggies, sweet potato casserole, and lots of dessert.
    Person to shop for – my boyfriend
    Way to open gifts – after breakfast, taking turns until they’re all opened


  34. Heather says

    Christmas traditions are my favorite.

    My Dad is a pastor so I love the midnight Christmas Eve service. Especially when we sing silent night and the entire congregation has a candle and the lights are turned off. It’s incredibly heart warming to see all the lights and know you are surrounded by love and light.

    My boyfriend has the “Christmas Campout”. On the 23rd his immediate family grabs their sleeping bags and their favorite snacks foods and hot dogs and they watch the same three Christmas movies; Mr. Magoo A Christmas Carol, It’s a Wonderful Life, and White Christmas and they all sleep in the living room together. Even though everyone is over 20 now they still find time to do it in some capacity because they love it so much.

    Merry Christmas Everyone!!


  35. says

    We have moved 7 times in the last 14 years, so I have to come up with traditions that can move with us. We always go out to a really fancy restaurant on Christmas Eve and then attend church. On Christmas morning we have caramel bubble loaf (which looks very much like your monkey bread) and an egg casserole. But my favorite tradition that makes Christmas complete for me is our ornament exchange. It has very specific rules that I explained here…


  36. says

    Seeing you talk about the tree topper totally just reminded me of what we used to do! We have a precious moments angel, and my dad would pick either my sister or me up to put it on the top when we were little. Ahh I love when I remember little things like this. 🙂


  37. Carolyn says

    I love holiday traditions! Christmas Eve we go to church, then have a huge yummy buffet of snack foods after, then we re-enact the Nativity Scene (with costumes and all, this is so much more fun now that we have kids of our own) and read from the bible about the birth of Jesus. Then everyone opens one present which is a new pair of pajamas then we stay up late playing games and watching movies. The next morning we open stockings, have my mother-in-laws famous bread dough pudding and then spend the rest of the morning slowly opening presents and enjoying a the holiday, I am looking forward to Christmas Day so I can relax for what feels like to first time since last Christmas Day:)

    Merry Christmas to you !


  38. Alex A says

    Song: silent night
    Movie: the Santa Claus
    Tradition: we like to wrap a couple lucky family members gifts in creative ways 🙂 duct tape and scavenger hunts are my person favorite.
    Gift opening: we open gifts on Christmas Eve from family. Then on Christmas Day bright and early we open Santa gifts.
    Breakfast: we make an egg bake every year and it is so amazing.
    Fav person to buy for: my husband, I always try to surprise him.

    I love Christmas!! I love decorating and listening to holiday music.


  39. says

    One of my favorite traditions is opening one gift before bed on Christmas eve. It was usually from my Grandma who lives far away, I think it made us feel more connected to her as we couldn’t always see her for Christmas.

    We also always drove around as a family to look at the Christmas lights, listening to Christmas music, usually drinking hot chocolate or something else fesitve!


  40. emma says

    My two favorite family traditions have come in last past 5ish years. They are two types of gifts:
    1. Gift that doesn’t cost any money. Every couple or family is responsible for giving a gift that doesn’t cost any money. We usually do this between dinner and dessert. It’s been everything from our best traits shared by my grandfather to reading old Emily Post etiquite tips, to secretly having to draw pictures of each other. This year my hubby and I are going to do a 2012 trivia game. It’s always fun and lively and reminds you that love and family are priceless!

    1. The “crappy ones” – wrap up stuff from your salvo pile and play white elephant. Everyone ends up fighting over the smallest one. One year we put all mismatched sox in and my dad’s old running shoes. Then my aunt made a rule no feet items! And we also check that you have your gifts at the door as they’ve been stashed under sofas in years past!


  41. says

    I don’t have too many holiday traditions, but I love looking at Christmas lights. It’s never on a particular day and most of the times it isn’t necessarily planned, but at some point every holiday season my husband and I take a little time to enjoy the festive lights around us. 🙂


  42. says

    lol – I busted out laughing at your comment about Ryan being a dog-obsessed crazy and getting caught by your neighbours in that shirt. Hilarious. My favourites:

    Cookie: Chocolate chip! Or those “magic” squares.

    Song: Winter Wonderland

    Movie: This is hard to pick. Christmas at the Kranks or The Grinch

    Tradition: HUGE stockings that my mom STILL fills for us

    Breakfast: Chocolate….. don’t judge. Okay, and my mother-in-law’s hashbrown casserole is soo good!

    Meal: I’m a vegetarian so I don’t eat the turkey, but I love the rest of it: green bean casserole, roasted potatoes, veggie stuffing, mmm!

    Person to shop for: My sister and my husband

    Way to open presents: Stockings first, then presents. I like to do it all together rather than one person at a time

    Tree topper: Well, I’m currently on the hunt for a gingerbread man tree topper. Right now I just have a simple star.


  43. Gina Elise says

    Cookie: Russian teacakes

    Song: Step into Christmas

    Movie: Definitely Christmas Vacation, I actually own the authentic moose mugs 🙂

    Tradition: Playing games after dinner

    Breakfast: Anything I can get my hands on as I’m rushing out the door for church

    Meal: Mom’s prime rib, twice baked potatoes, green bean casserole and strawberry jell-o mold

    Person to shop for: My mom

    Way to open presents: Everyone opens a gift from their pile one at a time until all the gifts are gone and then stockings

    Tree topper: My silver sparkly star 🙂


  44. says

    This is a fun post 🙂 I like the Rudolph walk idea – how fun!! And I’m right there with you on Christmas Vacation – such a classic. I absolutely love that your family does the drum roll, that’s awesome. And Ryan’s shirt is hilarious! One of my favorite holiday things is the kringle (German pastry) that my dad always orders from Wisconsin and we have on Christmas morning; always a special treat.


  45. says

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