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Honoring old family traditions in modern ways is much simpler than you may have thought. This allows you to preserve and keep those older traditions alive in a way that the present generation can not only accept but embrace. We took our great-grandmothers “Christmas gift to us” tradition and modernized it while still paying tribute to her. And of course we are sharing her recipe with YOU!

Every year on Christmas Eve our great-grandmother, we call her Gama, would present my family (and all my cousin’s families) with gooey treats wrapped in a plastic grocery store type of bag. Inside we always knew we would find about 8-10 red & green colored popcorn balls each individually wrapped in a fold over style plastic sandwich bag. That sandwich bag came in handy to hold the ball while gnawing on it to eat it.

The popcorn balls were NOT eagerly looked forward to but we always ate at least one and as we grew older and had braces we said goodbye to popcorn balls (which is code for we had to be more creative about how we ate them.) In retrospect, I wished as a kid that I appreciated more of what my GREAT great-grandmother did for each of us.

Popcorn balls cooling
The gathering at our great-grandmother’s home included any of her descendants, spouses, children, significant others, friends and so on. All families brought different types of food for a Mexican food potluck dinner and there was ALWAYS TONS OF FOOD! We played funny games like the white elephant gift exchange game where the three sought after and fought over prizes were: a giant candy-bar, a ceramic taco server, and a roll of toilet paper. (I remember one year, my uncle wrapping me up like a mummy in that roll of toilet paper!) As the night drew to a close and we made our way to the car, we received the grocery store bag full of popcorn balls.
Popcorn ball syrup nearing Soft Ball stage (240 degrees F)
The family always gathered again on Christmas afternoon for Mexican food potluck leftovers and to tell our stories of Christmas to each other. We DID know there was a lot of love that went into making those treats. I have no idea how many she made every Christmas as nearly all my family on that side lived in the same area-it must have been TONS! When she passed away the tradition of meeting together and playing games continued for some years and then ended. It was sad that something our family had done for such a long time ended. How could we still honor our great-grandmother but in a way that fit our present-day traditions? Today, popcorn balls are a bit passé and most folks don’t think they are very fancy, but we can still honor our old family Christmas tradition in a more modern way that is cousin friendly too!



First consider three different items: What tradition you want to update, what about the tradition is important or special, and the tricky part, how you can modernize the tradition while still giving homage to the original. FIRST: Determine which traditions you want to update:
  • Make a list of any “tradition” you would like to update
SECOND: Identify the elements of each tradition that are important or special
  • Is it the people who attend a gathering
  • Timing-around a certain holiday, a special date, season, etc.
  • Food-Often traditions center around food. Maybe it’s always having a certain type of food like Mexican or Italian or a specific dish
  • Something that is made or purchased
  • Is it just spending time together
  • What about the tradition made you feel special
THIRD: Determine how you can modernize it while honoring the original?
  • Change the location
  • Change the frequency
  • Change the time of year
  • Update the activity-add more or take away some
  • Invite different people (example: from only the “girls” to all “cousins”
  • Change the type of food (meaning instead of doing dinner maybe do desserts only)
  • Can you do something virtual so those at distance can attend or feel involved?

If you are loving this, then you’ll also love our Making Your Family Reunions Both Meaningful and Memorable post!


Quickly stir the boiling soft ball candy into the popcorn. Be careful–It’s HOT!


To honor my great-grandmother all the local cousins get together for a Mexican food potluck and make 1 small batch of red or green colored popcorn balls. THEN we make the more tasty stuff which we call Moose Munch (and we make it gluten-free because we have a few cousins that need to eat that way.) BUT HOW DID WE ARRIVE AT THIS? Using the steps above we went through the same process. Here is how we filled in the chart

FIRST: Determine which traditions you want to update:

  • Easy…Gama’s traditions (Christmas Eve gathering & popcorn balls)

SECOND: Identify the elements of each tradition that are important or special

  • Christmas Eve & Christmas Day
  • Mexican food & leftovers
  • Popcorn balls
  • Doing something together (it WAS playing games, NOW candy making)
  • Getting together with family
  • Open to non-family members

THIRD: Determine how you can modernize the tradition while honoring the original?

  • Keep the Mexican food—Absolutely LOVE me some Mexican food
  • Use our great-grandmother’s popcorn ball recipe and make 1 small token batch in her honor
  • Add a more modern treat that uses the same Kyro syrup recipe but pleases our taste buds way more
  • Timing-The holidays are always a busy time for EVERYONE and we wanted as many folks to be able to come as possible so we vary the time based on cousins that are in town visiting. We’ll hold our “Popcorn Ball” event anytime from after Thanksgiving until end of January whenever it fits the calendar best each year.

Get your own chart right here! Complete with example and things to consider when you are modernizing your own older traditions!


It’s a must to butter hands before trying to pick up the hot mixture.


Each attendee brings something simple to share in the potluck. Things like Mexican rice, nacho supplies, guacamole, and one cousin always makes chicken enchiladas. We couldn’t have Mexican food without having tamales, so one or two folks bring those too.

Notice only adult hands! The popcorn mixture is very HOT!
The gift and the love are provided by Jamie (of GeniBLISS) who supplies all the raw materials for the popcorn balls AND the more modern treat we make called Moose Munch along with baggies for families to take some home. We all feed our bellies, then make our token batch of popcorn balls. It’s great! Jamie oversees the whole process. As the candy approaches soft ball stage everyone else who is helping gets butter all over their hands. We do this so the hot popcorn ball mixture doesn’t stick to our hands burning us when forming the balls. The hot colored candy is poured over the popcorn in a giant bowl (or you can do a few smaller bowls) and stirred very quickly.
We wish you the absolute best as you honor your old family traditions in modern ways. Click here to see and download our great-grandmother’s popcorn ball recipe. Please comment below and tell us your old family traditions and how you still honor them today. gama

Got Questions? Comment and Let’s Chat!

I’m passionate about finding different technologies that ACTUALLY save time bring family closer together.  I love life, good books, quiet time, and of course family time.  “Technical support hotline how may I help you?” I might just answer my phone that way for my family and friends (not even joking), and my life motto is “Have passport, will travel!” especially with Jamie!


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