One of the best things about celebrating Christmas is spending time with family and friends.  And, of course, one of the added benefits of spending time with family and friends … especially family … is sharing stories, traditions, and yes, recipes! 


Every family has dishes and special treats that only get made during the holiday season that everyone cannot wait to enjoy as they embrace the jolly and make merry at their gatherings. We certainly have several, but one of the most anticipated treats year after year in our family are my mother-in-law Mary’s Fruitcake Cookies.  I grew up enjoying the traditional fruitcake (Claxton is my favorite), but once I married Santa Mom I was introduced to a fabulous take on the Christmas standard. These fruitcake cookies are lighter than a traditional fruitcake slice and are bursting with flavor.  Without a doubt, these bite sized treats are approved and a no-doubter to be included among my favorite Christmas recipes.



  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 cup margarine (2 sticks)
  • 3 cups flour (plain)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 ts vanilla extract
  • 1 lb candied pineapple
  • 1 lb candied cherries
  • 1 lb dates
  • 3/4 lb seedless raisins
  • 5 cups broken nuts (walnuts or pecans)


  • Hand or Countertop mixer
  • Measuring cup
  • Silicone spatula 
  • Cookie sheet
  • Large mixing bowl


  1. Mix together softened butter and sugar in mixer
  2. Mix dry ingredients (flour, salt, baking soda) 
  3. Add eggs, milk, and flour mixture, alternating wet and dry ingredients
  4. Add vanilla extract to mixture
  5. Combine above batter with chopped nuts and fruit in a large container
  6. Drop by spoonful directly on to your cookie sheet
  7. Place in a 275 degree oven for 25 minutes or until slight browning on bottom
  8. Remove from cookie sheet while hot
  9. Recipe makes about 90 crunchy and delicious cookies that will keep in a covered container for several weeks


Boxed and tied up with a string, in gift bags bound up with a bow, and perfect to enjoy over a hot cup of cocoa or your favorite coffee with your family and friends, Mary’s Fruitcake Cookies are a wonderful way for everyone to make merry during your next holiday gathering.


From Bethlehem to wherever you are in this old, wide world and from our home to yours, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from the Santa Dad!



is all about making memories with loved ones, friends and family, and the fun activities that fill our holiday seasons year after year morph into the traditions that become the foundation of our lives.  These joyful moments spent with the people we care about the most become the images that flash across out minds when we think back fondly on Christmases past.


Each person and each family builds their own traditions over the years simply by enjoying the holiday season as they choose, but who isn’t on the lookout for new and fun ways to spend those precious moments with family and friends?  That’s why I’ve pulled together 25 traditions that our family has formed over the years that are fun, simple, and perfect for a young family with little ones . . . and anyone that loves Christmas!



Choose an advent calendar to enjoy as you mark each day in the count down to the big day!  Ours consists of 25 ornaments that hang on a small tree that is designated as our advent tree.  We fill each numbered ornament with Christmas candy treats for our daughters to enjoy when they open the ornament each day.  They absolutely love this one!




This classic Christmas tradition is a classic for a reason.  It’s timeless.  Honestly, are you ever really too old to share a Christmas wish with the big guy?


visit a tree farm

Whether you like to search until you find that perfect tree to cut down yourself, or you prefer to have someone else do the cutting by selecting a pre-cut tree, a tree farm is a wonderful way to spend a few hours and is guaranteed to help you get into the holiday spirit.  There’s usually plenty to do beyond picking the perfect tree too, like hay rides, the occasional petting zoo, and a pretty good chance you’ll find a nice selection of homemade confections and other goodies to choose from and enjoy.


trim the tree

We love to spend a day decorating the trees in our house each Christmas, but especially the live family tree after getting it home from the tree farm.  We’re having a wonderful Christmas time while we’re rocking around the Christmas tree, sipping egg nog and hot cocoa, and nibbling on popcorn as we deck the halls . . . together. 



Another hit on our family Christmas tradition checklist is the Christmas Eve cocoa bar.  We don’t stress about it too much and keep things simple.  Our favorite instant hot chocolate mix, mini marshmallows, whip cream, and colorful sprinkles make for a merry time for all.  The girls have a blast  dressing up their drinks with all the goodies that growing children really need.




Another timeless Christmas tradition that’s fun for the whole family.  The key here is to let go and have fun.  Let your children help as much as possible throughout the process and see their creativity and personalities shine. 



I’ll admit, when we first considered this idea I was a little hesitant.  I was afraid the whole thing would turn into a bigger deal than necessary and add stress to a day we refuse to be stressed out, but I was totally wrong.  I forgot to trust our family to do what we do best, simply be who we are.  To show up and show out.  We have a great time with it every year and I look forward to seeing everyone in their Christmas morning best.  Huge bonus?  The girls think it’s really cool that we are wearing their PJs! 



As we searched for ways to add fun to this dislocated year, we discovered this prize.  This is an idea that we attempted for the first time this year and it was such a hit there is no doubt that it will be a staple of our celebrations for years to come.  Everyone had so much fun, and we think it turned out pretty awesome too. 



Wow!  How things have changed since I was a child at Christmas.  Gone are the days of one or two (usually a little blurry) Christmas morning pictures.  Virtually everyone has a high quality camera in their pocket right on their phone, so there’s no excuse not to capture all those special moments the holiday season brings.  Our children are the stars of each of our Christmas stories, so whip out those phones and capture those special moments.  You and your children will be so grateful you did.




“The joy of brightening other lives becomes for us the magic of the holidays.”

W.C. Jones


It has been said that “The joy of brightening other lives becomes for us the magic of the holidays.”  One of the lessons of Christmas that I learned at a very young age is that everyone, even the smallest child, can do something to help someone else.  An act of kindness does not have to be large to be meaningful.  Whether it is “adopting” a family and helping them have a brighter holiday, volunteering, or simply helping a neighbor, we can all help to make the season bright.  The simple truth is, to know who needs help, you need only just ask. 



A quick and easy way to inject some holly jolly vibes into your holiday season is to build a soundtrack for your celebrations on your streaming platform of choice.  This is a joy multiplier because you get to enjoy it again and again.  First you have the fun of creating the playlist with your friends and family, and you get to revisit that happy place every time you listen and think back on all the fun and good times.



One of our favorite things to do any time of the year is read and tell stories and this is especially true at Christmas.  We have collected some of our favorites Christmas stories that we read with our girls every year that are age appropriate as they grow and learn, as well as a few of the classics for any reader to enjoy.  This is another HO-HO-HO winner because it creates a joy for reading and learning, all while we’re enjoying family time and making memories that will last a lifetime. 

“Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.”

Norman Vincent Peale

“Christmas isn’t a season. It’s a feeling.”

Edna Ferber



Of course, we have a couple of copies of Clement Clarke Moore’s Christmas classic in our Christmas library and each year, I snuggle in with my girls and read “The Night Before Christmas” to them before tucking them in bed as we get ready for that jolly old elf to visit. 




This is a really fun way to focus attention on the centerpiece of most Christmas celebrations and teach children about the stories behind each of the ornaments that adorn your tree and make it extra beautiful and so very special. 



Lift your voices and sing!  It’s virtually impossible to be singing Christmas carols and be sad at the same time.  Whether you just like to sing to yourself to keep a bounce in your step, sing with your family while your enjoying other traditions, or sing in a choir at church or go caroling in your neighborhood, belting out your favorite carols is a sure way to brighten your holiday.



A very special way to build your holiday history is by gifting a unique ornament to them each Christmas.  We give our girls a new ornament each year as we decorate our tree.  Whether you want the gift to mark some point in their lives or simply go with something you find striking that season, you can’t go wrong with this idea. 



Several of the films we traditionally watch during the Christmas season tend to spark vigorous debate over whether they are actually Christmas movies at all, but has the perfect solution.  You don’t have to choose!  It doesn’t matter what films fill your screens this holiday season, I say watch whatever makes you happy!  So grab those snacks, make sure you’re comfy on the couch with someone you love, and enjoy. 




Many of my best memories in life were made in the kitchen and that’s especially true at Christmas time.  There are so many wonderful treats the folks enjoy during the holiday season that the menu is huge.  Whatever it is that you enjoy and signals Christmas is on the way, gather with your family and friends in the kitchen and have some fun.  Honestly, I’m not sure what the best part of this tradition is . . . the fun of making the goodies or the pleasure of eating them.   Nom Nom Nom! 



Hands down one of the most precious Christmas traditions our family looks forward to every year is making reindeer food for Santa’s reindeer so that they will have the energy to get through Christmas eve and help Santa deliver gifts to all of the children around the world.  Our girls absolutely love helping Santa and his reindeer do their work and they take this job seriously . . . but not too seriously.   We keep the recipe super simple:  whatever oats we have on hand (oatmeal and Cheerios work great), add in a little sparkle with some sprinkles or crushed peppermint candy canes and you are good to go.  Have fun with it and add in whatever you think will boost the level of “magic” in your recipe.  Head outside before it gets too late (too dark for pictures!) and let the children spread it all around for the reindeer to enjoy.  I guarantee this one’s a blast for everyone! 






Last year we started a brand new tradition that has been a phenomenal hit here at home and with everyone that hears about it.  It is certain to be the crown jewel of our holiday season for generations to come.

In the midst of Christmas 2019 and with two very young children showing me the magic of the season with every move, I had the idea to wrap those ideas together by combining the classic Christmas icon, the Christmas wreath, and the vision of what the world looks like through the eyes of a child.  The key is capturing what matters most to my children in some physical way that accurately represents ‘a few of our favorite things’ from the past year.

“. . . These Are A Few of Our Favorite Things”: the Christmas Time Capsule wreath is our hyper-jolly way of documenting the various stages of our children’s lives as they grow.  It is a handmade Christmas wreath that captures how they feel about the year that was, what matters most to them at the time, and touches on the main themes of their lives over the past 12 months. 

Once the wreath is complete, we hang it alongside our other wreaths and it becomes a permanent part of our Christmas decorations.  As the years pass, we are building a visual display that documents our children’s lives that reads like chapters in a book that is filled with joy, hope, and love.  Quite possible the greatest story book ever written.



get crafty

‘Tis the season to have fun and be creative.  Thankfully Christmas is the idea starter that never stops giving, so take advantage.  Everything from original ideas to store bought foam Santas, pick what suits your fancy and create!  Another fun way to express your creative side is to make meal time fun.  Pancake snowmen are a big hit in our home.  Encourage your children to fully engage their imaginations and behold the wonder that follows.  Kids love to be imagine what the world could be and working alongside them as they show you the magic of the season is one of the greatest choices you could ever make.  Crafting is a wonderful way to spend the time together once everyone is out of school and home from work too. 




This is another area where the Christmas season presents endless opportunities to express exactly who you are and enjoy precisely what makes the holidays so special to you. Ornaments, snow globes, mugs, books . . . almost anything can be the theme for a seasonal collection.  All you have to do is choose.  So, give it some thought, then get out there and start hunting for your next holiday treasures.


ENJOY YOUR community

A little nip in the air is invigorating and the perfect time to get out into your community and take in all the area hs to offer like the local light displays, the community holiday parade, lots of botanical gardens have wonderful holiday light features, and local artisans and shops is where you can usually find a bounty of seasonal treats.  Don’t miss out!  Get out there and sample as much of the local flavor as possible and support your community while you’re at it. 



If the Christmas season is about anything it is about gathering together with those you love, so consider hosting a holiday party, a cookie exchange, or a present wrapping party to have some fun as you count down the days until Santa comes to town.  Keep it casual and focus on having a good time.  The rest will take care of itself. 


send christmas greetings

One of the most wonderful things I look forward to each year is sending and receiving Christmas cards through the mail.  Like everything else on this list, it’s a lot of fun and is a family affair around here.  Traditional greeting cards are always fantastic, but digital cards and video messages are fantastic too and offer worlds of options so let your inner elf shine and spread some good cheer! 


“I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.”

Charles Dickens