Last night I sat alone in the living room in the dark while my family slept and just stared at our Christmas Tree. I love Christmas. I love everything about it. The shopping. The wrapping. The decorating. The beauty and scent of a perfectly imperfect kid decorated Christmas tree with bottom heavy branches of handmade memories. The whole thing makes me tingle with the Christmas Spirit.
My friends joke that as soon as I tear off the October calendar page, they can hear the crooning of Bing Crosby’s White Christmas, or Johnny Mathis’s rendition of Silver Bells coming from my office.
Recently, as I was decorating the house for the season, I took pause to notice a similar gleam in my daughter’s eye. We shared memories of when we got this trinket or that, and she came across my childhood stocking that has been so deeply worn with love. To some, it might look tattered. To me though, it’s precious. My mother sewed my stocking by hand and stitched each sequin and bead just for me, and did the same for each of my brothers. My daughter asked why it was so special to me and I explained what a tradition was. I explained that they are things we do that were lovingly handed down by the women in our family who showed me all the love and joy the season can bring and how important it is to continue. And that because of her, I sewed the named of my children in their stockings. I come from a huge close-knit family, which makes the holidays, loud, messy and wonderfully chaotic, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. My grandmothers were instrumental in cementing these wonderful holiday traditions that have made now three generations of children squeal with delight.
So, whether you are a big , small, or a new family looking to start some new traditions for the holidays, or if you are just looking for ways to find that magic once again, let me share with you some of the extremely special things we do each year that keep the magic alive all season long!
Deck the Halls Like you are a Griswold
As far back as I could remember, after all the Thanksgiving left overs were packed away and our turkey naps complete, my Grandmother Brooks would shake her finger at the lot of us to start the decorating. The oldest of the cousins, and a nimble aunt or two, would climb the attic stairs to pull down the Christmas tree, countless tubs of ornaments, garland, lights, wreaths, and inflatable lawn décor. The frenzy of decorating would commence while Nat King Cole’s “O Christmas Tree” flowed from the antique record player in the corner. Once the kids had completed decorating the tree, the rest of the décor would follow. My Grandmother Brooks knew every item she had and where she wanted it, and in her last years with us, she would park herself in her recliner and point like a sergeant conducting a drill. It was both maddening and hilarious and we loved every minute of it. Now that she is gone, and the family has scattered a bit, I try to keep up with this tradition. With a few changes, I enlist the help of my children and sweet husband. We pull out the décor, while being serenaded by Pandora’s Christmas Channel. It never fails, each time I hear Bing Crosby sing about the “Holly and the Ivy,” I can see my Grandmother tapping her toes along with him and it makes me smile every time.
Movies Movies Movies
Another Christmas Tradition my family has, is a strict list of holiday classics we must watch each year. And since the list is so vast, it can easily be spread out all month long!
• Home Alone and Home Alone 2– Watching Kevin McAlister set booby traps for Marv and Harry makes my kids giggle every time!
• Elf – Will Ferrell dressed as a giant elf, need I say more???
• One Magic Christmas – Gideon the Angel shows us how to find the magic of Christmas in even the most difficult times.
• The Santa Clause, The Santa Clause 2 and 3 – Scott Calvin taking over as Santa with the help of Bernard the elf is a Christmas Classic for the whole family!
• A Christmas Story – Now who doesn’t quote the line, “you’ll shoot your eye out!” every time it comes on!
• White Christmas – Bing Crosby, and Rosemary Clooney dancing to holiday classics as they save a friend’s Ski Lodge in Vermont with the help of Danny Kaye is a favorite of me and my mom!
• Love Actually – Best contemporary Christmas movie ever! Star studded love stories that all start and end in London’s Heathrow Airport… gets me every year!
• A Charlie Brown Christmas – I can still hear Linus saying. “Now that’s what Christmas is all about Charlie Brown!”
• Christmas Vacation – Clark W. Griswold! This holiday classic is jam packed with hilarious one liners, your side will hurt every time you watch!
• Rudolph and Frosty the Snow Man – Pure holiday classics for the kids.
So, pop some popcorn, get in your jammies, and have a movie night with your family!
Christmas Cookie Party
One of my most favorite Christmas traditions dates back as far back as I can remember. My Grandma Chris would have us all over to decorate dozens of Christmas Cookies. She would make homemade sugar cookies in all different Christmas shapes and have homemade butter cream icing in all sorts of Christmas colors with pastry bags and tips for decorating. Throw in every sort of sprinkle and colored sugar on the planet and you have a delicious time on your hands. Once all the beautifully iced and decorated wreaths, Santas and candy canes were complete, my Grandma Chris would peruse the massive counter full confections and pick a winner. It was usually my brother Joshua, to his delight. He loved a good cookie loaded to the limit with icing and he reveled in the win each year. Now that they are both with the angels, we continue our cookie party tradition and always have one just like Josh would have made so it feels like he’s right there with us.
Grab your apron and make some memories!
Christmas Lights and Hot Chocolate
This is the simplest and sweetest tradition we keep, and the kids just love it. A day or so before Christmas Eve, we gather our troops, caravan if we have to and, once we’ve got our hot chocolate ready, we drive around the city looking at the most beautiful Christmas light displays saving the house on Carmel Parkway for the finale.
If this sounds like something your family would love, give it a try!
Advent Calendar Fun
My wonderful sister-in-law has started a tradition for my children that we have come to love. She bought a large advent calendar shaped like a house that has large spaces for a little treat for each kiddo. She spends the year searching for the right treat or makes cute coupons for free movie night or a day without chores for them to cash in. Starting December 1, the kids know that their Aunt Didi will have a little fun for them every day. I hope they do this for their own children.