A Christmas cactus? TODAY anchors share their family holiday traditions

·3 min read

There are as many Yuletide traditions as there are families that celebrate the season, and a few of the familiar faces in Studio 1A are sharing the personal touches that make for a classic Christmas in their own homes.

From kids' crafts to an unexpected carol, and from a book reading to a cactus on a tree, see how the TODAY anchors make their holidays merry.

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For Hoda Kotb and her fiancé, Joel Schiffman, that means making the most of the little things.

“Our tree is always puny,” Hoda said of their annual tabletop fir. “So we do a really elaborate lighting.”

And, as she showed us last year, sometimes they even do two lightings, just so daughters Haley, 3, and Hope, 1, can each enjoy their own countdown to twinkles.

And the girls help out with their own holiday offerings, too.

Haley and Hope leave their marks on the family tree. (TODAY)
Haley and Hope leave their marks on the family tree. (TODAY)

“The kids make their own ornaments,” mom said, showing off a couple of them on our own TODAY tree.

At Carson Daly’s home, he likes to hang up an extra stocking — a camouflage one — to honor the troops who can’t be with their own families over the holidays.

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Carson shared a photo of his 2020 mantle decorated with his family's stockings and wrote that the camouflage stocking that represents the inclusion of troops in his family was "a reminder of their bravery & sacrifice. If they can’t get home for the holidays, they have a home here."

Carson's family comes together to share a special book. (TODAY)
Carson's family comes together to share a special book. (TODAY)

There’s someone else Carson honors every year in a different way, too. “We grab this book right here; it’s always under the tree,” he said holding up a 1981 holiday tale by Steve McKinstry and Lucy Rigg. “It’s called ‘A Special Gift,’ and my father would read it and all of us would sit around him. Now that my dad is not here, I have carried on the legacy of reading this book on Christmas Eve.”

For Craig Melvin, his most enduring tradition is one he picked up from his in-laws before he even married wife Lindsay Czarniak.

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“When we were dating, this was our first Christmas together, dinner’s over, out comes the birthday cake and these people begin singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to Jesus,” Craig recalled.

And while that was never a Christmas carol in his own family, it instantly became one.

“I was in,” he said. “And ever since, we’ve been singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to Jesus.”

Savannah Guthrie likes sweet treats at the holidays, and while this photo of little Savannah on Santa’s knee is certainly sweet, that isn’t quite what she means.

A young Savannah Guthrie enjoys the holidays with a familiar face. (TODAY)
A young Savannah Guthrie enjoys the holidays with a familiar face. (TODAY)

“I always like to put something a little sweet on the tree,” she said. “We used to love having candy canes on the tree, and by the time Christmas rolled around, all the candy canes were gone.”

But these days, she prefers to trim the tree with pictures of her kids and a mix of oddball ornaments.

“The weirder, the better,” Savannah insisted.

A cactus tree on a Christmas tree? Why not! (TODAY)
A cactus tree on a Christmas tree? Why not! (TODAY)

Her weird pièce de résistance? “A Christmas cactus because I’m from Arizona.”

Over at Al Roker’s home, our weatherman and more prefers a mix of holiday extremes — both beautiful and ugly.

For the former, there’s the family’s tree topper, which is “a beautiful Black angel,” he said, adding, “You don’t feel it’s Christmas until she’s on top of the tree.”

And the “ugly?”

For
For

“We’ve done the ugly Christmas sweater; we’ve done the ugly Christmas suits,” Al said of his family’s group getups. “Bad taste is always timeless.”

And they make it look so good!

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