It’s been a chilly 81 degrees here in So Cal, and though the mornings have been on the crisp side, the afternoon temperatures have made it easy to forget that we are indeed in the month of December. At least I seem to have forgotten, as it is now 10 days until Christmas, and while I have completed my Christmas shopping for our extended family, gift exchanges, and offices, I have yet to purchase anything for the kids or the husband outside of one stocking stuffer. Let’s just hope they’re not reading this post…
The good thing is that there are still 10 days until Christmas, and sites such as Amazon make it easy to score a great gift at the last minute. However, it is true what they say about Christmas (not that retailers would want to admit): there is more to the season than just the presents.
It is hard to pin down any truly unique traditions for our family. I grew up fairly isolated from aunts, uncles, and grandparents. Both my parents’ families lived out of state, either in the Midwest or the Philippines and besides my mother was not one for hosting. Christmas was looked forward to as my dad would hang lights and put up our cute, but artificial tree and the holiday flew by in a day that was usually as disenchanting as it was boring. Not that the day was usually bad per se; we opened gifts that we had picked out ourselves and didn’t do much the rest of the day. When I was old enough, Dad and I would cook a Christmas dinner together, and that created some good memories of us bonding over baking and sauteing. But as a kid, I set my expectations on something that was unattainable for us at the time. I dreamed of the kind of Christmas the husband’s family celebrated.
His family celebrated the holiday very differently. His mom would make a Christmas waffle breakfast while the kids would open up their stockings and search for the German pickle in the tree. After breakfast, gift-giving would commence, led by ‘Santa Haas’ and not before the traditional reading of the Christmas story as presented in Luke’s gospel. Then there was Christmas dinner, either at their home or at the home of one of his aunts or uncles. They would enjoy a delicious meal, fellowship with one another, and participate in a gift exchange. Not that every Christmas was perfect and drama-free I’m sure, and indeed I have learned that there is more to the rosy ideals, but in the tales of his Christmases past, I imagine warmth and light and love.
So with two very different experiences, we began to create some of our own traditions. For our family, it starts with holiday decorating. The Haas winter holiday season begins November 30, following the last of our autumn birthdays. I usually put up the mantel decorations, though now the girls help with that as they’ve gotten older and developed opinions, or a sense of style, depending on how one sees it. This year, after a trip to Crate and Barrel for some new reindeer-themed decor, Emily had pretty free rein. That is until she wanted to switch out the photos in the stocking holders. This is where I drew the line. The stocking holders contain photos from each of our first Christmases, depicting the husband mouthing a toy, me eating wrapping paper (probably explains a lot), and Jacob’s stay in the NICU. The kids will probably die of embarrassment as they get older and bring significant others to our home, nevertheless the First Christmas stocking holders are the first of our traditions.
Then there’s our tree. I’ve long wanted to put up one of those fancy Pinterest-inspired, Instagram-worthy, color-coordinated themed trees. But that’s not what we do. My mother-in-law saved and labeled ornaments from her boys’ growing up, and now she does the same for her grandkids. This is a tradition that I too have now adopted. I love our family tree, with its blend of old and new- the new being the cute woodland themed ornaments from Crate and Barrel and Target, along with my collection of Starbucks tumblers. Coffee obsession aside, our tree is full of love.
Once the tree is up, and the halls are decked, we sit down with steaming mugs of cocoa (spiked with some Bailey’s for me) and watch a Christmas movie. My favorite is “Mickey’s Christmas Carol,” which the kids find cute but lame, though I’m convinced that they’ll appreciate as much as I do the Disney-spin on a Charles Dickens classic. Eventually…maybe.
These are just a few of the things I look forward to each holiday season. How does your family enjoy ‘decking the halls?’