I thought I would write down some of our Christmas traditions, or what we do that makes it feel like Christmas. Some of these have been passed down through our families, some are new.
1. Christmas Spode plates, like these. All the women in our family have these dishes. My grandmother gifted them to me at Christmas for a few years when I was in college (not exactly what a college-girl gets excited about, but I love them now). I think I may have a few from my grandmother’s collection as well when she started to downsize many years ago. I don’t have very many, but enough that they are used everyday in December through early January. We all feel like they are a special treat. Also, poisetta glasses. These were also passed down to me from my grandmother. They don’t do well in the dishwasher (it removes the paint), and I’ve lost a few to the concrete floor (Steven smashed one yesterday).
2. Christmas tree – right after Thanksgiving. We’ve gotten our tree from the family property and from a local tree lot. Either way, I like getting our tree fairly early and keeping it as long as possible. I love how excited the children are to decorate the tree, and how awed they are by the beauty of the tree lit up at night. Hythe insisted that we keep the tree lit all the time, even in the day – and he wanted us to keep all the house lights off as soon as it got dark so that we could admire the tree. But, I had to point out that I could not cook supper without lights, but we would keep it as dark as possible. This year, I took the tree down early – yesterday, actually. I usually keep it up until January 5 or 6, but this year, the tree looked dry (despite having water) slightly brown, and droopy, as if the weight of the ornaments was too much. It wanted to come down.
3. Crafting. I love making gifts for our family, friends, and neighbors. I do some sewing of gifts, but I love to have the children help out with creating also. We’ve made lots of things from hats to granola to cookies – some crafts I suggest, others they come up with on their own. This year our big projects were soap (the girls helped out with a few batches of soap) and rolled beeswax candles. The candles were fun and easy enough for the older children, and I personally love the candles. We also had a day this year when cousins came over to do some crafting with us. One of the cousins said, “you’re a family that makes things.” I felt greatly complimented.
4. Baking – cookies and Christmas cake. Unfortunately, I did not get around to the cake this year and I have missed it. And, I only made a few batches of cookies, but, they were good!
5. Advent calender. This calender was made for me by my maternal grandmother (Mom-mom) when I was born. It is sweet, simple, and lovingly crafted. The children love it – and they never argue over who puts up the ornament for the day (unlike my brother and I when we were young).
6. Church. Singing hymns, listening to the choir, remembering the magnificent gifts of hope, peace, joy, and love that were offered through a baby. Remembering that we can offer these gifts to the world ourselves.
7. Advent wreath. This tradition is new to our family, but I really like having the reminder at our table of what this season really stands for. It is not perfect or symbolically correct, but each of the 4 candles stand for hope, peace, joy, and love – one is lighted on each Sunday of Advent. A daily reminder of what’s been brought to the world and what we can do in the world.
8. Snowflakes. I often help the children cut snowflakes, but this year I hung them above the table. They loved the display.
9. Stockings. I love watching the children open their stockings and exclaim over the little presents Santa leaves in them. Santa is very modest at our house, but the stockings are such fun. Even toothpaste becomes exciting!
10. Christmas Eve Santa visit. Santa comes to the Big House (William’s grandparents’ house) on Christmas Eve afternoon. I think originally he came to amuse and give the help (house keeper, nanny, farm hands) their Christmas presents. After many years, there were so many children and grandchildren that he started bringing presents to them too. Often Santa comes in some strange way (on a motorcycle, in a large box, in an old car). He brings one present to each child. The child is called forward, and is supposed to sit on Santa’s knee. Santa asks if they have been good that year and traditionally everyone in the “audience” (siblings, parents, cousins, friends, aunts, uncles, grandparents) can yell out “yes” and “no” and the good or bad behavior of the child. It is all in fun and there is lots of laughter. Then, the child gets a wrapped present. It is a fun tradition, full of excitement, treats, and laughing.
11. Big House Christmas supper. The Big House is always decorated with ivy and boxwood garlands from the gardens, candles (for light, too), and large white table clothes. The large family exchanges gifts (from a draw), and happy chaos ensues. We have close to 50 family members for a seated supper, lots of wonderful food, lots of talking and laughing, and finally we end the night with a carol sing. William’s aunt plays the piano and everyone (who makes it to the music room) sings one of the 40+ carols from the old family carol book. This gathering is one of my favorite things on Christmas day.
These days after Christmas (and leading up to Christmas) have been gray, misty, and chilly, making me think of Scottish highlands or northern Irish weather. I often feel better about gloomy weather if I can imagine I am somewhere more exotic. These days after Christmas also bring a conflicting time of excitement-passed (slight feeling of disappointment that it is over) and the fun of winter break with “nothing” to do. The mess of Christmas (wrapping paper, packaging, cookie crumbs, tree needles) and the supposed quietness of winter. Slowing down, yet the time seems to rush by.
I am trying to enjoy all our moments – pause to savor them. Let the children get to play with friends and visit with grandparents and have time at home to be with each other. It is a beautiful time of year.