SIKESTON -- Whether it's making cookies with mom or watching "A Christmas Story" over and over every year with the family, nearly everyone has a family holiday tradition of some kind.
For Ann Emory of East Prairie, it's her husband's family Christmas breakfast that's been a holiday must for the past 60 years.
"That's the only time some of us see each other -- unless it's a funeral," Emory half-joked about the annual family breakfast.
It all began in the 1940s when Emory's husband's grandfather, Charles Moore Emory, started the tradition of having breakfast at 7 a.m. on Christmas for his children and their families, Emory recalled.
Grandfather Emory's son and daughter-in-law, James L. and Grace Emory, continued the tradition. Then Emory and her husband, Jack, took over after his parents could no longer do it.
"My husband and I are both an only child so the breakfast is really meaningful to us," Emory said.
Only two of the original nine children remain, but each year the house is full of cousins ranging in ages from 7 to 87. Small gifts are exchanged and everyone enjoys this special family time.
Several of the family members bring food, and the final meal consists of breakfast casseroles, baked ham, biscuits, jellies, sweet rolls, gravy, cranberry tea and more, Emory said.
Changes have been made through the years, such as breakfast is now served at 9 a.m. the Saturday before Christmas at the family farmhouse near East Prairie. But the one thing that remains the same is the family togetherness, Emory said.
"Christmas traditions are important, and we should spread the feeling of family and the season as much as we can," Emory said.
According to a survey of 1,000 adults conducted by the National Confectioners Association, 89 percent said candy is included in the festivities when asked specifically about their winter holiday traditions. Among the top three festivities include placing candy in a candy dish, giving or receiving a box of chocolates and creating or receiving a stocking filled with goodies.
"Holidays are an important time to honor family traditions and to reminisce about fond memories of the past," Larry Graham, president of the National Confectioners Association, told ARA Content. "Candy connects generations and is a pastime that the whole family still enjoys today. What's more, it's easy and affordable to incorporate into new and old family traditions."
Debbie Schlitt of Oran is one who has connected her hobby of baking into a Christmas tradition for her family. For over 20 years, Schlitt has made Christmas cutout cookies.
"I guess it started with my mom and she would make Christmas cookies and I would help her," Schlitt said. "I'm a teacher so even before I got married I would do it and take cookies to school for my students."
Now that she's married and has kids, all three -- ages 6, 9 and 10 -- have helped with the annual tradition. Generally a couple days before Christmas, Schlitt will get her six or seven Christmas cookie cutters and make one or two batches -- about 72 cookies, she said. Then Schlitt shares her tradition by taking her finished products to other family gatherings.
One important thing to remember about traditions is you always have to make time to do them and fit them in your schedule, Schlitt pointed out. And the result is definitely worth the time, she said.
"They create memories with kids, and that's what Christmas is about -- for the kids to have good memories and to remember things that have been done with the families," Schlitt noted.
And according to Emory, it's never too late to start a family tradition.
"Traditions build closer family relationships, and I think it makes the holidays special, and it's something you look forward to and enjoy watching the other families grow and change," Emory said. "It's just about being together."