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New twists on classic holiday traditions

Sarah Caron is a Connecticut-based freelance writer and editor. She lives with her wonderful husband, two adorable kids and two funny beagles. Check out her food blog at Sarah's Cucina Bella.

Need a little Christmas tradition?

Remember those fun, quirky holiday traditions from your childhood? Maybe it was stringing popcorn and cranberries for the tree or decorating ornaments or caroling. Following are fabulous ideas for reviving those classic holiday traditions.

Mom and kids baking Christmas cookies

Christmas isn't just a day, it's a season. And it's not just about presents or giving. It's about coming together as a family and sharing in fabulous new memories. Holiday traditions? They are a huge part of making that happen -- whether they are classics from your childhood or new traditions just for your family.

So, what are some fabulous new traditions (or classic ones) you can start with your kids? Check out these that families are loving.

Long distance caroling

Christmas caroling is a tradition that's been around for a long time. Whether it's families gathered around a piano or neighbors caroling through the streets, it's a fabulous holiday tradition that brings loved ones together.

For Allison Dykstra's family and husband's family, it's natural that they would carol at the holidays. "Coming from a musical family, singing Christmas carols has always a favorite holiday tradition of ours. My husband and I both studied music in college, and while we sometimes feel sheepish leading the extended family in carols, it has been a great group activity," says Dykstra, 27, of California.

In the past, she and her husband would carol with whichever side of the family they were with at the holidays. But this year, they decided to bring everyone together thanks to a little technology. "We have scheduled a video chat Christmas sing-along for Christmas Eve. We will be with my family when it happens -- hooking up the MacBook and singing together [with my husband's family] in Detroit and Coeur d'Alene, Idaho," says Dykstra.

Sharing treats...all over the country

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Holiday treats can be irrestistible and so many people love to make them. But making the same treat and having a competition? That's the fun idea at Allison Yeary, 34, of Colorado and her husband came up with.

They were originally looking for wallet-friendly homemade gifts when Yeary found a recipe for chocolate truffles. "Somehow, it morphed into a Christmas Cook-Off and we decided to invite our immediate family members," says Yeary.

Because they all live in different states, the family is having a competition by post. Each family will make their own version of chocolate truffles, pack them up and mail them to the other participants.

"We made and sent out score cards with each competition packet, and all tasting and judging will happen on Christmas Day. It's turning out to be way better than we had thought. Because our families can't all be together during the holidays, in a sense, we sort of will be," says Yeary. They plan to announce the winner in January and send out a special award.

Keeping childhood traditions alive

Cooking and baking go hand in hand with the holidays, so naturally many families have traditions that revolve around them (and most aren't quite as competitive as the Yeary's new tradition).

In Elaine Masters family, the tradition is to bake a Potica at the holidays, which is a Croatian strudel and a special holiday treat, from a cookbook that has been passed down through her family.

When she was young, her mom would do the baking. "My mom would expect my sister and I to help in the baking and if one of her sisters were in our area (they scattered along the West coast and a few remained in Minnesota), they were always invited," says Masters.

Today, Masters has evolved the tradition into a family day of baking. "Since my Mother's passing I've kept the tradition alive by inviting family members near and far to join us for the day of baking," says Masters. "The day of baking starts about 6 am and is generally a week or two before Christmas. This recipe lasts well in the refrigerator and I've even kept some frozen to thaw out throughout the year."

In Darlene Tenes' family, the cooking tradition revolves around making a special Christmas Eve dinner of tamales. "All of the women in our family gather at the break of dawn to begin the long process of making tamales. We would sit at the table for hours spreading the hojas with masa and filling them with meats and, of course, love," says Tenes. "The day is filled with laughter, tears, gossip and hugs as we share all of our secrets while making hundreds of these wrapped wonders." Today, the tradition continues in the family -- but the boys can come, too.

>>Does your family have a holiday tradition? Share it in the comments section below!

Read more about holiday traditions

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