Good morning friends! It’s December 1st and Christmas is just 25 days away. Christmas is my favorite time of the year, as I know it is for many of you as well. I love the change that seems to come over people, it is almost as if they have been sprinkled with fairy dust, and for a few weeks everyone seems carefree, happy, and friendlier. There is a spring in their step and a smile on their face and sometimes you can even catch them singing along to the carols on the radio. I call it the magic of Christmas. I am talking about memories, and traditions, and the things that fill your heart with joy, wonder and happiness during this magical season.
Christmas Traditions at My House
As a child my siblings and I each received an advent calendar from our grandparents. They we the little book shaped cardboard ones with a whimsical scene or the manger and behind each window was a piece of chocolate. Every morning we would jump out of bed and run to open a window, and countdown the days until Santa came with our gifts. Several years ago I gave my grand-kids one that is made of 25 little mittens and there is room for a treat, a note or a lump of coal if you were bad the day before. Today is the day to start the countdown to Christmas so don’t forget to open a little window on your calendar.
Decorating the Christmas Trees
At the family homestead, we set up our tree on Thanksgiving or the day after. We gave up on real trees a long time ago, because one year a week before Christmas we woke up and almost all of the needles had fallen off the tree the night before and the ornaments were laying all over the living room. Thankfully we were able to purchase a floor model from Marshall Fields. We walked out of the store with a completely decorated tree and stuffed it into my mom’s SUV(sort of like the Grinch), needless to say the ride home wasn’t very comfortable but the tree was beautiful.
My mom has two trees, one that is more traditional and fancy which resides in the living room and the other which we call the kids tree. This tree is filled with ornaments that we have been given over the years that reflect our personalities and interests at different times of our lives. The most precious and sentimental ornaments also go onto this tree, clothes pin reindeer from second grade, clay frogs from third grade, wood, brick brac and button ornaments made on a snow day when we lived in Alaska. We laugh out loud when we pull them out of the boxes, “marveling” at our young talent with buttons and glue. Even after all of these years(decades) we can still remember where we lived when we made them and why, like a snow day or a sick day, etc.
The Feast of St. Nicolas
My mothers family is German and the feast of St. Nicholas, just as she did as a child. On the 5th of December we put out our socks or shoes and when we wake the next morning they are filled with candy and an orange.
We love to have movie night, actually not movie night but a movie every night that we are together. We watch the same holiday movies that we have for years, you know the ones that I am talking about, the classics and we munch on caramel corn made with the same recipe that my grandmother used to make.
Here are a few of our favorite Christmas Movies
Frosty the Snowman
Miracle on 34th Street
It’s a Wonderful Life
“Modern” Holiday Movies
Baking Christmas Cookies
My grandmother baked for weeks and weeks before Christmas, there were at least a dozen different cookies, in addition to stollen, chocolate salami, cinnamon rolls, breads and more. All of the cookies were stored in decorative tins in a closet until Christmas Eve where they were placed on large platters to eat before Midnight Mass. I will be honest, I snuck into a few of the tins ahead of time and ate one or two of my favorites. All these years later, I still bake many of her recipes and send them to family and friends just as she did. Every time I pull out one of her handwritten recipes I feel as if I am standing right next to her rolling dough and and basking in the love of my grandmother.
Now that my grandmother has passed, and we no longer get together at her house on Christmas Eve, we have a family party and cookie exchange a weekend or two before Christmas. Everyone brings their favorite cookies and a dozen for every other person that is participating in the cookie exchange. Did I mention that my mom is from a family of 10 kids? This means a lot of baking and a lot of cookies to bring home, some of which are new recipes and some are old family favorites.
Christmas Concerts, the Nutcracker, A Christmas Carol
On Christmas eve we have an open house and friends and family come over for dinner and desserts. We exchange gifts, play games, or work on puzzles and then we attend midnight mass at the Cathedral or if the weather is going to be bad we attend early mass and then proceed with the rest of the festivities.
We get to open one gift on Christmas eve and typically it is pajamas just as it was when we were children. Then is it off to bed where we dream of a white christmas while visions of sugar plums dance in our heads.
As a child my grandfather would take us out to see the lights on Christmas Eve before he dropped us off for midnight mass. We continue the tradition to this day, we get a cup of cocoa or a coffee and we drive around looking at the Christmas lights in the neighborhood. In fact when I am at home my mom and I do it almost every night. We drive all over looking at the lights, we take in the beauty of Lake Michigan, the decorations downtown and we just talk, laugh and listen to Christmas music. It is actually one of my favorite things to do with her.
On Christmas morning we still wake up early to see what Santa brought. Now days the excitement and anticipation of Santa’s arrival is from the grandchildren and now so much the adults who only returned home from Mid-night mass a few hours before. We all creep down the stairs and are in awe at the trail of candy from the fireplace to the tree(s), that Santa dropped from his pack while he was leaving the gifts. We love it now as much as we did when we were kids and my nieces and nephew love it as well. After the gifts are opened we eat fresh from the oven cinnamon rolls and hot chocolate and then spend the day in our jammies watching the wonder of Christmas through they eyes of the children.
These are just a few of my favorite family traditions, we have many more that are woven in to the fabric of my life and are what make the holiday memorable, special and bearable when we cannot celebrate together. What are your family traditions? Do you have a favorite? Do you add a new tradition every year or do you stick to your old favorites? I would love to hear about what you and your family do to celebrate the holidays
Here are a few articles you might find interesting.
If you find yourself overwhelmed at the holidays my friend Brenda of Cosy Little House shared 10 Tips to Stay Sane During the Holidays
Have a great day!