I find it difficult to choose only one holiday tradition.
There are, after all, so many things about the holidays to love; like wrapping gifts; gatherings of families and friends; baking the goodies; finding and decorating the tree; caroling. There are so many things to love about this time of year that I struggle to identify one that is more special than the others.
For many years I have gone to the beautiful Burke Hollow Church and shared in community candlelight caroling organized by the Blake family. I love Christmas carols and to hear them sung by the people from my own community who only gather this one time of year is a profound experience that brings tears to my eyes just thinking of it.
Then there is the tree. I try to do something different with the tree every year. One year it was covered with decorations made from seashells; once it was a family tree decorated with photos of family members; another was the nature tree decorated with things found in nature; there was the year of the paper stars; and this year is the cat safe tree with only lights and bows.
I also love making and baking goodies this time of year. There are some of the long-time favorites – Portinos and Homemade Irish Cream; sometimes there’s peanut brittle; and there are always cookies to decorate; and there are always cheesecakes. I often try something new and this year it was the Italian Christmas cookies and they are delish! The fun comes in thirds – 1/3 baking – 1/3 packaging – 1/3 sharing with others.
I am also a big fan of Christmas stockings. The stocking is one of the traditions I have always anticipated with great excitement. It’s the thing I think of first when I wake up Christmas morning (maybe because it’s the thing I did last Christmas Eve). My mom still finds things to include in my stocking which I love! I love looking for stocking stuffers when I’m out shopping. There are a lot of things I might give up on Christmas, but never the stockings. I love them so much that one year I began collecting them – I actually thought at one time that I would make a new stocking every year. I managed that for 3 or 4 years but haven’t made a stocking in a long time. . .
This year Dave and I have agreed that we are only doing stockings – no gifts for one another that won’t fit in the stockings. I think he’s going to be surprised what’s in his stocking this year! And just so you know – we have really big stockings!
While all of that, and more, warms my heart during this season, I believe my favorite tradition is the gathering of family at our house on Christmas Eve. I begin thinking about this gathering as soon as Thanksgiving is over. I plan the invitation, think about the menu, spend days preparing, and relish in that evening when the family is altogether in the glow of the candles and tree lights.
It is that time that I anticipate the most during the holidays, thinking about each person that will be there. Over the years there have been many variations on who was there, and many variations on the food we share. In life, people go through many changes. This tradition started with my first husband and father of my youngest child. Even though the house wasn’t done and space was tight, none of that mattered. What mattered was that most of the family was here together.
That family has changed over time – new spouses, new children, new aunts and uncles, new friends – yet it doesn’t change the feeling of warmth and togetherness. We continue to come together as a family, which in my mind is what’s most important.