Holiday Baking Traditions

By Terri Gilson /

Shortbread cookies

Every Christmas morning we’d wake up to an empty glass and a plate of crumbs. That’s how we knew he’d been there. In the days leading up to the big event, we’d be busy baking him shortbread cookies, taking extra care to ensure they were perfect because, of course, they had to be Santa-worthy. Then we’d put them on a plate, with a drink (I wish I could say it was milk) and anticipate his arrival and enjoyment of our special treat. It was tradition.

Traditions are important. Traditions are the stories, beliefs, rituals and customs that are passed from one generation to the next.

Traditions are what bind us, make us feel like we are part of something bigger; they make us feel like we belong.


Traditions are part of healthy families and promote healthy relationships between generations, especially around special holidays like Christmas. Research shows that children actually remember the special experiences of family traditions more than toys or gifts.

Growing up, my family had a lot of holiday traditions, especially around food, and these special experiences are what I remember and cherish. My Mom wasn’t much of a baker, but she always baked shortbread with us and Grandma always made butter tarts at Christmas time.

Grandma's Butter Tarts

We also had eggnog on Christmas eve and at Christmas dinner, we ate turkey, Grandma’s stuffing, mashed potatoes, Mom’s Scottish Cabbage Rolls and Mom’s prize pumpkin pie . We always had a big brunch on Christmas morning, after we eventually recovered from inhaling all the candies and chocolate in our stockings. Aside from Easter, Christmas was the one day of the year we were allowed to eat chocolate for breakfast! That is one of my kids’ favorite traditions that I have carried on.

I grew up thinking that Santa’s favorite drink was rum and coke and that the Easter bunny liked Caesars with a stick of celery. Of course, Dad thought it was hilarious (although he wasn’t even much of a drinker). Mom just shook her head. So, we left a rum and coke out for Santa, along with the plate of carefully crafted shortbread cookies. It was tradition.

Now that I have my own family, I have combined some of my family’s traditions with those of my husband’s family and we have created new traditions. And when it comes to food traditions, although I like to try baking new things, I always make the traditional baking – Whipped Shortbread and Grandma’s Butter tarts.

There are just certain things you just don’t mess with. That’s tradition.


Terri is a competitive home cook & baker, recipe developer, food blogger and busy working Mom that is trying to eat healthily and fit everything into not enough hours in a day. Terri is the creator and owner of , a recipe site, where she shares her easy and (mostly) healthy and award-winning recipes, love of baking, stories and food ramblings. launched in May 2016 as an avenue for Terri to share her love of creating recipes with food writing. Currently, Terri lives in Calgary, Alberta, Canada with her husband and 2 children. You can follow her culinary meanderings on Instagram and Pinterest

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