Holiday Traditions, Even When You Travel – Paris!

Growing up in a family with 6 kids, I loved our Holiday Traditions.  It was time for the family to be together play games and eat good food.  We would set the table with the best dishes in the house and wait hours to have our holiday meal. All the while smelling yummy food and sneaking into the kitchen to see what we could manage to sneak away.  Usually it was a black olive stuffed with garlic or a freshly baked croissant just pulled from the oven waiting to be plated (Quick, mom turned her head, she will never notice).  The afternoons and evenings were spent with all of us playing games indoors and out, depending on the weather.  My favorite was always Pictionary.  I just loved that game and it gave us all such a good laugh.

As we all grew up and started working or moved away, it was even more treasured to see everyone for the holidays.  Sometimes we would celebrate the holiday on a “different” day, as I worked in a restaurant that was open and very busy on the holidays. In addition, some siblings were now married and needed to juggle different families.  I loved that my family was always so accommodating and enjoyed the spirit of Christmas on which ever day we were all together.

As time passed we all started families of our own, it was more difficult to get all of us together.  My siblings and I were spread out all over the U.S. and travel wasn’t always convenient.  But that doesn’t stop me from wanting to bring some of these traditions into our home.  My kids are 8 and 10 and have not yet experienced a Christmas with “my family”, but I hope they will one day.  Perhaps we can host it where ever we live?  In the meantime, we have new traditions which are so much fun and for our kids it’s “their traditions“.

For the past several years we have been “away from home” on Christmas.  I bet you never guessed we liked to travel.  We have been to some of the most amazing places and have been fortunate enough to spend most with Alan’s mom (aka: Grandma).  For years she has brought exciting and creative tradition into our home for the holidays and the kids just can’t get enough of it. This year we were spending Christmas with Grandma in Paris!

The Gingerbread House

Christmas in Paris
The finished works of art on display.

Each year Grandma brings with her enough goodies for the kids to each make a gingerbread house. I know most of you are thinking, great a kit from Target or something. NOPE!  These are “real gingerbread houses” made from scratch, and baked with love by Grandma in her kitchen. There are no graham crackers or store-bought houses here. All of the candy and trimmings come along in her carry on as well. She even remembers to bring the Elf Apron’s each year and that is always a kick. And of course she hand makes the frosting as needed on the spot. Just Amazing!

She has kept this tradition alive no matter where we have been for Christmas (home in NC or visiting Reno, Myrtle Beach, Harry Potter in Florida and now Paris).  The kids have such joy when making the houses and can’t wait to build them. I think they like dipping into the candy too.  One candy for the house and one for me.  🙂 They are so intense when designing and piping their house with Grandma. They are always so proud of their works of art. When we spent the Holidays in Reno, they left their houses with their Great Grandmother to look after. This year in Paris we decided to let them eat what they could on Christmas Eve, as we wouldn’t be able to take them home. Oh, how much they love this tradition. Thank you Grandma!


We also enjoyed making home-baked cookies for Santa. Grandma brought all of the mixings as well as the decorating supplies! I can’t believe that Grandma was able to bring all of this with her to Paris.  I think her entire suitcase was things for us. We stayed in a 3 bedroom apartment, so it was wonderful to have a kitchen and dining space to do all of the activities.  Not many of the cookies lasted for Santa, but we did manage to find a hand-dipped chocolate covered marshmallow to leave out for him. The point is the kids love the tradition of making cookies with Grandma!

A touch of my childhood

For years, I have been keeping my family traditions alive in thought and voice with my kids.  They have been too young to enjoy Pictionary or many of the other games or traditions I so cherish. This year they were begging me to do one of my family traditions and I thought we could try and see if they are now old enough to play “Mystery Gift”.

“Mystery Gift” – Each year my Mom (aka: Gma) would pick out a gift that would suit anyone that was home for Christmas. This gift would be wrapped and deemed a “mystery” until Christmas Eve. On Christmas Eve, we would all gather around and sit in the family room. Mom would present the gift to the group and review the rules with us. Hands down, this was always one of my favorite traditions.


  • 1st round, we each get to hold the mystery gift and pass it along to the next person. This is so we can access the contents by weight, size etc. Sometimes Mom would try to trick us with rocks in the box or something to throw us off the real gift.
  • Next we pass the present around again, but this time while we have it in hand we are allowed one question. This question must be asked in a way so it will only have a “yes” or “no” answer.
  • This continues on (for eternity sometimes LOL) until someone can guess the contents of the package.

I get to be the “Mom”

I am sure Mom had a tough time trying to find something suitable for anyone that was playing.  I can remember a few things like a Spaghetti making kit, a Cookie Jar, Lottery Tickets, etc.  This year, I was the one who planned the Mystery Gift. I had to select something that would suit the entire family. Now, I get it Mom!  It is tough to find something.

I decided to go with candy as that was a safe bet and I thought they would all guess fairly quickly. I was pleased that it did last several rounds and the kids enjoyed the game.  Our son finally guessed the contents of Mars Bars and wants to do this monthly now.  I explained to him if we do it monthly, it would “take away” the fun of the Holiday Tradition.  He then requested it be every other month.  We will see…

Oh, how I love Holiday Traditions. I know my idea of tradition may be different than yours. I like that are traditions are portable and in fact that travel is one of the traditions. It isn’t for everyone, but it fits our family well.

If you are looking for gifts which will take up little to no space then check out our
Unique Holiday Gift Guide.
Unique Holiday Gift Guide.

We hope you have enjoyed this gift guide, but now it is time to figure out Creative Ways to Give A Gift.  We offer many ways to give your unusual gifts, just click on the image below.  These ideas are perfect for the “little to no footprint” gifts.  We know it may seem a little anticlimactic to hand someone an envelope with a gift card inside.  Not quite an elaborate presentation to build up excitement, but we will share some fun ways to present that gift.
Creative and Unique ways to give a gift. You can make it fun to give money or a gift card, even golf clubs or an ebook. Read more on


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What are some of your most memorable Family Holiday Traditions?

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