Here's how the real Walton kids spent their Christmas in 1976

Most kids only care about the amount of presents under the tree, these kids cared about family, cakes and cookies!

Image credit: The Everett Collection

Christmas time in classic TV is always nostalgic, sometimes chaotic, but usually it's the most joyful time of the year for both the cast and for TV viewers at home.

We loved seeing our favorite characters play the part of Santa, deliver perfectly wrapped presents or prepare a big holiday feast. During the holiday season, we always knew what our favorite families were up to. 

From The Brady Bunch and The Waltons to The Andy Griffith Show; Holiday specials inspired traditions, brought together family and made us envious of some pretty cool gifts and gadgets — but how did these actors spend their Christmas in real life?

Whether you've already decorated your Christmas tree, or hardly put any thought into the holiday at all — these quotes from the actors on The Waltons will melt your heart, and hopefully some snow, just in time for the holiday season.

These Christmas memories and quotes are from a 1976 interview with The Times Standard. Which Walton do you have the most holiday traditions in common with? Share your own holiday traditions in the comment section below.

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1. Richard Thomas (John-Boy Walton)

Christmas was considered a "special" time for Richard Thomas and his family because it was a day when their hectic Hollywood schedules could align.

In 1976, Thomas and his wife celebrated their second Christmas together. Continuing a family tradition, Thomas bought and cooked the Christmas dinner.

"We're going to have roast goose with my own 'secret' stuffing as the star of the menu," Thomas said. "Then I think we'll top it off with plum pudding and hard sauce — and, of course, steaming hot coffee."

Any guesses on what ingredients were included in his famous 'secret' stuffing?

2. Judy Norton (Mary Ellen Walton)

As a native to California, Judy Norton really enjoyed playing the role of Mary Ellen on The Waltons. She felt at home in her home state and among her TV siblings.

"It's given me a better idea of what life was like in the Depression years of the 1930s," Norton said.

Through her time on The Waltons, Norton learned that families have to stick together – through the good times and bad – which was the theme of Christmas '76.

As a newlywed at the time, Norton was looking forward to Christmas and planned to keep the family tradition of making a roast turkey dinner going for another year.

"This year I'm roasting my very first turkey!" Norton said. 

3. Jon Walmsley (Jason Walton)

Jon Walmsley was a seriously good young actor who was also a talented musician. As we learned from his time on The Waltons, Walmsey and Jason Walton both had the ability to bring people together through music.

At Christmas, Walmsley said he joined his family for a traditional Walmsley-style English dinner. His favorite part?

"I love Yorkshire Pudding," Walmsley said. "Mother's specialty is Yorkshire pudding which she serves with roast beef and garden fresh vegetables."

4. Mary McDonough (Erin Walton)

Mary McDonough said Christmas is where the family comes together. According to the interview, she and her family would treat the holiday like a family reunion.

Long tables were set up and every family member contributed to the meal — something her Waltons parents would be proud of.

"We have turkey, ham, salads, vegetables and all kinds of cake," McDonough said. "My mother is famous for her poppy seed cake. I can make it too!"

Of course, they aren't the only people who have to eat on Christmas. Every Christmas Eve, just before going to bed, the children set out cookies and milk for Santa and his reindeer. 

"When I think of Christmas, I think of cakes," McDonough said.

5. Eric Scott (Ben Walton)

Eric Scott was one of those lucky people to be born right into Hollywood. In 1976, Scott said he was looking forward to bringing his family together for the holiday season.

"I think being raised in a show business atmosphere makes you sensitive to other people," Scott said.

Scott's ideal Christmas would be spending time at home, relaxing and maybe stealing a few more cookies than he should. Scott said his mom was an expert at baking cookies and it was one of his favorite holiday traditions.

"My favorite is something Mom calls Spicy Gumdrop Hermits," Scott said. "She makes them every Christmas."

Sign us up! 

6. David W. Harper (Jim-Bob Walton)

As one of the youngest actors of The Waltons family, David W. Harper seemed unaware of his star status during almost any interview.

Ask him about Christmas and Harper would tell you it's great because "there's no school and you have more time to come up with all kinds of ice cream concoctions."

One of Harper's favorites was to crush peppermint candy canes on top of vanilla ice cream, topped with chocolate sauce, whipped cream and cherries.

Some kids worry about the amount of presents under the tree, and Harper worried about what would mix well with his ice cream.

7. Kami Cotler (Elizabeth Walton)

Since both of Kami Cotler's parents worked a lot, they made Christmas the time to come together and catch up. 

Cotler said her mom would serve "finger food buffet parties" in which Cotler enjoyed helping. One of her holiday specials was to fill pitted dates with peanut butter and roll them into sugar.

"If you roll some in colored sugar and some in white sugar, you can design them in a box and give them as a present," Cotler said.

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2 Comments

WGH 2 months ago
We always had a traditional German christmas. The child that found the pickle in the tree got an extra present. I was the tallest kid so it was easy for me to find. But I remember pointing it out to my baby sister 1 year. The smile on her face made it all worth it.

That's Christmas!
AgingDisgracefully 2 months ago
One of my misty holiday memories features visiting the fillin' station and enjoying Suzy-Qs, cashews and an ice-cold RC.
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