I love Christmas. I always plan my vacation for the last few days of Christmas week – time for baking cookies, wrapping gifts, and putting the final touches on holiday decorations.
I heap the mantels of our old farmhouse in pine and holly, tucking twinkle lights and pine cones in the greenery. I swag our beautiful old railing with pine and lights from the walnut newel post, the whole way up and around the hallway upstairs. I used to decorate five trees: one each for the living room and dining room, one in front of the middle window in the upstairs hall, one in the upstairs living room, and a kitchen tree with popcorn and cookies. I’ve cut back since renovations have added a family room. The main tree goes there and I only add a tree in the living room now. When we restored our kitchen, I painted our cabinets a deep farmhouse red and eliminated the bulkheads so that I could top them with pine and lights, too. However, none of this outshines the cherished traditions we have established over the years with our two daughters.
They both spend Christmas Eve at our house where we have a very simple supper of their favorite potato soup and go to the candlelight service at our church where my younger daughter currently serves as associate pastor. Afterwards we hurry home to snuggle into new Christmas pajamas and gather to drink eggnog and eat cookies by the fire. Finally, as midnight nears the final presents are tucked under the tree. The stockings are stuffed in bedrooms amid much secrecy. The Night Before Christmas is read (Remember I’m a children’s librarian and some traditions are sacred!) and then we’re off to bed. Sometime during the night the stockings are smuggled stealthily into our upstairs living room and hung on the mantel in the dark amid giggles and an occasional stubbed toe!
On Christmas morning, we share a breakfast of scrambled eggs, orange slices, and sweet bread topped with my mother’s traditional orange butter. Afterwards, we take giant mugs of tea or coffee, festooned with snowmen, angels, or reindeer and retire to the family room. We sit around the tree, aglow with lights and savor the unwrapping of each gift. The pace is different now. Gone are the days when two little girls rushed down the stairs to tear open their presents but Christmas is no less sweet.
We take our time enjoying each other’s company, trying on new hats and scarves and taking goofy pictures that will make us smile for years to come. When the gifts are open we put out an array of snacks on the kitchen island and work together to put casseroles in the oven for Christmas dinner. We set the table with our Night Before Christmas plates and use my grandma’s beautiful sterling silverware. We light the candles and talk over dinner, wishing the day wouldn’t end. But it does. The girls pack up their gifts, their boxes, and bags and say goodnight among hugs and usually a few happy/sad tears on my part.
I don’t know how long we can continue this cherished celebration. Eventually, distance or marriage may cause this pattern to readjust but we’re experts now at doing that. As toddlers grew into teenagers and finally into career women, our Christmas celebration changed too. The huge, extended family gatherings are gone as loved ones have passed on and siblings have moved away. Our pace is different now. The emphasis is simply on being together, setting aside this one day to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Saviour as a family and holding onto as many traditions as we can for as long as life allows us. Merry Christmas!