Tag Archives: holidays

days of christmas










Someone got a hold of my phone during the happy chaos!


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.

this season

This month always goes by so quickly.  With all the events, programs, parties, gift making, and visiting that goes on, the fullness of the season makes this month full and fast.  I try to be intentional about my, and my children’s time, what we do and with whom – and sometimes I fail. And, that’s ok.

This year, our children are attending a school that has a long winter break, from Thanksgiving to after New Year.  I (and of course, they) have been very excited to have December off.  Early last week was a rocky start because I had to figure out when and how to get my work done with all the children at home, but I think I have it fairly under control now.  We did some fun holiday activities, including decorating the tree and arranging nativity scenes.  My paternal grandmother gave me a set of corn husk doll ornaments for our tree about 10 years ago.  There was a baker, a mother with a boy clinging to her skirts, a boy with a fishing pole, a milkmaid, a woman with a broom, and so on.  I enjoyed them, but my girls have enjoyed them more.  They are a source of play everyday when they take them off the tree to have concerts, play house, and do all kinds of imaginative play.  The baker has lost her loaf of bread, the boy now crawls on his own (not clinging to his mother’s skirt), the milkmaid lost her bonnet, and all of them have lost the string that kept them hanging on the tree branches.  They now lye on the branches or lean against a twig to stay upright when they are not being played with.  They are loved.



I set out some greenery to resemble an advent wreath with candles on our table, surrounding a bowl of persimmons that were gifted to us from a friend in Elizabeth City.  The persimmons are so beautiful, but I will need to cook them soon.  Persimmon butter, perhaps . . .   I realized we did not have any candles when I wanted to light one of the first Sunday of advent (when we were eating this wonderful turkey pot pie made with leftovers).  Luckily, I had just received a package from Brushy Mountain Bees with some wax and a wick and Anne helped me roll our first candle.  And, it worked!


Hythe’s birthday was on Friday and he was in so much anticipation!  Hythe got to open his presents, wrapped in Christmas paper as requested, in the morning.  We had a fun day out, going for doughnuts at Vortex, doing a few errands and ending with haircuts for all (children, that is).  These were Hythe’s and Steven’s first non-home haircuts.

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I’ve been trying to focus on some of the little things that need to be done daily, weekly, and seasonally – and having the children help as they can since their days are freed up by the absence of official school.  I am trying to have some fun chores, as well as the “daily drudgery” of dish and clothes washing, such as filing the bird feeders and cooking meals.  I am also trying to schedule fun (and holiday) activities every day (bike rides, cookie making, friends over to play, etc.).

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Evva played at her piano recital on Sunday.  I was impressed with all the children who practice and work hard to play such beautiful music.  This year, the children were assigned parts of the Christmas story and had to write original music for the character they had to play during the reading of the story – much like Peter and the Wolf.  Anne was assigned Baby Jesus and King Harod.  Quite opposite characters in musical feeling.  Anyway, it was moving and beautiful – the children did a great job.

Sunday was also the sunniest day we’ve had nearly all week.  It was beautiful and Evva, and all the children, spent most of the time before the recital playing outside.  It made me long for a good hike in the woods.  Something else I need to make sure I get in this month at least once!







thanksgiving weekend

This time of year is so busy.  But, I love it.  Once the splendor of fall is behind us, I start looking forward to the “holidays”.  It starts with Halloween (which I don’t really like though I do love watching my children get excited about it) and All Saints Day or Dia de los Muertos, which we celebrate at our house. Then, its on to Thanksgiving, quickly followed by Advent and the Christmas season.

I love the good feelings these holidays conote: family, good food, friends, love, sharing, graciousness, giving.  I love the family time (even though it can be stressful), cooking baking, present making.  I love decorating with nature as well as with the old ornaments and the semi-junky ones my children make (they are precious to me).

This time of year is always very busy for my soap business and this year seems extra busy – a good problem to have.  Craft shows, farmers markets, on-line orders – it has been a little crazy.  I’ve been working at night after the children are in bed, some nights at the business, some nights crafting gifts for my family.  And, I still try to through in those nights were I go to bed early!  I’ve not had much time to write here, but I think about it.

We spent Thanksgiving in Elizabeth City at my mother’s house and with my side of the family.  Lots of little cousins brought a sweet and slightly chaotic feel to the celebration.  It was fun to visit with so many little ones and a blessing to see them all playing together happily.  I was glad that the generations in my family stay in touch as the family gets more extended.

A break between bike rides (7 of the 11 cousins 9 years old and younger)
A break between bike rides.  7 of the 11 (9 years old and younger) cousins  – and one special grandmother!

And, the girls set the Thanksgiving table using their knowledge gained from two years at Manners Camp.


We biked everyday on our mini-vacation.  This is a special activity that we love in Elizabeth City because the landscape is so flat (as compared to our very hilly, somewhat steep land around our house).  The kids LOVE it!   William also took the little ones out to fly a kite on one windy, cold, brilliant day.  The wind was so strong that near the end of the kite-flying session, William tied the kite around Hythe’s waist because otherwise the kite nearly blew out of his grip.  I was slightly worried the kite might lift Hythe off the ground.  But, he stayed put.




We also had many games of classic pinball – thanks to my mom getting the old pinball machine fixed.  One night, we went to the small downtown lighting ceremony, then visited with Santa in one of shops, had hot chocolate and took a sleigh ride [Note: “sleigh” was a wagon pulled by a tractor].  Very sweet and easy – quite different from what you have to maneuver through to do something similar in Asheville.





On our last morning, William and I ran a 5K race, and my very first race ever.  My mother brought over our children after we finished, and then the three older ones ran a 1 mile race.  I was impressed with our children’s determination and speed, and I was happy that I got to run with my husband and finish in the top 50.  I was also impressed that almost everyone could eat multiple doughnuts and drink coffee (at least William for the coffee) right after running a race.  Evva and I only made it through 3 bites before we felt sick.



It was a beautiful weekend – very busy – and I was quite exhausted by the end of it.  I always find it a little sad to leave that place I was born.  Not necessarily the house or neighborhood, but the landscape of sky and water, of flat fields and pine forests, of old farmhouses and backroads.  There is something in me that longs for that place.  There is a beauty there that speaks to me and calls to something deep in my soul.

But, I also love the home I am in now – and most especially the family that is there.



Each visit, I never get to see everyone I hoped to see or visit all the old haunts or beautiful spots, but we’ll be back.