9 Experts on the Holiday Traditions They Look Forward to All Year

white christmas decor ideas

Finding Lovely

For many, the holidays are associated with special traditions that make the season feel extra festive. When I was growing up, my dad and I would always take a nature walk on Thanksgiving Day and come back to the house with acorns and other objects to display as part of the dining room table centerpiece that evening. I'll always have fond memories of that little ritual!

We wanted to know what traditions lifestyle pros look forward to every year, so we talked to nine creatives to find out their holiday traditions that help to make Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Hanukkah feel extra meaningful.

Trimming the Tree

"A holiday tradition which I look forward to all year long is trimming my tree with vintage chandelier crystals. When we were engaged, my husband and I scoured flea markets and thrift stores to find them for our wedding centerpieces. Now each year we repurpose them as Christmas ornaments. As our tree turns into a sparkling chandelier, we get to reminisce about the adventures we had hunting for them!" — Barbara Brosnan of Barbara Brosnan Interiors

“Our favorite family tradition is setting up the Christmas tree and hanging all of the beautiful Jay Strongwater ornaments that I have collected for years.  Every year we gather around with teas and desserts to set up our beautiful tree. I've always added a special ornament for my girls every year, so it is fun and special when we put those ornaments on the tree. I go for an over-the-top tree and mantels and stay away from overdoing the rest of the holiday decor. I'm a less is more when it comes to Christmas decorations.” — Susan Spath of Kern & Company 

christmas tree and ornaments

@home.and.spirit / Instagram

Playing Board Games

"Every gathering at this time of year surely has to include playing board games. In my family we’ll play anything, from scrabble, monopoly, charades, Catan, the list goes on. I think it’s important to have a couple hours where the TV is off, no one has any urgent plans or work to get on with, and you sit around playing games. It’s more about enjoying the conversation and company rather than winning or losing, and for that I’m totally in." — Gianpiero Gaglione of Gianpiero Gaglione Interior Design

Doing Good for Others

“Each year, as a family, we sponsor a family for Christmas. We ask for a Christmas wish list and set a goal for ourselves to get everything on the list, plus a cash gift for the parents. I offer one-hour consulting services in exchange for donations for the family. We love seeing how happy families are to receive their gifts. It's such a rewarding feeling! We look forward to giving back every year!” — April Gandy of Alluring Designs Chicago

Designing a Tablescape

"One of my favorite holiday traditions is setting a beautiful table. There's nothing better than friends and family gathering together to share a meal, and a beautifully set table makes the occasion even more special. I love to pull out all of my china and linens and play around with them until I find the right combination. Lots of layers with unexpected combinations, like the velvet ribbon wrapped pear atop a feathered charger are definitely conversation starters. I also love vintage linens. The one used here has the perfect marigold colored embroidery for a Thanksgiving table." — Taylor Johnson of Taylor Johnson Interiors

thanksgiving tablescape

Emily Bolt for Taylor Johnson

Cooking and Baking

"From the time I was a kid in the kitchen with my mom to passing down recipes to my own children, cooking and baking have been really big holiday traditions for my family. When it comes to the Hanukah tradition—latke—I, of course, make my mom’s classic Yukon gold recipe. Our new family favorite is my chipotle sweet potato latkes topped with sour cream and chives." — Vicki Ross of Plan-it Vicki

"One of the holiday traditions that I look forward to is baking cookies with my family. We started this tradition years ago with my grandmother and an older couple that lived across the street. Joe [the husband], had this old meat grinder that he made a special star tip for to put cookie dough through. My mother would make the dough the night before, and after school one day, the week before Christmas, all of my cousins would come over to make the cookies. My mother now has the meat grinder, and we still continue the tradition every year! It’s so hard to get the family together with everyone keeping such busy schedules, so it’s nice to know that we all make time for this one tradition every year because it was so special to us as kids. The smell and the taste of the cookies brings back so many wonderful memories." — Paula DeLuise of The Best Day Ever Events

Whipping Up Festive Cocktails

"My husband always whips up festive cocktails for us using cranberry juice or pomegranate. He garnishes them with sprigs of rosemary which makes them feel extra special! We love sipping on our cocktails while we decorate the house." — Kat Jamieson, tastemaker and author of Blended

festive cocktails

@sarahlyon9 / Instagram

Enjoying a Traditional Provence Christmas

"In France, Christmas is celebrated on the 24th. Traditionally, aperitif is champagne and oysters, fresh black truffles from Richerenches on fine toast sprinkled with fleur du sel from Camargue and olive oil from Nyons. Dinner is several courses accompanied with wine from the Côtes du Rhône (our local appellation) beside the crackling open fire at a table set with silverware and heirloom crockery. The familiar songs of Édith Piaf, Louis Armstrong, Serge Gainsbourg, Francoise Hardy and Charles Aznavour rotate on the turntable and add such lovely atmosphere. We then rug up and trundle into the village for midnight mass in our 13th century village chapel. Christmas carols and the quaint nativity scene fill our hearts, and we all pour out into the crisp evening immersed in the sound of the church bells ringing." — Susannah Cameron of Chez Pluie