December is the time of year when we experience a variety of traditions. Some are long-standing, while others may be brand-new.

patiently waiting for Christmas in San Diego

Many families celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or other traditional events that may not be related to spiritual expression during the holidays.

Of course, celebrating holiday traditions means spending time with loved ones. I caught my little nieces gazing at the ocean during our traditional week’s stay in San Diego. With (usually) good weather, a Christmas Day trip to the beaches is a long-standing tradition in our family.

I love this image of my sis-in-law cuddling with one of her adoptive daughters as they open presents.

A young mother's embrace

Decor (or lack of)

Preparations for Christmas and our annual road-trip south to San Diego where most of our families live find us busy. Because we are away from home for 2-3 weeks, I decorate minimally and don’t put up a traditional Christmas tree. Instead we enjoy the Christmas trees of our families. Included in my minimal traditional decor is my 3-foot  wooden tree adorned with yellow lights.


I am all about music during the holidays! I will happily start listening exclusively to Christmas music right after Thanksgiving.

These are two of my old favorites that simply aren’t Christmas unless I hear them: (Click to listen)

Linus and Lucy from Charlie Brown Christmas

Christmas Like a Lullaby by John Denver

Something New

For the first time in years, my husband and I attended a concert. For the last four years, thanks to fellow blogger Doug Warren, I’ve been listening to Spotify. In 2018 I signed up for a premium account and started following artists. Spotify notified me of a concert by new-to-me, multi-talented electric-violinist Lindsey Stirling. After Thanksgiving we attended her concert in downtown Sacramento.

New Favorite: I Wonder as I Wander Lindsey Stirling

Going to a winter concert may be a new tradition for us!

A Surprise Event

To add to our busy-ness, a friend convinced us to host a high school student from Japan during the first weekend in December (Thursday-Tuesday).  At first I was reluctant, but she sent me the itinerary and it was do-able.

Cultural Homestay International is a program that provides cultural and educational experiences for high school students.

Cultural Homestay International (CHI) is a nonprofit educational organization founded in 1980 with the aim of promoting international understanding and goodwill through people-to-people exchanges. To live, study, or work together leads to a transformational experience of acceptance and genuine affection. 

This experience ran in conjunction with a local Christian high School and provided activities that included two days of school, excursions and other evening events. A group of 30 students from Ibaraki (north of Tokyo) stayed in the Sacramento area.

Our sweet student was 17 years old and had a good command of English. She loved our dogs. I discovered one of her hobbies (besides shopping) was Tea Ceremony Club. I did not have any photos of her, but the featured image with the graphic may give you an idea of this ancient Japanese tradition.

She celebrates Christmas with her family but only the retail stores have decorations up for all to enjoy. She got a kick out of seeing the Christmas lights and hearing Christmas music.

More photos next week for “festive!”


Your Turn

What traditions, new or old, do you observe or cannot live without during the holiday season? Please link back to this post for Sunday Stills, or simply comment!


55 thoughts on “Sunday Stills: #Traditions

  1. I enjoyed your post, Terri. I also enjoy Christmas music. It isn’t really played in the shopping centres here so you don’t get sick of it. I always host Christmas for my family and I always make my own Christmas cakes and a Gingerbread something. This year I am considering making a gingerbread nativity scene.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. One of our most beloved family traditions is our Family Christmas on Christmas Eve. We started that when we had in-laws, so we could go to the in-laws on Christmas Day. Works perfectly!
    Another beloved tradition is driving around looking for lighted houses. Fun!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Terri, good on you for hosting a student at this busy time. At the moment we are hosting a Rotary Youth Exchange student for 3 months. Anna is from Hungary and is finding our warm Christmas season a bit different to her usual cold and snowy time! It is a great way to learn more about another culture and the tea ceremony sounds delightful. I have shared my Top 5 family traditions in a post
    Enjoy the festivities!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Lovely family traditions, Terri. Doug Warren got me started on Spotify, too! I absolutely love his instrumental playlists and, even though I’m Jewish, I love Christmas music, too, and also start listening to it right after Thanksgiving. My Echo and Echo Dot allow me to hear it all over the house!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. So many overlapping experiences. We often have home stay students over Christmas but this year going to be with my husbands family in San Diego. It’s always strange to be down there where it’s so warm at Christmas.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I definitely treat Christmas and other winter traditions differently now that I live in a warm winter climate, far from family. I do have one slightly odd musical Christmas tradition, which hails from the Pacific Northwest, and that is The Cory Band With The Gwalia Singers singing Stop The Cavalry. Here’s a link to it: It got played every year on one of the Seattle radio stations and gathered something of a cult following.
    Here’s my non-Christmassy ‘Traditions’ offering:

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Very nice family photos in this time of traditions, Terri!
    My husband and I have traveling for several years, and don’t have any family left either, so for holidays we mainly enjoy seeing other people…
    That’s why my contribution is not related to my own family, but something I still participated in and had some fun with:
    I hope you and/or others will enjoy seeing my post. If you do, there is a section at the bottom of my page for likes and comments. Please don’t disregard it. Thanks 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Terri, you make the most with your relationship with family. We do too – it’s more about getting together and having a great time than decorating.

    We celebrate Chanukah. My older son, who lives very close to us, comes over to handle the food processor and make latkes. This year he taught his two children how to make them. It was a real joy to watch him carefully guiding his kids, giving them a hand when they needed help, and encouraging their successes.

    Latkes are a simple recipe but making them is a bit of an art form. It’s easy to turn them into burnt potatoes sticks. So is was such a pleasure to not only watch my son with his kids, but to eat the best latkes we’ve ever had.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Christmas time always seems to be full of traditions, doesn’t it, Terri? For us, it’s hosting a family dinner on Christmas Eve, then over to my partner’s sister’s house on Christmas Day for Christmas dinner and drinks. We’re back there on Boxing Day for cold turkey, bubble and squeak and pickles. Then, I always do a family quiz night on Boxing night.
    We always used to go out on New Year’s Eve, but much prefer to spend the evening at home in front of the TV now. One of our most recent traditions on New Year’s Eve is to watch the movie, Mamma Mia. Once Big Ben strikes midnight, it’s off to bed to catch up on some well-earned rest.

    Thanks for sharing with us some of your favourite Christmas music.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Going to a concert seems like a sweet tradition, in the anticipation of Christmas. My daughter and I have had several traditions, that I’m reevaluating now after moving. One of them included driving up to the mountains, getting a permit from the ranger station to cut down our own Christmas tree, and then going out on an adventure to find the perfect one. (Usually near Mt. Shasta.) The adventure often included walking through very deep snow, and of course a lot of playing in the snow. Another tradition (which we modified somewhat this year,) have been to build one gingerbread house every weekend between Halloween, and Christmas. ..I’m saving one of my favorite traditions for my own post 😉 Have an awesome day!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. It looks like you are able to pack a lot into the busy holiday season! (I’m a little jealous of your ability to have minimalist decorations- the little guys here are all about the more lights and glitz the better!) 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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