Merry Christmas. Word among the elves is that you’ve either been very good over the course of the year or you found a way to fool Santa. Congratulations, you clever soul. 

Another Christmas is upon us, and isn’t it something that no matter how crazy the world gets, people still pause each December to celebrate the holiday? 

For nearly 2,000 years, people have been observing Christmas amid wars and famines, pandemics and depressions and all forms of calamity and strife. And they celebrate in such a variety of ways, to an outsider it might look like madness. 

What is it about the parasitic plant called mistletoe that makes otherwise clearheaded people want to share sloppy wet kisses with aunts and distant cousins? 

What’s the deal with egg nog? Why do we leave milk and cookies out for a mysterious man in red who plans to burglarize our homes? Exactly what is a yule log, anyway? 

The most common Christmas tradition is a weird one and yet we’ve been doing it for so long, it seems perfectly normal: Why, our outsider friend might demand of you, have you pulled a perfectly good fir tree from the ground, propped it up inside your home and draped it with blinking lights and shredded aluminum foil? 


Our pals at have you covered. 

“Decorated trees date back to Germany in the Middle Ages, with German and other European settlers popularizing Christmas trees in America by the early 19th century,” according to the website. “A New York woodsman named Mark Carr is credited with opening the first U.S. Christmas tree lot in 1851. A 2019 survey by the American Christmas Tree Association predicted that 77 percent of U.S. households displayed a Christmas tree in their home. Among the trees on display, an estimated 81 percent were artificial and 19 percent were real.” 

These days, there’s real pressure to get the very best Christmas tree that can be found and to decorate it with Martha Stewart-level precision. Come home with a skimpy, lopsided tree and all your friends and neighbors will point and laugh. They’ll accuse you of burdening your family with a “Charlie Brown Christmas tree,” and what do you know? That’s ALSO a tradition, one that dates back to 1965 when Charles Schulz’s Peanuts comic strip came to television in the form of a Christmas special.  

In the now-classic cartoon, when Charlie Brown himself brings home a rather bedraggled and unimpressive tree, the others mock him for it — until good old Linus bails him out. 

“I never thought it was such a bad little tree,” Linus says, administering the point of the whole affair. “It’s not bad at all, really. Maybe it just needs a little love.” 

We move on to the yule log. For the modern take on this old tradition, you can thank New York television station WPIX-TV, which in 1966 aired a continuous loop of a log burning in a fireplace. That TV log proved to be so popular among its audience, the station settled into a tradition of airing it every Christmas for 20 years. After which most people came around to the idea that they were staring at their television sets like idiots when they could just get their own logs to burn. 


As legend would have it, failing to leave cookies and milk (or in some families, beer and pretzels) for Santa on Christmas morning could spell calamity for the holidays. This particular tradition dates back to Norse mythology, although it really took hold in America during the Great Depression in the 1930s. Leaving milk and cookies, it was said, was a gesture of gratitude in difficult times. 

You’ve got to wonder about egg nog. Why did we take such a wholesome and nutritious drink and turn it into something so powerfully boozy you just might wreck your wife’s Christmas party with your drunken antics.

According to the good people of, the tradition of nog dates back to medieval England, where commoners enjoyed a drink made with hot curdled milk and just a splash of ale or wine. Just a splash, mind you. It was the American colonists who made egg nog lots more fun by adding rum to it. They say even George Washington had his own special recipe. It’s kind of a marvel we did so well in the Revolution.

A lot of the Christmas traditions we indulge in are very much the same, although each family tends to go about it a little differently. Since we don’t have the time or space to cover the history of ALL these traditions, we reached out to our readers and asked for their favorites.  

And while many Christmas celebrations have been curtailed, changed or outright ditched during the pandemic, most folks seem to be plowing ahead with their traditions in spite of the hardships. 

Good old-fashioned American tenacity and determination. That might be the best tradition of them all. 


Marissa Midge Deku, Lewiston 

Watching the 1951 version of “A Christmas Carol” with Alastair Sim, but has to be black and white not colorized. My dad started the tradition with me as a kid and now my son, who is 3, watches it with us as well. I do have a DVD of the film. It use to play on TV every Christmas Eve, but we have not found it for many years. 

Gee Gee, Portland 

Reading “A Christmas Carol” aloud by candlelight as a family. The reader wearing a stove pipe hat. We have been doing this since 1995. My son carried on the tradition with his family as well. 

Eevee, now almost 4, and Lola, now 5, play in front of the Christmas tree in 2018.

Courtney Michaud, Auburn, with daughters Eevee and Lola 

On holidays like Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas, I make jumbo blueberry muffins with sugar sprinkled on top. My family grew up having muffins or cinnamon rolls on those holidays, so my husband and I continued for our children. My girls absolutely LOVE Christmas, from the lights to the presents. My 5-year-old Lola always has in her mind she only gets one present for Christmas — though we have always had more than that thanks to some assistance. So when she wakes up and sees the tree full of presents she squeals. But don’t get me wrong: When she opens up clothes, boy oh boy does she get mad. 


Cal Brown, Litchfield 

The best part of Christmas and every other holiday is family. Nothing has ever made me happier than a family gathering. First was my children and my nieces and nephews.  Then along came grandchildren and now great-grandchildren. The youngest grandchild is now 13 and we spend a fair amount of meaningful time together. Great-grandchildren, I could never get enough of them. Children and grandchildren living hundreds of miles away are rarely seen and greatly missed. As they age and get a life of their own, they are seen less often but never forgotten. A few minutes with them or a phone call always brightens my day. A Christmas with any of them is a day to remember. 

Diane Frank, Lewiston 

Going to the movie theater Christmas Day. My son’s in the Navy, so he can’t be home at Christmas anymore, but we did it till his 18th birthday and then anytime he’s home is Christmas. I still go every Christmas Day, to this day. I see what’s playing and decide from there. 

Laurie-Anne Ouellette, Lewiston 

We always have only purchased our children three presents each, because it’s baby Jesus’ birthday and he only got three presents. When they were little, it taught them Christmas is not about presents, it’s family, friends and being together. To this day we still celebrate accordingly. We had birthday cake for breakfast on Christmas morning. They loved it! 


Gina Choiniere, Corinth 

New PJs, hot chocolate and Christmas movies on Christmas Eve. 

Nicole LePera, Topsham 

We used to go on a sleigh ride on Christmas Eve at the Nestlenook, which was all lit up with white lights everywhere. There were bonfires and skaters, hot chocolate near the gazebo. Inside the gazebo was Christmas music and a roaring fire. Going through the woods filled with Christmas lights while listening to the sleigh bells was an experience that seemed to take you into another realm, one of happy dreams and wishes come true. 

Raymond Parlin, Farmington 

Being with the ones you love, whether it’s family, friends or both. 


Jennifer Gendron Carleton, right, gets a smooch from husband, Jeff Carleton, while their son, Benjamin, takes a selfie. Submitted photo

Jennifer Gendron Carleton, Lewiston 

Seafood fest Christmas Eve; after Mass day-of Chinese mai tai lunch. Really though, watching a little kid grow to love Christmas and all the things leading up to it is inspiring magic. Do I long for Christmas past when we’d travel to Canada and get together with extended family through New Year’s? You bet. But the new traditions with the next generation is where it’s at now, and I appreciate it. Still I wouldn’t change a thing — in the past nor the present — for anything. 

Bobbi Frechette, Lewiston 

Packing up all the kids in the car and riding around town looking at all the Christmas lights then going home for spice cookies and hot chocolate. I still do it with my grandkids. 

Janice Burdin, Lewiston 

Dad’s Charlie Brown trees! 


Winnie Gray, Lewiston 

Falling snow and sparkle-sprinkled greeting cards bring memories of Christmases past when Mother baked and older brother brought home the tree, which he had cut from ‘over the banking.’ I learned from him to climb and cut off the top of an evergreen. Remember using camphor ice for chapped lips, how frozen fingers felt in ice-ball mittens and looking down to see snow prints made by white fur-topped rubber boots zipped over leather shoes? The tree, each bough bubbling with Christmas colors, silver-tinseled garlands and strings of red, blue, green and, yes, orange lights, and a star for the top — all covered by an itchy web of “angel hair” under which presents with name tags visible were thoughtfully placed, leaving room for gifts Santa would deliver!   

On Christmas Eve, church attendance in my small town was the norm. Assembling in the sanctuary, the first to perform would be the choir of Sunday school children. We would be led onto the altar by the good ladies who had taught us. With chubby, outstretched hands, we would reach for an instrument to shake or rattle as we sang. After a piano introduction, our voices would ring out with “Jingle Bells” followed by “Away in a Manger.” I would look out over the parent-populated church pews to see that one beautiful face, Mother, who had trudged through the snow wearing her best coat to dutifully present herself for me! The Christmas message welcoming the newborn savior would be followed by the joyful sound of sleigh bells. And Santa Claus, carrying a bag of appropriate toys and books, would join the congregation. Each child would be summoned by name, be presented a gift and always be given a small string-handled box of hard candy. Lastly, into the silent night all would head toward home to nod off under warm covers, because tomorrow was Christmas Day!

D.T., Roxbury

This story here happened a good many years ago, when I was probably in the single digits (somewhere around 6 through 10 or so). It would happen every year on Christmas Eve as the thrill of the holiday has been building for probably a month or more. Our father had a tradition I have never heard of before or since even up till now. Early to mid evening we would all get the milk and cookies out on the kitchen table while dad would go out and start the car to warm it up. With everything all set for Santa on the table, out the door we would all go, except one of my brothers would go next door to our grandmother’s house so “she wouldn’t be alone.” The rest of us would go on a ride into the big city of Rumford/Mexico (hey, to a little kid like me it was a big city), to check out the holiday lights and scenery.

Meanwhile when we were out checking all the pretty Christmas lights in the big city, the left-behind sibling would walk back across the field to home and the magic began. First he would grab a pair of some deer legs my dad had saved to make something with, and walk them down our snow-covered sidewalk so it looked like reindeer had landed. Then he used an old steel-railed sled down the sidewalk. And to top it all off, brush his footprints out of the snow except where Santa got out of the sleigh and walked into the house . . . and ate every darn cookie we left him!! Every year.

When we returned an hour or two later it was “Oh my God, Santa has been here!” I would run into the house and see the cookies and milk were gone — that must mean there were presents under the tree. Oh yes, there they were, glistening under our perfectly colored and decorated tree. Santa has come again this year. All the proof is there to believe.

I think back on those moments every year around the holidays. They made for some real great memories I hope to never forget! We would get to pick one present to open and the rest had to wait till mornin’.

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