The past few weeks have been…well, kinda crazy. At the risk of sounding cliche, I could say life happened – unexpected inconveniences, extra deadlines at work – you name it, it’s happened. So tonight, I’m officially deeming an “off” night. I’ll tackle a few nagging tasks along the way, but I can tell I just need a little wiggle room to breath. Some mindless activities to shake off this grumpy mood.
Writing calms me – gives me a focus and an outlet for any lingering tension or stress. And what better thing to ponder than Christmas traditions/memories when I’m in the mood for a pick-me-up?
I had idyllic Christmases growing up, and I hope that Abby and any other future little Frost’s will be able to look back at their own childhood and claim the same. I mentioned a few things that I cherish at each Christmas season, but that post didn’t encompass all our family traditions.
Following my family tradition of pizza on Christmas Eve, John and I now make homemade calzones each year for Christmas Eve, and have Cinnamon Coffee Cake for dessert (my family Christmas breakfast tradition). While quite a bit of work (I shouldn’t be talking…it’s actually John who does the calzones), they are worth every minute of flour-covered chaos.
We exchange a new Christmas ornament on Christmas Eve and hang it on the tree. It takes the guess work out of what gift to open on Christmas Eve, and we always pick up fun ornaments on clearance right after Christmas for the following year. It also makes decorating the tree extra special each year because we can reminisce about what Christmas such-and-such ornament joined our collection.
One of my favourite ornaments from John
My ornament to John last year – to commemorate our trip to New York City earlier in the year.
We also give clues on each gift tag that hint at the contents (sometimes it can be pretty obvious, but most times it’s just a frustrating teaser that only makes sense after the fact). They can be inside jokes, or other times we might pick a theme (last year I did song lyrics). For example, one said say “Charlie, Charlie give me your answer true” – these are lyrics from “A Bicycle Built for Two” and I put this tag on some bicycle photos I’d printed and framed for John.
We’ve super excited to take this one step further; our close friends the Abriels use Bible verses for the clues, so the kids spend ALL Christmas morning with their Bibles open. They even have the kids figure out whose gifts are whose by looking up verses (ie: a verse mentioning the first born would indicate that gift was for the eldest child etc.,). Some of the verses are hilarious (Luke 3:5 – “the rough ways shall become smooth” was the verse associated with a package of razors or Song of Solomon 4:2 about “your teeth are like a flock of sheep just shorn” might be used for a new toothbrush).
We’ll have to be wary of translations, though. One year we were included in this tradition, and although the intended version included the word “frost”…which happens to be our last name…the translation being read aloud said “ice”…everyone was left confused until we consulted another translation.
We would always decorate the tree together; it was such a fun family event. Mom never seemed to care about misplaced ornaments or gaudy tinsel. Dad’s only demand – that “his” star be the crowning adornment. Every year we fought to get this star to work (it is ancient), and complained about how terrible it looked. And every year he said something along the lines: “One day when I’m gone, you’ll be fighting over who gets the star since you’ll treasure it so much.” And he was right – this star, in all it’s ugly glory, is such a fond memory for me now.
The other main decoration item that stands out is the kissing mistletoe figure. This is an old, old, old Avon wax potpourri figurine gifted to my Mom years ago. Every Christmas when we went to get the box of decorations from it’s neglected corner of the basement I would just stand and soak in this scent – it is so distinctive, and it would permeate every last item in the box.
Mom passed this along to me the year we were married, and I’ve been proudly displaying and smelling this ornament ever since.
Aside from Nuts & Bolts and Cinnamon Coffee Cake the other main family food tradition was Christmas Eve supper – every single year it was pizza. When my parents were pasting a small church, and struggling to make ends meet, one generous parishioner would provide gift certificates for a local pizza place. As the years passed, and we eventually moved to another location, the pizza tradition stuck. Most years we make our own, which adds to the fun. Along with pizza, we always dimmed the lights (much to my father’s horror who always announced he couldn’t “see his food enough to eat”) and had pop.
While we never received lavish gifts at Christmas, there were a few traditions
Big Stockings – we always had overflowing stockings, packed with every necessity: soap, socks, pens and paper…and almost every item would be wrapped in plastic bags. Yup – grocery bags from the store made it easy to wrap even the most awkward of stocking stuffers in seconds, all secured with masking tape! When I tediously wrap every last item in paper each year, I think longingly of the plastic bag tradition.
Tracking gifts – Mom would always sit in her chair armed with a clipboard. When we received a gift, she would note the contents, the giver, and the recipient to make sure everyone received a proper thank you note when it was all finished.
We had to wait until Mom and Dad were up, dressed, and Dad had taken the time to shave before we were allowed to open gifts. It was pure torture, since we usually didn’t get to start presents until 7:30 or 8:00. Good practice for self-control I suppose.
Every year we would contribute to these goody baskets our church delivered. They were packed with fruit and cakes and cookies and wrapped in bright cellophane. I loved tagging along as we visited the elderly and delivered this Christmas cheer.
Every year we would read the Christmas story (from Luke 2) right before we went to bed.
Every year, we finished Christmas Eve by singing Silver Bells by Christmas-tree light.
Every year we would sit around the Christmas tree and shake each gift on Christmas Eve. I got pretty good at guessing!
Every year we participated in wonderful Christmas programmes at church. We started practicing in September; I loved lighted candles all throughout the sanctuary. Another highlight – putting together the goody bags. I would cover our dining room table with small paper bags and fill them with chocolates and candies, to be handed out to each visitor at the end of the Christmas programme. The year I was deemed old enough to do this whole process by myself was incredibly special.
I’m excited to start various Advent countdowns – I love this The Way of Light candle wreath that can be used at Christmas and Easter.
I love the idea of a handmade advent calendar, with each day holding a Scripture verse, little candy, or maybe a fun activity (like go caroling at a nursing home, go ice skating, or make Christmas cookies).
I also love the idea of starting Christmas service traditions – like working at a soup kitchen each Christmas Eve, or every family member filling an Operation Christmas Child box for a less-fortunate child of the same age.
Any fun family traditions?