December 24, 2012

The Top Ten of Christmas

I am just sitting here in the dark by the Christmas tree.  Christmas music plays on the radio.  The youngers are in bed and the big girls are reading and painting finger nails with Christmas glitter.  I was thinking about how much I love this time of year and why.  It's so hard to narrow it down so this is not in any specific order and really might not necessarily be my ten favorite things about Christmas but rather ten things I really love about this season.

1.  Christmas Cards.  I love to send them.  I love to receive them.  I like to write letters anytime of the year but people don't usually write back.  Oh, but December!  December is different.  Everyday from Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve there's guaranteed to be an actual letter in the mailbox and we can usually count on some great photos, too.  And this odd little fascination must be contagious.  I truly don't know who gets more excited about Christmas cards.  Me or the children.  We display them through the month of December.  About ten years ago we started the tradition of taking one card a day starting in January and praying for the sender.  We then write them and let them know we did so and let them know what we prayed for.
2.  Christmas lights.  I love the warmth of Christmas lights.  On the tree, swags over the windows and down the steps and even a little battery powered strand adorning Emma's dollhouse.  It is so hard for me to pack up the lights in January and settle into the cold darkness which comes with a Maryland winter.  The greatest of all the lights might just be the kids exterior light display.  Unbeknownst to our wonderful neighbors, who have quite a lovely setup, the girls entered into a competition several years ago to have more lights than they do.  Brianna was quite in a lather on Thanksgiving night when the B's lights came on and she hadn't even gotten hers out of the attic.  The display gets bigger and grander each year covering not only the bushes and house but also the kids train in the back yard.  Last year they added synchronized Christmas music to the show.  You could not believe how excited they get when people stop to check it out.  Probably their greatest thrill this Christmas season was when a fuse blew and a neighbor wrote to praise their lights and share her disappointed over the lack of music.
3.  Christmas cookies.  Peanut butter blossoms.  Thimble cookies.  Gingerbread men. Krinkles.  Sugar cookies.  What's not to love?  I love baking them.  I love smelling them.  I love tasting them.  I love watching the kids delight as they sprinkle a cookie within an inch of its life.  Most of all, I love sharing them with friends and neighbors.
And gingerbread houses.  This has been a learning experience for us over the years.  The children's efforts have certainly become grander and grander each Christmas and this year they really outdid themselves.  Yours truly, however... well, I am just happy if I can get my four walls and roof to stay up.  You can read more about gingerbread houses in this post.

4.  Ornaments.  Each year from their birth we add a new ornament for each child to our tree.  When they marry they will have a collection of memories to start their own Christmas traditions.  Some years we make them.  Some years we buy them at the Hallmark store.  Some years we choose them while traveling.  Each and every one has a special memory.  There is literally no branch uncovered on our tree.  The tree tells a story of our family.  One for the year we first celebrated Christmas as a couple.  One for the year we were married.  One for the birth of each of our children.  Our first home.  Our baby in heaven.  Special ornaments from trips to the beach, traveling abroad, Disney World.  There are even a few from when Allen and I were kids.  My children love to hear the story of how I picked at the corner of a tiny present to see what was inside... only to be disappointed when I realized it was just a piece of Styrofoam   Many loved ones add ornaments to our tree now.  Opening the boxes each year is like turning the pages of our scrapbooks as we remember the places and people represented in each trinket.  The younger kids love to hear the stories of how each ornament came to be on our tree.

5.  Music.  I talked about this a bit already in another post.  But what I didn't mention was how much I enjoy it when sometime around October the regular piano books are switched out for Christmas books. It is common for us to spend some time in the evenings sitting at the piano while the girls take turns playing for us as we sing some of our favorite carols.  We also try to find an opportunity to go caroling each Christmas.  One year the girls organized a caroling party with the young ladies from church.  That was so much fun.
6.  Beautifully wrapped packages. Well, I try anyway.  I've never been able to master the artistic ability my mother and siblings have for gift wrap.  But I hold my own and figure most people are so excited by what might be inside that they don't pay much notice to the wrapping.   Each child and I have an afternoon we spend together in the basement wrapping their gifts for others.  I am usually the official paper cutter.  I love to watch them as they work so diligently to make each wrapping special for the receiver by choosing just the right paper, bow, ribbon and label.

7.  The food.  Italian Christmas food is the best of the best.  All the special dishes we eat only at Christmas not only have special memories but also are just simply that delicious.  You can keep the marinara give me some Baccala salad if you please.
8.  Christmas books.  From The Night Before Christmas to The Christmas Carol and everything in between.  We read a different story, or more, every night by the light of the Christmas tree.  Our favorite is reading Luke 2 on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.  The kids have read it so much they can recite it to me and that is the best of all... hearing their voices in unison sharing the poetry of the King James account of the Lord's nativity.  Music to my ears.

9.  The Creche.  We have a number of manger scenes.  There is a fine porcelain one with gemstones, a carved wooden one and even a little people one the kids love to play with.  This year Allen and the boys made a ceramic one into a beautiful advent wreath using a piece of wood from one of our lost trees as the base.  The boys built a manger to go in the center out of sticks they gathered from the yard.  Each night we follow my mother's tradition of preparing it for baby Jesus by adding a piece of straw for each act of serving or kindness we witness in another family member.

10.  Advent Calendars.  This tradition started on Kaitlin's first Christmas and is something the kids look forward to every night of December.  Except that we usually get behind because they like to do it together.  Some nights Allen and I aren't home at bedtime because of our weekly date and our Monday night classes.  Our last day usually comes somewhere around New Year's Eve.

 Do tell me.  What do you LOVE about the Christmas season?


  1. I love many of the same things you do...Christmas cards, the music, the feeling of anticipation, the pretty wrapped gifts, the excitement of shopping and giving to others...really, I think I just love everything about this season! Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas, enjoy the rest of your holiday!

    1. It is so tough to pick just one thing. I hate to see Christmas go by so quickly and everyone return to the hustle and bustle of everyday life. My kids are even worse than me. The slightest mention of taking the tree down is enough to send them all into a panic each January.

      Here's to looking forward to December and all the wonderfulness in between,


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