Blending Holiday Traditions


I entered the picture when my daughters were around seven and eight. By the time I came around, holiday traditions were all mapped out. Birthday celebrations had been happening the same way for years, trick-or-treating was done a certain way, and Christmas came with pre-loaded family traditions.  

I didn’t intentionally set out to create new family traditions for our family. But long before we added another kid to the mix, I wanted to do things with the girls that were special to the three of us. Birthdays and holidays gave me an excuse to try new things with the girls, and we inadvertently created our own traditions to add to their already existing ones.

They are teenagers now, so some of our traditions have dwindled or changed, but I have the best memories of those early years together, navigating our new family dynamic in the context of our favorite holidays. These are some of my most cherished moments with the two of them.

I hope our family traditions will spark some ideas for your family, blended or not.  


My mom always made my sisters and me homemade cakes every year for our birthdays. It was always so fun to watch her bring to life whatever vision we had! I knew this was something I wanted to do for my children as well. So every year for their birthdays, I make the girls a cake.

But my twist is that it’s always a surprise.

I choose something significant about their lives for that year – Harry Potter, a Starbucks obsession, whatever it is – and I make a cake. I never tell them what the theme is, and I love listening to them try to guess. There is nothing sweeter than seeing the surprised look on their face when I unveil their birthday cake! There have been some major cake disasters, but the girls are so kind to me, an amateur, and still give me the best hugs and praise.

This upcoming year will be five years of cakes. And now I get to add my baby boy to the mix as well. I love it! It’s fun reflecting on their year and coming up with an idea. I love how surprised the girls are and I love these special moments. It is one of my most favorite traditions, and no matter how busy we may be, we will always make time for it. 

A few cakes from the past birthdays.
A few cakes from past birthdays.

July 4th

Baseball and fireworks. Two words that represent summer and the 4th of July for me. For several years we would go to the Blowfish baseball game, laugh at Blowy, and then watch fireworks and wonder if any were going to hit our car. We can’t watch the Blowfish anymore, but this was a fun tradition we looked forward to. I miss it now, but I’ve come to terms with the fact that they’re too cool to sit with me in public.


The girls and I used to carve pumpkins every single year. I have so many pumpkin carving stories! The first year, I ended up carving all three. There were times of tears at what they perceived as a flawed design or imperfect carving. There were failed attempts at baked pumpkin seeds, and that one time I almost sliced off my fingertip. I mainly just remember the three of us chatting and creating, and proudly lighting the candles to see them glow in the dark.  

Showing off my pumpkin carving
Showing off my pumpkin carving


The first Christmas after I married was also a Christmas without Santa Claus. I don’t remember when exactly the girls figured it out, but not only was Santa gone, so was any element of surprise. They were so specific with their lists that they pretty much knew, or thought they knew, every present they would receive. Since I couldn’t play Santa, and since they already knew what they were getting, I plotted my own little Christmas surprise. And thus began the Sarah Santa Scavenger Hunt.

I hid presents all around the house with rhyming clue cards that eventually led to the tree. My venture into non-traditional territory received mixed reviews that first year, but by the time the next Christmas rolled around, both girls were asking me to do it again. So I did. And I have every year since then.

I also give them each a special Christmas ornament each year. This is another tradition my mom started. Like their birthday cakes, this gift is a little token to remind them of their year and something that stands out to me about their interests and talents. Like my mom, I plan to give them these ornaments for their own trees one day, and I hope they’ll think fondly of the time we all spent together during the holidays.  

Christmas Scavenger Hunt Fun!
Christmas Scavenger Hunt Fun!

Blending a family means creating a new “normal” and family dynamics. I’m glad my girls were willing to try some new things out with me. Finding ways to honor their existing traditions and create some that were unique to our new dynamic helped contribute to our family’s cohesiveness and create many wonderful moments and memories.   

What are your unique family traditions for the holidays?

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Sarah grew up in Lancaster, SC but has called Columbia home for nearly 10 years since her undergrad days at Presbyterian College. Columbia holds a special place in her heart, as it’s where she got her first “grown up” job, obtained her Masters of Library and Information Science degree from USC, and met her husband, Todd. She became a mother for the first time three years ago to Todd’s two sweet daughters, and loves watching them grow into unique and interesting young ladies (12 & 14) who inspire her daily. She is also experiencing life with an infant for the first time with their newest family member, a silly, happy 6-month-old baby boy. Sarah is a full time children’s librarian, and loves that her passion and her career have aligned to form dreamy days of sharing her love of literacy and learning with children and families. Sarah enjoys practicing her cake decorating skills, reading, brunch, ridiculously long showers (a luxury now with an infant), working out, good coffee and perfecting the art of crockpot cooking.


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