December 27, 2022

Sharing Memories: Holiday Tradition Through the Years

The holiday season is here, and although it can be a busy time of the year, it’s also a time of ritual, tradition, and the making of memories that can last a lifetime. We thought it would be fun to hear our BetterLife members’ and employees’ stories of things they do or have done to make this time of the year the most wonderful. Grab a warm cup of tea or hot chocolate and enjoy a little trip down memory lane.

BetterLife Member Tonia Miske

For as long as I can remember, I have been going to cut down a Christmas tree with my family. As a child, I remember my parents loading us in the car, trekking out into the woods of a Christmas tree farm, and picking and cutting a tree. I continued that tradition with my parents when I moved out and had my children. Everyone would get loaded into several trucks, usually head to Wild Rose, WI, get dressed warmly, and walk the woods on the Christmas tree lot. We would take our time making snow angels, often pulling the kids in sleds if the snow was deep. We also spent time throwing snowballs at each other. I am 50 years old, and my parents, adult children, and grandchildren still head to the woods yearly to cut a tree. This event is a tradition that will never go away. We all look forward to this great family time together picking a tree. Sometimes the trees are really big and sometimes not so much. Each family chooses and cuts its tree. We always enjoy a family lunch on the way back.

BetterLife Employee Beth Muehlenkamp

My best Christmas memories are of my family — brothers, sisters, spouses, nieces, nephews, and Mom and Dad gathered at our farm on Christmas Eve.

Picture below from 1990; this is just five of the 27 grandkids. It was a night full of faith, food, socializing, and love!

BetterLife Agent Lisa Koerner

About 22 years ago, my friend Jane and I started a holiday tradition of getting together the weekend after Thanksgiving to make holiday cookies and candies. We share ingredients and expenses and divide up the treats to share with or gift to family and friends. When her two daughters were old enough, they started helping. Sometimes other friends and family would join us, but the four of us have never missed a year! 

BetterLife Member Debbie Watruba

We have many! 1. Pickle on the tree – our tradition is that the first person who finds the pickle wins a $20 bill. It’s a race every year and a fine line between an upright tree and one on the floor. 2. I make homemade angel food, toffee, and caramels every year. It would not be a family Christmas without those three! And … 3. Every year we get a huge hot chocolate (the adult version may be spiked, lol) and drive around and look at everyone’s Christmas lights and decorations! So much fun!!

BetterLife Employee Katy Hylkema

My father carried a tradition from his childhood to mine: listening to Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole Christmas albums on Christmas morning. We listen to the same music with our young children on Christmas day, and I hope they’ll do the same with their kids one day as well; some of the music may be over 100 years old at that point!

BetterLife Employee Deb Feiner

Growing up in a large family, we did a lot of baking for Christmas. We made three types of fudge, fruit cake (and yes, I do like fruit cake), sea foam, chocolate-covered cherries, and numerous kinds of cookies. The tradition with my children and anyone else in my family (sisters, nieces, nephews, in laws, friends, etc. ) is to pick a Saturday in early December for them to come to my house and make cookies. Although we only make about six different types of cookies, we make mass quantities of them, so everyone can take home as many as they want. 

Deb’s Russian Tea Cake Recipe (from her mom)

1 C butter, softened
1/2 C powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt


2 1/4 C flour

Stir in:
3/4 C finely chopped nuts

Roll dough into 1-inch balls, place one inch apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes at 350 degrees until they are firm to the touch, but not brown. While warm roll in powdered sugar. Let cookies cool and then roll in powdered sugar again. Makes 5 dozen.

BetterLife Employee Alexa Gibbons

For several years, my family had a tradition of inviting extended family over and making a fondue dinner for Christmas Eve. This meal included cheese, chocolate, and oil. It was a nice way to celebrate the holidays and enjoy a non-traditional meal. We have since stopped, but Sean and I hope to begin again soon with our little family. 

BetterLife Employee Elizabeth Malin

I grew up in Minnesota on a 50-acre hobby farm surrounded by woods and fields. Every year around the first of December, my mom would stuff a bright-colored ribbon in her coat pocket and set out on foot to search the woods for the perfect tree for Christmas. When she returned, she would let my brothers and sisters, and I know that she found and “tagged” her tree (although we were tempted, we never cheated by spying on her). With a small ax in hand, we would try to find the tree mom tagged with her ribbon. Some years snow was on the ground, which would help locate her boot tracks. If not, we would have to find the tree by searching the woods. It was always exciting and fun for us to find her tree and bring it back to the house. Memories of our simple homemade holidays in the country will always be special to me.

BetterLife Agent Amanda Oldenburg

My Uncle Terry and I having a wonderful Christmas together before he passed away from cancer.

BetterLife Employee Michelle Bunge

My great-grandma May used to make a dark molasses cookie we called Leps. When she passed, I started doing it annually with my Grandma Potter. My daughter, nieces, and great nieces now carry on the tradition with me.




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