Holiday traditions can be as old as my grandmother's Swedish pepparkokar (spice) cookie recipe or as new as a Christmas stocking for the...

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Holiday traditions can be as old as my grandmother’s Swedish pepparkokar (spice) cookie recipe or as new as a Christmas stocking for the puppy. Sharing traditions with family and friends makes the season special. They’re the things our children moan about but go absolutely bonkers over if we try to change them. They’re the decorations our spouses grouse about, but when the Santa train finally is together, they’re the first to play with it.

What are your traditions?

Consider this an open invitation to share your favorites with me by telephone or e-mail. I’ll write about the best ones in an upcoming column.

Let me inspire you with a couple of favorites at my house.

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I’m fortunate enough to be a grandmother. My usual advice to new grandparents is succinct: Keep your mouth shut and carry a full checkbook. Admittedly, I went overboard the first couple of Christmases. That didn’t last, but another holiday tradition I started with my first grandchild has blossomed.

Each year I purchase a silver Christmas ornament for each of my grandchildren. When unwrapped, the new ornament hangs on a small tree in our playroom. After a group opening, the grandkids — I call them my little people — retrieve their personalized bins and pull out ornaments from past years.

Packaging memories

‘Tis the season

Got a tradition to share? Send a short description to Sherry at or mail to 1200 112th Ave. NE, Suite C-145, Bellevue, WA 98004. Please include a phone number and/or e-mail address.

After Christmas, their tree is the first I pack away. Each ornament has a name tag and I carefully return them to the original boxes and then pack them inside the appropriate bin.

(The ornaments live at my house because I know my adult children well. My oldest daughter would have let her toddlers play with the silver ornaments and they would be broken by now. My son, who moved frequently when he was in the Navy, might have discarded them. Another daughter doesn’t have sufficient storage space.)

The first few years the little people had the typical tear-the-paper-off, let’s-get-through-this attitude. But three years ago I noticed the oldest taking longer to open her new ornament and unpack the past years’ decorations.

“I remember this Winnie the Pooh,” she said. “That’s my favorite. No, my silver bell. Where is my bell, Nana?”

As she slowly unwrapped each ornament, she talked about them.

Last week the next three grandchildren in age crossed the same magical threshold and joined her in the conversation. The ornament ceremony went from 41 ½ seconds max to nearly an hour as the children admired this year’s angel and talked about last year’s Santa Claus.

The older children helped the 3-year-old and 5-year-old open the boxes and hang the ornaments.

Now that most of them can read, it is getting more difficult to keep them out of the second gift — the one they won’t receive for many years, if all goes according to plan.

Letters for the future

I write a letter to each child once a year. I seal it in a white envelope and it goes inside a manila envelope that stays in the ornament boxes.

In the letter I talk about what has happened in the past year. When I had just one granddaughter, I hand-wrote the letters. These days I use the computer and combine personal memories with messages from the family Christmas letter.

I will write to Tad and Gareth about bike riding with them on Bainbridge Island. I’ll remind Desta about how she helped set the Thanksgiving table and I’ll recap a family trip to the Oregon coast where we all stayed in a big house and shivered in the cold ocean. I’ll tell Duncan how smart he is to be reading at 3 and Taitu how beautiful she’s become as an 11-year-old in her first year of middle school.

Sometimes I wonder, which will they like best? The collection of ornaments or the letters?

Or will the real treasure be the memories I’m creating when I take them wading in the stream, set up scavenger hunts or roast marshmallows during cousin camp-outs?

I have no crystal ball to see into the future. But in my heart, I believe carrying on my own two grandmothers’ tradition of unconditional love will be the best gift of all.

Sherry Grindeland: 206-515-5633 or