Wow. The whole crazy, mish-mash holiday is a big ball of tradition and remembrance for me, so this might be tough to put in a list. But here are three of the nearest and dearest:
1. First, there is Santa Mouse.
Inspired by my childhood love of the Santa Mouse books, my mom made a tiny little mouse (an erstwhile cat toy, I think) with a Santa hat to sit in the tree. Every year, Santa Mouse would bring one or two teeny gifts, which would appear in the tree beside him on Christmas morning. We have continued that tradition with my son, and a couple years back, I decided it was time for the original to enter retirement, and I made a new Santa Mouse (the one pictured at the above link). Every year, sure enough, a couple teeny presents appear in the branches of the tree next to him.
2. Cookies! Loads and loads of cookies: shortbread, sables, krinkles, bourbon balls, gingerbread - you name it! My son is my very able baker's apprentice, and we have a blast baking our little holiday hearts out.
3. Ornaments. Now, that may not *seem* like a tradition, but for me, it really is. My collection of ornaments, largely German blown-glass, includes ornaments from every generation of my family going back onto the late 1800s, with a very small few actually brought over from Germany by one Eleanora Augusta Alriche when she emmigrated. Each generation had added to the collection over the years. Sadly, a few years before I was born, a basement flood claimed a bit over half of the oldest ones, but I have almost all of those that survived. There is a mix of Victorian, deco, and a healthy dose of 50s and 60s 'Shiny Brite' kitsch. There are many I remember from my own childhood, and I can tell you not only which ones were my favorites but those of my grandmother, grandfather, even my great-aunts. So every time I trim the tree, it's a tribute to 6 generations of holidays.
There are many, many more; it really it the case that the whole holiday is wrapped in tradition (and isn't that how it should be?). We read A Child's Christmas in wales every year, and I take my son the the Nutcracker. We always made sure Santa answered his letters, relating tales of the happy chaos at the North Pole, much inspired by Tolkein's Father Christmas Letters, now becoming a tradition itself. And of course, music. I love almost all the older Christmas carols. Silent Night in German brings me to tears every time! I try to get my son to learn the words to some of the old carols, especially the German ones, and he tries, sort of. (Worst setback in this regard ever was a friend giving me 'Catmas Carols:'
he knows the words to 'Collar Bells' better than 'Jingle Bells!') And of course, the food! Peppermint, cocoa, stollen (pronounced "shtullen," not 'stolen') and great-great-grandmother's fruitcake, eggnog, ribbon candy... well, I'd better save a few things for later posts; I have 14 days to go!