December 6, 2023

Holiday Remembrance Traditions to Start for Loved Ones

by Lanna Britt

Each holiday season brings with it unique traditions for each family. Whether that includes movies you MUST watch (our family’s list is LONG!), light tours you have to drive to, or events like The Nutcracker, everyone has a tradition they look forward to all year long. However, have you created a new tradition after a loved one’s death that honors their legacy? Holidays with an empty chair are challenging, but remembering loved ones at Christmas can be something you actually look forward to with the right tradition and thoughtfulness.

Why Establish Remembrance Traditions?

Traditions can have a grounding effect. They give us a sense of stability and bring us together. If this is your first Christmas after losing a loved one, your world feels upside down. Holidays without a loved one are hard but creating a new special tradition may help ease the pain, at least a little. Traditions provide comfort, especially to those who are missing loved ones at Christmas. After a death, it’s easy to feel like the world is moving on and leaving your loved one’s memory in the rear view mirror. Creating a new remembrance tradition and finding a special memory Christmas gift can help connect you to the past while embracing the future.

Meaningful Remembrance Traditions

Memory Jar or Box

At your next holiday gathering, consider putting together a memory jar or memory box in honor of the deceased. It’s really easy (here’s a quick step by step guide) and doesn’t cost very much. You could have everyone go around the table and say their special memory that they’ve written down, or you could set up a table with paper and pens and a picture of the person. Don’t forget to grab some crayons and stickers for the younger family members to join in. If you go the memory box route, you could ask family members to bring small items that either remind them of the person, or were connected to them in some way. If I was to create a memory box for my late grandmother, I would certainly add a “lucky buckeye” that she always carried with her as well as some Steak n Shake coupons - because she ALWAYS wanted to use a coupon! The memory jar or memory box can be opened each holiday season, fostering a strong sense of connection despite the passage of time. 

Candle Lighting Ceremony

Another idea of how to honor a loved one at Christmas is to host a candle lighting ceremony. The ritual of candle lighting has long been part of our society as a way to honor a life. Don’t feel like this has to be a big “event” like the Tree Lighting at Rockefeller Center. Simply choose a candle (we are partial to the many beautiful options Laurelbox offers) and pick the time and place. My daughter’s teacher recently lost a grown child whose birthday was at the beginning of December. Instead of a traditional teacher gift, I chose to send her a custom Shining Bright Birthday Candle with her daughter’s name written on it. She was so thankful for it and told me it would be “cherished by [her] family for many years to come.” 

Recipe Sharing

During the holidays, it’s all about the food. A great way to incorporate some delicious treats in our remembrance traditions is to prepare and share a loved one’s favorite recipe during holiday gatherings. If it wasn’t a “family secret,” you could even print up recipe cards for Granny’s Favorite Potato Salad and share with family and friends. Bonus points if you can find a picture of her preparing it! Before he passed away in 2021, my dad loved steak, especially a good steak. Heck, he probably even loved a bad steak. Whenever we prepare a Beef Tenderloin or some nice filets for Christmas Eve, we always love to tell “Grandpa” stories. Sharing memories over good food is a perfect way to honor loved ones and make sure the next generation connects with the past. This cool recipe art print from Shutterfly could make a great gift as well. 

Creating a Memorial Ornament

I don’t know about you, but I’m an ornament snob. There, I said it. I see boxes of generic ornaments on display in stores and I think “Who is buying these??” But that’s probably because my family had a tradition of buying a Christmas ornament on each “big” trip we took throughout childhood. I carried that tradition into adulthood so now I have a tree filled with dozens of special ornaments from far away countries and stateside beach trips. They all bring back a memory. 

Creating a memorial ornament is a great way to honor a deceased loved one at Christmas. Not only do I have beautiful Laurelbox ornaments in honor of our lost babies, a friend gave me one in honor of my dad. Each year, it feels like a remembrance ritual while we decorate the tree. 

Giving a memorial ornament to a friend is such a meaningful gift. I have ornaments in honor of our lost babies as well as a special one for my dad. I love taking a minute to feel a sense of connection with them as I hang “their” ornaments each year.  

Supporting and Gifting During the Holidays

If you are struggling to find a meaningful gift this holiday season, look no further than Laurelbox. Our family recently lost someone who had been a part of my “Missouri family” for decades. Although he wasn’t related by blood, his presence was a constant in our lives. My mom and sister and I decided, in lieu of flowers, to send a custom wind chime as well as the In Memory Boxwood wreath to his wife. We knew the empty chair would be felt profoundly, so we sent the wreath to be hung on it. “Gone but not forgotten” rings true each time. If you have a friend or loved one who is walking through grief, even years after the event, a custom remembrance gift is a legacy item they will cherish. 


Preparing to walk into a new year without a loved one can be daunting. How to get through Christmas after a death feels impossible. Even though no gift or tradition can bring the person back, it can make you feel more connected to them and offer hope going forward. Consider what remembrance traditions you might start this year to honor loved ones. It doesn’t matter if you lost the person five months ago or five years ago - don’t let another holiday season go by without creating a tradition or choosing a remembrance gift that can become a special sacred part of your holiday season. 


Lanna Britt was a national news producer in Washington DC for nearly a decade covering politics, breaking news and current events.  She now lives with her husband and three children in Richmond VA. She has two sweet babies she’ll meet again in heaven.

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