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The Stars’ Favorite Holiday Traditions

By Sharon Knolle
Chef Carla Hall has a lot of favorite Christmas recipes, but she recently told The Chew that her favorite holiday memory is the crafting kits, like beaded bags, her mother put under the tree. “I’m a crafter. I loved getting the crafts,” she noted, along with showing pictures of she and her sister in matching striped outfits on Christmas morning. “We’re not twins, but we’re 17 months apart. Irish twins.”

Speaking of things Irish, when he was on The Chew, actor and travel writer Andrew McCarthy (who recently released his memoir The Longest Way Home) said he usually spends Christmas with his wife’s family in Ireland. “We head over to Dublin most years. My wife’s father loves to make goose every Christmas.”

Unfortunately, McCarthy isn’t a fan of the fowl. “I can’t stand it. It’s tough. He prepares it beautifully, it’s just not for me,” he confessed.

Chef Paula Deen has fonder memories of her family’s holiday tradition: “Every year my Grandmother Paul would make the Japanese fruitcake— how it got that name, I don’t know—and Mama used to make it, too. I always knew when I saw it that Christmas was only a few days away.”

Singer Lance Bass grew up in Mississippi and missed the Southern traditions when he moved to LA. “I brought the tradition of deep- frying a turkey from the South to Los Angeles,” he told Delish. “I bought a huge fryer and deep-fry a turkey every year for all of my friends who can’t make it home for the holidays.”

Bass also noted to Celebuzz, “One of my favorite things we would do is Christmas Eve, we would drive around and look at all the Christmas lights, especially in all the rich neighborhoods, which we didn’t belong to.

“I’m a holiday freak. It could be Columbus Day and [I’d still] decorate. I think it’s fun to be able to celebrate all kinds of things. Christmas is definitely my favorite.” His favorite new place to get holiday decorating ideas? “I live on Pinterest now. You get the best decorating tips and party tips that I’ve ever heard. And healthy eating too and recipes.”

Former Cheetah Girl (and fellow Dancing With the Stars contestant) Sabrina Bryan has her own festive holiday favorites. “Every year my family has a tradition of making tamales. It comes from my dad’s side of the family, and we make it into a whole-day experience while we play music, watch movies, and just spend time together.”

Oklahoma native Kristin Chenoweth, who recently released her first holiday album, A Lovely Way to Spend Christmas, shared her favorite holiday home-cooking with Delish, “Bar none, my mom’s cornbread dressing is the best. It’s different from most people’s dressing: It’s made with cornbread, not bread, and cooked outside of the turkey instead of inside. Everyone has their favorite holiday traditions, and this is mine!”

Actor Stanley Tucci has his own cookbook, but one of his favorite Christmas memories is of his friend, the late Natasha Richardson. “I remember her Christmas party every year, where she’d cook extraordinary Indian food for up to 40 guests. Everything always looked beautiful on Natasha’s table.”

Of course, Christmas isn’t just about the food. Caroline Kennedy told Good Housekeeping, “We’ll be at home this year, and we’ll do the things we usually do: ice-skating, a trip to Radio City Music Hall, maybe, if our cousins come to visit. We always go to see the Nutcracker ballet, but now that my kids are getting older, I’m not sure if they’ll want to go.”

Besides the festivities, Kennedy added, “You have to remind kids to stay connected to the meaning of Christmas. Sometimes it takes a little bit of effort, but it’s so worth it. We make presents—batches of cookies, special drawings—and my kids really like to make gifts for their friends. Sharing the holiday with other people, and feeling that you’re giving of yourself, gets you past all the commercialism.

“And we go to church, which I think is important.” She added, “Everyone in our house still believes in Santa Claus. Absolutely.”

Glee star Jane Lynch shared her own Christmas memories, and some of her favorite books of the season, like The Gift of the Magi, with Barnes & Noble. “Growing up on the south side of Chicago, I would demand we put up the tree just after Thanksgiving. I played all my favorite record albums and burned pine incense from the chimney of a tiny wooden cabin and turned on all the lights just so.

“The TV was always tuned to Chicago’s WGN and their huge host of holiday programming. As an adult with serious holiday control issues, I do the same in the home I share with my wife Lara, our 11-year old Haden, two dogs, and two cats. Just as my Dad did every Christmas Eve, I read ‘The Night Before Christmas’ to Haden and finish by sprinkling ‘sleep dust’ over my daughter who pretends to fall dead asleep on impact.”

Reality star Kendra Wilkinson said her plans for the holidays have changed now that she’s a mom. “Before I was being a little selfish,” she told People. “I was saying, ‘Forget Christmas—let’s go to Hawaii. Let’s go to the beach. Let’s do something crazy, something non-traditional,” but now she and husband Hank Baskett are enjoying creating their own holiday traditions. “We did have the family traditions growing up, but she said it best the other day: ‘Let’s start our own.

“We’re going to build on those right now. We’ll go get the tree as a family—Hank was out there helping us pick out a tree. It’s exciting because what’s the tradition? We don’t know yet. We’re making our traditions. This is our first real Christmas and we’re starting those traditions now.” What kind of tree? Kendra says it’s not Christmas without “a Douglas fir tree—that’s the number one tradition of my family. Last year we just had a little Charlie Brown tree.”

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