Jesse Tyler Ferguson Talks Holiday Traditions, Festive Recipes and Celebrating with Son Beckett

The Modern Family alum and Ocean Spray spokesperson chats with PEOPLE about all things holidays — from his favorite piece of decor to the breakfast item you need to put on your list

Jesse Tyler Ferguson x Ocean Spray
Photo: ocean spray

Jesse Tyler Ferguson knows how to do the holidays right — and this year he's set to have one of the best seasons yet!

The Modern Family alum, cookbook author and father of one, 46, is so excited to be able to spend the holidays with his family this year, he tells PEOPLE, especially after being in isolation in 2020.

"Last year we were by ourselves. I FaceTimed with my mom and her first grandson on Christmas day. She hadn't even met him yet," recalls Ferguson, who shares son Beckett Mercer, 1, with husband Justin Mikita.

"So this year I've moved my mom to Los Angeles. She's actually living close to us now. We'll be able to be with her and she'll be able to be with Beckett and we'll be around Justin's family," Ferguson says with a smile. "And I don't think it's going to be as big of a Christmas as, say, we had in 2018, but we'll be together. And that's really important for us."

The importance of togetherness is what lead Ferguson to his latest partnership, with No Kid Hungry and Ocean Spray, who tapped the star for their #BetterTogether campaign, which celebrates the opportunity for Americans to have more traditional holiday gatherings this year due to the vaccine rollout.

Jesse Tyler Ferguson x Ocean Spray
Scott Eisen/Getty

Together with the child hunger charity and the cranberry company, Ferguson has also created care packages full of festive goodies to distribute to 50 schools across the country.

"No kid should ever go hungry. I mean, kids have enough to worry about, they should just worry about being kids. So for me, No Kid Hungry is so important because they take that worry away from them, from parents and from kids, to ensure that they'll have a nutritious meal at school," he explains of his dedication to the non-profit organization.

"As a new dad, I'm in a very fortunate position where I know that Beckett will never go hungry, but I want him to also look out for his friends and [others]," he adds. "I think instilling the attributes of giving back and being charitable when you're in a position where you can do that is really important for me to pass along to Beckett."

Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Justin Mikita's son
Sofia Vergara/Instagram

In addition to helping those less fortunate, there are a few other holiday traditions Ferguson and Mikita are planning to pass along to their son.

"I'm excited to start new things with Beckett," Ferguson says. "We have sort of the standard ones in our family. You know, my mom and dad would always give me pajamas on Christmas Eve. So, we'll probably do those things that mean something to us. But I'm excited to start new traditions. We'll see what sticks."

Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Justin Mitika
Justin Mikita and Jesse Tyler Ferguson.

Another tradition special to Ferguson is putting out a handmade nativity scene every year when decorating for Christmas — but his set has a unique twist.

"I'm not religious per se, but I was raised Catholic and I made a nativity scene out of felt and lots of wood when I was maybe in fifth grade," Ferguson explains. "I labeled the back of each character. Baby Jesus is my second favorite. The Wisemen were my first favorite, because they have sparkly bangles on them."

He adds, "My mom saved it and it's a little worse for the wear, but it means something to me. And so I put it out every year."

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Food is also a tradition in the Ferguson-Mikita household when it comes to the holidays, the star says, and their menu isn't full of standard Christmas fare.

"We usually do some sort of Mexican food over the holidays," says Ferguson, who grew up in Albuquerque. "So lots of tamales, and on Christmas Eve we usually do enchiladas. I'm from New Mexico, so anything with red and green chilis, which in New Mexico is called 'Christmas style.'"

If he had to pick a recipe or two from his cookbook, Food Between Friends, which came out in March, to recommend to others for the holiday table, he says he would have to choose ones with a New Mexico twist.

Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Julie Tanous Cookbook Food Between Friends
Penguin Random House

"I have a green chili chicken enchilada pot pie that is, I think, really spectacular. And also I feel like breakfast is always forgotten for the holidays. We're always thinking about dinner. And so I have a really delicious chorizo quiche that is great and feeds a group of people."

One thing Ferguson can count on when it comes to the holidays this year, he says, is that Beckett will surely be indulging in as many of the festive treats as he can.

"We have a lot of foods that are meant for kids his age and he sort of refuses them and prefers the stuff that we're eating," he says of the toddler. "We had some pasta the other night that's in our carbonara sauce and he wanted that more than he wanted his Cheerios."

"He has very good taste," Ferguson adds with a laugh. Just like his dad!

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