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10 sweet and special Mother's Day traditions to celebrate Mom this Sunday

From extra-special ginger ale toasts to picnicking with homemade potato chips, here are a few extraordinary ideas to honor Mom this year.
by Katie Jackson / / Source: TODAY

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Many moms play a similar role in their family units.

But that doesn't mean all families should celebrate Mother's Day the same way.

TODAY Food talked about unique Mother’s Day traditions with family members who nominated their mothers, grandmothers, wives and sisters for TODAY's Mom Makes it Best challenge. Here are 10 extraordinary ways TODAY viewers celebrate Mom — some are so sweet, you might just want to make them your own!

Homemade chicken soup and tortellini at Nonnie’s house

Tisbe Donaldson
Ashley Donaldson

It takes “Nonnie” (Tisbe Donaldson of Summit, New Jersey) several days to prepare the tortellini recipe her granddaughter, Ashley, nominated her for. “It originates from my great, great grandmother who was from a small town in northern Italy,” Ashley told TODAY. One Mother’s Day, while the family was at Nonnie’s house for their favorite meal, they learned they were lucky there was any tortellini left at all. A few days earlier, Nonnie’s black lab, Jake, had consumed most of the handmade pasta while it was drying out in an unsupervised room. Looks like dogs enjoy homemade pasta as much as we do!

Caviar and potato chips picnic

homemade potato chips and caviar
Matthew Wurtzel

Matt Wurtzel of Long Island, New York, nominated his wife, Kate, for her famous oatmeal carmelita recipe. But on Mother’s Day, it's not about sweetening Mom up. The gluten-free household of four “relies heavily” on caviar to spoil Kate. “The biggest problem seems to be that my 12-year-old, Kyle, devours it quicker than Kate!” said Matt. The Wurtzel’s annual Mother’s Day picnic of caviar accompanied by blinis, scallions, crème fraiche and homemade potato chips is enjoyed at their favorite local winery each year.

Sisters' custom spa treatments

Pam Battle laughing
Ariana Battle

“When my three sisters and I were younger, we would each be in charge of a part of her,” recalled Ariana Battle. “One of us would give her a head massage, another would give her a back scratch and the other two would massage her feet.” These days, the Battle girls, ages 21-32, treat Pam to professional spa treatments. “I think she still prefers the spa days her four little ones would give her,” said Ariana. She nominated Pam — who hopes to one day open a bakery in their town of Wallkill, New York — for her famous sour cream drops.

Singing along to Tupac Shakur's "Dear Mama"

Javana Mundy and her mom, Kym Cooper
Javana Mundy

Every Mother’s Day, Javana Mundy plays the lead track on 2Pac’s “Me Against the World” for her mother, Kym Cooper. A chart-topping hit in 1995, “Dear Mama” was added to the Library of Congress’s National Recording Registry for its cultural significance in 2010. “She doesn’t really like rap, but she’s always loved that song,” says Mundy who nominated Cooper, of Stamford, Connecticut, for her signature collard greens. After years of listening to the song, Cooper knows the lyrics well and likes to sing along with Shakur.

Handwritten notes and old-fashioned phone calls

Norma Jo golfing
Haley Floyd

“Grandma always sends each mother in the family a card with a handwritten note about what a special mother they are,” Haley Floyd told TODAY. Norma Jo Lane, of Bonne Terre, Missouri, also calls everyone to wish them well over the phone. On years when the family members, who live in different towns, are able to gather together, they golf and let Granddog — “he’s the whole dog, not just the pa” — grill them a meal. Haley nominated grandma Norma Jo for her homemade egg noodles.

Ginger ale toast at 9:16 p.m. on May 14

Terri Goldsmith in the kitchen
Zachary Goldsmith

“My mom was born on Mother’s Day so the most special Mother’s Day celebrations include celebrating her birthday,” said Zachary Goldsmith, who nominated his mother, Terri Goldsmith, for her rainbow challah. When Mother’s Day falls on May 14, the family raises glasses of ginger ale to toast her at 9:16 p.m., the approximate time she was born in 1951. “Some years we get really crazy because May 14 is also Israeli Independence Day.” When she’s not baking, Terri, of Waterford, Connecticut, writes children’s plays for Jewish holidays. And she makes all the costumes by hand!

Kicking back and just chillin'

Joi Hardaway at a family birthday celebration
Joelle Hardaway

Joelle Hardaway said, “My mother rules in the kitchen because every meal that is made is made with love, effort and seasoning.” But every Mother’s Day, Joelle's mother, Joi Hardaway of Queens, New York, gets the day off from "making" to do whatever she wants — which is often nothing. “It’s a very low key day in my house where I get to relax!” said Hardaway, whose rich and creamy “Mama Noel’s Golden Mac & Cheese” recipe was submitted by her daughter. In her downtime, Hardaway likes to watch anything and anyone on Food Network.

Letting Mom keep the reins

Catherine Mancuso opening the oven
Angela Mancuso

“She never cooks from a recipe,” said Angela Mancuso, who nominated her mother, Catherine Mancuso of Astoria, New York, for several signature specialities including manicotti, meatballs, pork spare ribs and focaccia. Even on Mother’s Day, Catherine, a big Giada De Laurentiis fan, insists on being captain of her kitchen. “Mother’s Day is no different, she will be cooking for us all,” explained Angela. “Mom always takes charge in the kitchen, but not out of her desire to be in charge, just a genuine need to provide and take care of us.”

Planting annuals and mother-daughter gardening

Kathy Sprague and her daughter, Ryan.
Trish TenHoeve

Kathy Sprague of Chatham, New Jersey, has a thing for greens. Her sister, Trish TenHoeve, nominated her for “Aunt Kathy’s Broccoli” recipe, which even her picky nieces and nephews enjoy. But on Mother’s Day, Sprague is out in the yard with her husband, Dave, and their three kids who usually spend the day planting their annuals together. Eleven-year-old daughter, Ryan, inherited her mom’s green thumb and now has her own herb and vegetable garden that they tend to on Mother’s Day.

Matching pajama party at Grandma's

Sheila Lobel's five grandkids in matching pajamas.
Rebecca Bentov

"Mom will capitalize on every opportunity to get her grandkids (ages 5, 2, 2, 2, and 1) in one photo," said Rebecca Bentov. Trying to get the cousins to sit still in matching pajamas, a gift from Grandma, for a photo is the closest thing they have to a Mother's Day tradition. Bentov's mother, Sheila Lobel, of Albany, New York, has two criteria for picking the pajama sets she doles out each year. First, they must be gender neutral. Second, they must be on sale. "My poor daughter, the youngest, will be wearing these pajamas for the next five years, as we literally have them in every single size!" said Bentov, who nominated Lobel for her grandkid-approved chocolate chip banana bread recipe.

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