By Rodica Woodbury 

For many of us, treasured holiday celebrations extend beyond the borders of our home. They can take the form of a fragrant, tasty dish that originated in a kitchen in a faraway land … or of a festive decoration that has delighted generations of family members. No matter which holiday we celebrate, or how, our family rituals remind us that we share a global connection and that the traditions we honor at home are the real gifts of the season.

Here are a few favorite holiday traditions of our staff at Thomson Family Adventures.

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CLAUDIA– It wouldn’t be Christmas morning at the Dunn household without a glass of Smithwick’s, an Irish red ale style beer from Kilkenny, Ireland, in hand while opening presents. The tradition came about once my sister and I came of age and when my Father replaced the egg nog with Smithwick’s delivered by Santa himself. Then, once the presents are opened and we’re feeling jolly, we retreat to the dining room table for a steaming bowl of Mexican pork posole (po-SO-lay), a spicy pork/hominy stew that is known as a ceremonial dish for celebrating life’s blessings made by my mother. Christmas morning is a true representation of my background and the blend of two different cultures coming together to satiate us!

GRACEOne of my favorite family traditions is making old fashioned hard candy in the forms of drops, candy canes, and lollipops. All the recipes, equipment, and hands-on knowledge has been passed down from my great-great grandfather, who opened a candy shop in Crystal Beach, Ontario in the 1860s when he moved to Canada from England. The 16-inch copper pot, marble slabs, candy-pulling hook and “drop-chopper” are all original from his shop, and now located in my grandfather’s basement. In December, you can always tell which flavor is being made by the delicious smells throughout the house: citrus, mints, and licorices!

JIM – My wife and I have blended a few Christmas traditions over the years, and now my kids consider them etched in stone! Although I can’t really trace their origin back to a specific place, I do know that they have been passed down through at least a few generations. Every year my wife makes block Christmas cards to send to friends and family, creating a new design for that year. She carves the design into linoleum blocks, rolls paint over the design, and “stamps” card stock to make the cards. The card production can be seen on a clothes drying rack in the den and sometimes on the basement clothes line! It’s a labor of love that we thoroughly enjoy and I think people enjoy receiving as well.  Also, our Christmas morning breakfast tradition is cinnamon rolls with baked egg cups (recipe below). Very very yummy! We usually open our presents and eat afterwards. Our kids look forward to this breakfast every year!

SARAH – Christmas always makes me think of two things: making cookies and Stollen bread (the good fruit cake!). A week or so before Christmas, we would help mom make sugar cookies, ladyfingers, and chocolate spritz log cookies dipped in chocolate and walnuts. Decorating the sugar cookies was always the best; trying to figure out what visuals would make each other laugh. It was always a challenge to keep the cookies and bread around long enough to make it to Christmas! I’m looking forward to creating equally delicious gluten free versions in the coming years.

ANDREW – I grew up on Oahu, Hawaii where the sun is usually warm and shining in December. I would grab my surfboard and walk down to Ewa Beach or head to Ala Amona Beach to join everyone else in the waves. Spending a few hours out in the ocean, riding the rollers under the big sky, made me feel relaxed and at peace, and grateful to be where I was on Christmas Day.

The Kackley Family Recipe for Baked Sausage Egg Cups

Take muffin pans and line the cup with ground sausage.  Make sure that the top forms a little lip to hold the egg in the muffin tin.  Place one egg in each cup. We usually use about 2 lbs and make around 10 eggs. I then bake the cups at 350 degrees for 18-20 minutes.  Check for preferred doneness. Enjoy!