My commitment to simplifying this holiday is significant. And it has paid off: the Christmas cards are mailed, the gifts are all bought, though not all wrapped, the tree is up. Still, I adore Christmas and its traditions, and have some small annual rituals.
There are a few things we do every year. Whit has a LEGO advent calendar. Grace has an advent calendar that has 24 pockets on it, each of which holds a small card with an instruction for her. So one day it’s “read a Christmas book to your brother” and another it’s “write a letter to your grandparents” and a third is “bake cookies for our neighbor.” A couple people have been surprised that she is satisfied with this, in lieu of a morning chocolate or a LEGO minifig. But … at least for now, she is.
I’m very moved by Advent, probably because of its themes of darkness and the promise of light. I have several books about it, and this year I’m dipping into Watch For the Light. More evenings than not I open the window of my small third-floor office and stick my head out into the cold, watching the sun go down across the streets, the glow of the sunset filtered through the black branches of the tree I know practically as well as my own hand.
We have a big green boxwood wreath on the front door, around which I tie the same wide length of celadon green satin ribbon every year. Our tree is decked with ornaments we’ve been collecting since we were married, and dotted with a few from my own childhood that Mum gave me. Each year for the past several I’ve had personalized ornaments made for Grace and Whit, too: a silhouette one year, doll-like, cloth faces another, their names on porcelain circles a third. When the tree was decorated, the angel sitting proudly on its crown (every year), Grace leaned back and looked at it carefully.
“Why is it that some peoples’ trees are more fancy, Mummy?” she asked me.
“What do you mean, fancy?’
“I mean … you know, all gold, or all silver, or the ornaments match.”
“Well, Grace, our ornaments don’t match but they all have a story to them.”
She thought this over for a minute, gazing at the tree, before saying, “Oh. So I guess our tree isn’t fancy, but it is full of love.”
I adore this 24 days of books tradition that the Gutsy Mom posted – check it out. She gathers 24 Christmas or seasonal books, wraps each in twine or ribbon, and labels them with a day. Each day they read that day’s book. I think this is marvelous and I hope to try it next year.
And even though I listen to Christmas carols year-round, they are still important to me in this season. We are listening to two CDs on repeat: the Lower Lights’ Come Let Us Adore Him and a homemade one of all of my old favorites. I come by my obsession with Christmas carols honestly: my father played his CDs of Kings College Choir singing old-fashioned hymns from Halloween to Valentine’s Day. I’ve also grown fond of some more modern interpretations, in particular Annie Lennox’s (among them, Universal Child), Shawn Colvin’s (Love Came Down at Christmas), and a couple by the Barenaked Ladies. Oh, and Sugarland’s Oh Come, Oh Come, Emmanuel, which I’m especially obsessed with lately.
My friends and I have an annual Secret Santa tea, complete with champagne, at a marvelous place in town that’s lit with sparkling pink lights. Grace and Whit and I will bake several batches of cookies and decorate them. We will exchange gifts and celebrate with our extended family, the stool, and hopefully take our annual photograph of the whole clan (C’s reindeer headgear included). While I generally dislike scented candles, there is one called Forest, with a faint smell of pine and winter, that I adore, and it’s burning this whole season. Sadly, we will miss a couple of my favorite holiday traditions, my parents’ annual Solstice ball and carol-signing on Christmas Eve with my oldest friend, though it’s for a very good reason.
How do you celebrate this season, whatever it means to you?