Non-Traditional Christmas Traditions with Sherri Shackelford

I’m working on a Holiday book for next year, which got me to thinking about Christmas traditions. So many of our traditions are passed down from generation to generation. When I was growing up, we were always allowed to open one present on Christmas Eve. We spent Christmas Eve with family – one year with my father’s family, and the following year with my mother’s. Christmas Day was reserved for the immediate family. My mother’s family lived in Minnesota, and they were fond of a particular drink called a Tom & Jerry. The drink consists of a batter which is mixed with hot water and rum or brandy.


You can find recipes for the batter on the internet (it’s a mixture of eggs, spices and powdered sugar), but I’ve been lucky – a local store in my hometown carries the mix around the holidays. (Although you have to order early, it goes fast!) There are special glass and bowl sets for the batter and the drink. I have to admit I like the drink better without the booze! The ritual of mixing the batter with hot water while theย smell of nutmeg and cloves fills the air, instantly brings back memories of Christmas.

Tom & Jerry

I’m from the Midwest, so I associate Christmas with cold and snow. For a few years we lived in California. While I enjoyed our Christmases in California, I missed the changing of the seasons and the added communion of being forced indoors by the weather.

When I became a parent, I developed a bit of resentment for the holidays. Usually, the women in the family are the keepers of traditions. (Not always, of course!) And as the keeper of the traditions, we have the added pressure of making everything FESTIVE!

For the holiday book I’m writing, my heroine has no Christmas traditions. Raised by her father, they treated Christmas as a ‘day off’. No chores, no cooking, and no church. The day following Christmas, they traveled into townย and bought each other a gift. (This ‘tradition’ started when the heroine’s father forgot Christmas, and had to make up an excuse on the fly.)

Naturally, when my heroine enters into a marriage-of-convenience with a ready-made family, her family traditions are a bit of a shock to my hero.

Which brings me to my questions – Did your family have any holiday traditions that were non-traditional?ย 

One commentor will win a $5 gift card from Amazon.

Here’s a sneak peak at the cover/blurb for my February book – this is definitely NOT a holiday book! The heroine is an independent suffragist, and I had a lot of fun writing her ๐Ÿ™‚ This book kicks off the Prairie Courtship series. Here’s a hint – If you’ve read The Marshal’s Ready-Made Family, you’ll be happy to know that this is her brother, Caleb’s, story.

The Engagement BargainMake-believe betrothal

Rock-solid and reliable, confirmed bachelor Caleb McCoy thought nothing could rattle him; until he discovers he needs to pose as Anna Bishop’s intended groom. After saving her life, his honorable code bid Caleb watch over the innocent beauty. And a pretend engagement is the only way to protect her from further harm. 

Raised by a single mother and suffragist, Anna doesn’t think much of marriage;and she certainly doesn’t plan to try it herself. But playing Caleb’s blushing bride-to-be makes her rethink her independent ways, because their make-believe romance is becoming far too real.

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40 thoughts on “Non-Traditional Christmas Traditions with Sherri Shackelford”

  1. I’m afraid we had boring traditional Christmases. We were like you 1 present on Christmas Eve. The rest on Christmas day. My mother’s parents were the closest and we usually spent the holiday with them. There was no snow in Texas on Christmas so only cold and rain sometimes and 90 degree weather others. The best was when it was in the 40’s and it seemed like it should be Christmas.

  2. We have a lot of traditions for Christmas most handed down through the generations.

    We do things a lot differently in Australia though because Christmas is smack bang in the middle of our summer. So it’s cold drinks we are looking for & salads & all the summer fruits. The fridge is full of cold watermelon & ham & chicken ….& chocolate, of course.

    One year we actually hung foil covered chocolate decorations on the Christmas tree. We ended up with chocolate puddles on the floor.

  3. Hi Sherri. I’ve never had a Tom and Jerry but heard of it. Gosh, going back to the memories from my Christmases as well as my children’s when they were young is beautiful as well as sad but I keep making new memories. My grandmother had a special recipe for a white Christmas pie and I wished I could remember from back then what was in it (I remember coconut and can taste it in my mind) but it was my grandmother recipe and only she made it on the Christmas eve with me helping and alot of dishwashing and cleaning I did with her (I have 6 other siblings but I loved doing these things for her and loved having Christmas eve with her by myself). There was lots of laughter and giggles. Now if only my sister would hand over the recipe! Lol

    What a beautiful cover and blurb!


  4. My family does. We have some Christmas bulbs that have Old Testament prophecies written on one side and the New Testament fulfillment written on the other side. This is a more recent tradition, but I love it. We read both of them and we also read the Christmas story from Luke.

    I can’t wait for your new release. It sounds awesome!

  5. Hi Sherri, your book sounds intriguing!

    One family tradition came out of my habit of purchasing Christmas gifts throughout the year and then forgetting about them. Invariably I’d come across the gifts in January while organizing closets and drawers. One January I came across a forgotten box of Match cars I had purchased for my two small sons. So I said, “Look what Santa left on the roof.” This was such a big hit it became an annual event.

    • That’s funny, Margaret! My mom wrote our names on the presents in shorthand (so we wouldn’t peek) But she wasn’t very good at shorthand, so we usually wound up opening each others presents ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. My husbands family always have pancakes and grapefruit on Christmas morning before opening any presents,,its a nice tradition that we have carried over to our family and grandkids too

  7. I don’t know about non-traditional traditions, any of ours are quite normal. ๐Ÿ™‚ We love to do stockings, that started way before I was born!

  8. Sherri, Christmas was always my favorite holiday in the days when it was simple. It’s gotten far too complicated now which takes some of the fun out of it. That being said, I feel the Christmas spirit sneaking up on me anyway. I’ve already bought some decorations. I can’t resist. I usually drink some eggnog around the holidays. I’ve never heard of this Tom and Jerry drink. Sounds good though.

    Congratulations on the upcoming release! I love that cover! And I particularly loved The Marshal’s Ready-Made Family. I still laugh about that scene where he bursts in on her thinking the bad guy has her. So funny.

  9. Ahh, thank you, Linda! I liked writing the Marshal’s Family.

    And I agree with you – sometimes things can get complicated and it can sap the fun out of it. And I know my husband would roll his eyes because he says we women bring it on ourselves! If the guys were in charge, we’d have a bag of chips and watch football ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. Our family always opened gifts on Christmas eve following church because my grandmother’s birthday was Christmas day and her 11 children got together to celebrate her on Christmas day. We would have a bowl of chili before church and come home after to find that Santa had come.

    When I married and had our first child we started to host Christmas Eve serving both chili and oyster stew as that was his families custom.

    Christmas Day was then at my in-laws with a huge dinner.

    My husband and I are now the oldest of immediate family so our son has taken the celebration and made it his. With family scattered we celebrate with him on Christmas and with the other three families when it works.

    I always miss my 6 siblings at Christmas but it just doesn’t work for everyone to be together!

  11. My family would always get a real tree for as long as I could remember and set it up a week before. Now my husband’s family always had the fake tree. The funny thing is my dad didn’t like the fake trees and my husband’s dad didn’t like real trees.
    My family would always have ham dinners for Christmas, gravy, corn, mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce. Yummy!
    jennydtipton at gmail dot com

  12. One tradition is to make M&M cookies together for the holidays… not really non traditional… but still something we enjoy doing!

  13. Hi Sherri, what a great post…already has me in a holiday mood. We also got to open one present on Christmas Eve when I was little. A tradition I also remember was getting a new pair of Christmas shoes. When I was nine, they were black patent pumps with little French heels. Goodness, I slept with them. Not on my feet LOL, in their box by my pillow. I loved them so much.

    I inherited some Tom and Jerry mugs in my Spode Christmas Tree pattern….I better finally use them!

    Congrats on the book and blessings as you work on the Christmas one! Xo

  14. Pretty much traditional Christmases here. We go to my sister’s house which was my mom’s house on Christmas eve and to my mother in laws on Christmas day.

  15. We don’t really have any interesting traditions, well except maybe that we
    open presents one at a time, youngest to oldest.

  16. Hi Sherri! Thanks for the fun post and giveaway! I’ve never heard of a Tom and Jerry. Our traditions include waking up early on Christmas morning to see what Santa brought and then enjoying a big breakfast. Later in the day, we head to my parent’s house for dinner and a gift exchange.

  17. Sherri, what fun to see a new book from you! You are supposed to tell you when you have new books coming out! February is my birthday month so I will definitely remember! How fantastic that a new series is starting! I can’t think of any traditions our family has that are non-traditional. You sure had me thinking though!!!!

  18. Hi Sherri! Thank you for the interesting post and giveaway. I have never heard of the Tom and Jerry drink but I have often seen the bowl and cups in antique stores. Now that we are grandparents, we head to the grands house early Christmas morning to watch little faces when they see what Santa brought. After much delight, we sit down to a wonderful breakfast. Later, we have the family over for our Christmas meal and gifts.

  19. Sherri, Thanks for bringing back good memories. Our family also fixed a bowl of Tom & Jerry every holiday season. Our bowl was a ceramic bowl with a gold rim and lettering. Our family traditions were not that unusual. We would attend midnight mass with all of my mother’s side of the family. Afterwards, we went to my grandparents’ home for brunch. She was one of nine siblings and all had 4 or more children so we were quite a crowd. We got home about 2:30AM or so and Santa had already come. (I never did figure out how my parents managed that.) We were allowed to open out gifts and then we went to bed. This allowed everyone to sleep in the next morning. If the kids woke first, they could play with their new toys. Christmas Day, we went to my grandparents’ on my dad’s side. Dad was one of 7, but there weren’t as many grandchildren. We had Christmas Dinner there and then spent the evening at home.

    Those traditions weren’t possible to follow for my family because my husband was in the military and we weren’t close enough to home, so we created our own. We celebrated at home by ourselves. Our new tradition was to attend the children’s mass on Christmas Eve. On Christmas morning, they could open one gift that was in their stocking when they got up. That way, we could wait a while before getting up. We would have a nice breakfast, then open our gifts. There were times when my husband was not home on Christmas Day, so we delayed Christmas, except for the stocking and one small gift, until he got home. Then we would have our dinner and open gifts. I know that isn’t for everyone, but it worked for us.

    Today our children are married and one lives in a neighboring state. We do not want to get into a contest with the inlays over where the children will spend the holidays. We let them go with the spouses’ families’ plans and we get together as close to the holiday as we can. A date on the calendar is just that, a date. The event we are celebrating is what is important and can be celebrated when we can.

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