How Katie Celebrates the Holidays With Her Family — Plus, Her Favorite Childhood Christmas Gifts

katie couric with her two daughters and santa claus

And the clever reason she doesn’t wrap gifts.

Every family has its own holiday traditions, and Katie’s is no exception. Growing up in Arlington, VA with three siblings, Christmas was a big deal for the Couric crew.

Now that we’re fully in the holiday season, Katie is sharing her favorite Couric family traditions from when she was a kid (including one very creative move that “Santa” pulled to save money and time on wrapping presents), the rituals she chose to pass along to her own children, and new traditions that she’s formed with her daughters. Katie also reflected on some of her favorite Christmas presents from childhood, and how celebrating the holidays with the Molners each year since marrying John has been “such a blessing.”

Katie and Carrie with Santa

Katie Couric Media: What are some of the most memorable holiday traditions growing up in the Couric household?

Katie Couric: In my house growing up, Santa Claus didn’t wrap the presents. Instead, Santa Claus would beautifully display our Christmas gifts on the sofa. Any gifts that were wrapped and under the tree were not from Santa Claus — they were either from family or friends. 

We decorated our tree with big colored lights and popcorn balls — they were these styrofoam balls that were meant to look like popcorn and would light up. We were also a big tinsel family. 

Like most families, when we all got up in the morning we would open our gifts and then have a big breakfast together. And then I would go visit my friends Janie and Sarah who lived in the neighborhood so we could all compare what we’d gotten. 

Katie with a new doll on Christmas at age five in 1962

Is there one Christmas from your childhood that stands out as the best? 

When you’re a kid, it’s all about the gifts. So, if that’s the measurement I’m using, my favorite Christmas was when I was in fourth grade because I got some really great gifts that year. I got a tetherball set, and I was obsessed with tetherball because I was really, really good at it. I also believe that year I got a Skipper doll — she’s Barbie’s little sister. I think she had red hair and freckles and a sailor suit. For some reason, my mom always gave me Barbie’s less popular friends — instead of Barbie, I got Midge. And then that year I got Skipper. I also got a Francie doll one year, and she was very cute. But that year, in the fourth grade, I got a tetherball set, Skipper, and a camera, so it was absolutely the best Christmas ever. Another year I remember I got a linoleum table and chairs and a tea set — that was another really good year. 

Jay and Carrie on Christmas
Jay with Carrie

What are some holiday traditions you’ve passed on to Ellie and Carrie? 

When I had a family, we started a tradition where I would always give the girls new pajamas on Christmas Eve. Then I always try to make a nice Christmas dinner — one year I made a standing rib roast and Yorkshire pudding. I also carried on the tradition of giving Santa a little break and not making him wrap any gifts. 

Can you remember a year when things didn’t go exactly as planned? 

One Christmas I remember the girls got a lot of Mary-Kate and Ashley swag because somebody had sent it to me at the TODAY Show. This was right after Billboard Dad, and all of those Olsen twin movies. Unfortunately, I think they had outgrown Mary-Kate and Ashley by then, so they weren’t too excited about those gifts.

Carrie and Ellie with Santa
Carrie and Ellie with Santa

How have the holidays changed since you married Molner? 

Nowadays we do a gift exchange with the Molners, and everybody gets a family member — it’s a fun mix of people. One year I gave Andy, who’s John’s brother Tom’s partner, a very cool gold necklace because he wanted something to wear to Fire Island. Last year for the Molner gift exchange I had John’s mom Paula. She can be very picky about gifts so she’s tough to shop for. I got her these Loro Piana slippers, and I was very proud of myself, but when she went to try them on they didn’t fit her. I really hope she exchanged them for something nice… 

Molner, Allie, Katie, Herbie, Carrie, Ellie, David and Paula
John, his daughter Allie, Katie, John’s father Herbie, Carrie, Ellie, John’s brother David and their mother Paula

What is your favorite part about the holidays? 

Being with family. I feel very lucky that when I married John, I also gained an incredible family. I love the Molners so much; they’ve really enriched our lives. My parents are no longer alive and Jay’s parents have passed away, too, so having John’s parents Herb and Paula in our lives has been such a blessing. They’re just wonderful people, and they’re incredibly engaged and attentive grandparents to Ellie and Carrie. They’re just so fun and smart and interesting, and their love language really is quality time. They’re both such participants in life.