Holiday Traditions – And a Ganong Giveaway!

Some people are into the themed, colour-coordinated, or matchy-matchy trees, but not me. Growing up, our Christmas tree was always a mismatched hodge-podge of ornaments that were bought, received as gifts, or hand-made. In fact, the making of ornaments is probably the single strongest memory I have of my childhood holiday traditions. My grandmother was the artsy type, and for many years through the 70s and 80s she ran a ceramics class out of her kitchen. She had kilns in the basement for firing her greenware, and shelf after shelf of figurines, dishes, ornaments and other tchotchkes to choose from. As a very young girl, I remember sitting at the big oval kitchen table, newspaper down in front of me to protect the fruit-themed tablecloth, pots of paint and a little cup of water to wash my brush to the side. I felt so grown up to be sitting there with Grandma, painting just like her. And every year, we painted ornaments. I still have most of the ones I painted, and a few that she did for me as well – bells and angels and Christmas trees, and even a few non-traditional ones like a dragon and a unicorn.

Making ornaments for our tree is a tradition I wanted to carry on with my children. We have done craft kits in the past, but this year I wanted them to take a stab at painting their own. Rather than seek out ceramic ornaments to paint, I found this Salt Dough Ornament recipe from Sarah at Doing All The Things, and decided that would be the ornament of choice for Christmas 2013.

This craft couldn’t have been simpler. The dough took about five minutes to make, and I even made it ahead and stored it in the refrigerator for a couple of days in an airtight container {but let it come to room temperature before rolling}. Jamie and Eliza had a blast helping out, using the big rolling pin to help me get it started, and then cutting out their Christmas-themed shapes with the big cookie cutters I found in my massive cookie-cutter collection. {As an aside, I rarely make cut-out cookies – why the heck do I have 562 cookie cutters in a box?}

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Once they were done rolling and cutting, we popped them into the oven to bake/dry for an hour. This was just enough time for the kids to sit down with some popcorn and watch the original animated How The Grinch Stole Christmas while I cleaned up the counter and went on the hunt for paint in my massive craft stash. And a hunt it was – why do I not have green tempera paint? Clearly that was an oversight when I was stocking the kids’ craft supplies. Thankfully it was remedied by finding paint set that had the necessary colours. And when the Grinch had returned the stolen Christmas goodies to Whoville and the ornaments had cooled, it was time to paint!

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And paint they did. Eliza didn’t need much guidance, but let me tell you, it was an interesting experience to help Jamie paint! At three years old, he didn’t really grasp the concept of washing his brush between colours, so his ornaments are more tie-died than clean. But that’s part of the charm, right? I think they look wonderful regardless, and he was so happy to paint them, and so proud to see them displayed. This is a craft that I think we will repeat, and not just during the holiday season – I have some dinosaur cookie cutters in my box of baking goodies that have yet to be opened. Perhaps we’ll make some Just Because ornaments in a month or so!

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I was recently invited to a media event hosted Ganong Bros., in celebration of 140 years of family-run business in St. Stephen, New Brunswick. When I told my friend Monica where I was headed after work that day, she gushed about her love of this true Canadian brand, and how Ganong was a core part of her family’s holiday traditions, and had been since she was a child. For Monica, a New Brunswick native, Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without a box of Ganong chocolates open for nibbling while decorating the Christmas tree – the double-dipped cherries were her father’s favourite, and she always has a box of the milk chocolate assortment for her daughters when they come home from university. But the key to her family’s Christmas celebration is a bowlful of Chicken Bones, the very first treat of Christmas morning while they open their gifts. Until recently, Ganong products were difficult to find out here in Alberta, and Monica had to resort to getting her family in the Maritimes to send her care packages, or to order online. One year, she wasn’t able to get them at all and instead bought a different brand of the same type of candy, and her daughters declared that Christmas just wasn’t Christmas without Ganong Chicken Bones!

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I left the Ganong event with armfuls of chocolates – a bag for me, a bag for Monica whose stories I shared with the Ganong family and staff at the event, and a bag to share with one of my lucky readers. This lovely assortment of candy and chocolate can be won by one of you! To enter, leave a comment with one of your favourite holiday memories or traditions, and I will draw a winner by random number. Contest closes for entries at midnight (Mountain time) on Friday, December 27th.

Happy holidays, readers! May your days be filled with love, light, and happiness always.

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7 thoughts on “Holiday Traditions – And a Ganong Giveaway!

  1. Abbe

    I love all the goodies above! Your kids did a wonderful job. I also love the chocolates! This year is my first year as a single parent, so my daughter and I will be starting some new traditions of our own. Tomorrow will mark our first time going to a Christmas eve church service. There really is no excuse since the church is literally across the street. I remember going periodically as a child and always found the Christmas eve services to be magical. I hope we can recapture that feeling tomorrow!

    Reply
  2. Michelle

    I was just reading an article about Ganong! I love how they’re a part of so many families’ Christmas traditions. Our Christmases were full of homemade cookies and treats: shortbread, gingerbread, Nanaimo bars, peanut butter balls, butter tarts and my mom’s to-die-for chocolate fudge. I am home for Christmas for the first time in 3 years and trying some of all of it as I know it will a few years before we’re back.

    Oh, and when I was about 8 my family made a salt dough nativity scene…it is so sweet and funny to see mom display those chunky blobs now šŸ™‚ Can’t wait to do something similar with my kiddos next year.

    Reply
  3. Sarah Deveau

    I’m so glad you enjoyed making salt dough ornaments with this kids. Making ornaments of all kinds with my mom is one of my favourite Christmas traditions – I’m glad I’m sharing it with my kids.

    Reply
  4. Gail White

    Merry Christmas Eve Samantha, I’m Sarah’s mom šŸ™‚ – good for you for making and taking the time to make the salt dough ornaments with your beautiful kids. I still have some on my tree as I look at it right now and clearly remember the time Sarah and her little brother, Justin made them. It is a wonderful memory and now I get to create the same with Sarah’s 3 little girls, my beloved granddaughters and tell them stories of what their mommy was like when she was little. I wish you a lovely Christmas and keep all those cookie cutters for when someday your little grandchildren come to visit. (I kept all 67 of mine – lol) Merry Christmas, Gail

    Reply
  5. Xing

    My favorite holiday memory is going ice skating with my Dad during the holidays on a frozen lake in my hometown. It was just a nice moment to be with my Dad and have fun. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, Samantha!

    Reply
  6. Rebby

    Every Christmas eve, my family and I go ice skating, then go back to my Moms for appetizers and to open gifts! Happy Holidays!

    Reply

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