It has been so wonderful hearing from so many authors over the last few weeks about their Holiday memories, traditions and stories. I've gotten some great ideas about things to add to my holiday repertoire and have been reminded again and again about the true meaning of the season. After hearing from so many others, I thought today that I should share, as the hostess of this Open House, some of my own Christmas traditions. My mother is the Queen of Christmas and so many of the traditions I'm going to enumerate here come from her. I am so thankful for the care and work she put into our Christmases growing up - they were just perfect - and I strive to uphold her thoughful and just-right preparations and touches with my own family. Note: I wrote this post on Christmas Eve but then was overcome with preparations (cooking) and so am posting it now, on Christmas night, with some accompanying photos. All went according to the below plan, today's observations are in italics.
Like Adriana Trigiani and Katrina Kittle, the decorating for me is key. I have more boxes of ornaments and decorations (and have for years) than really makes sense and they're filled with treasures that I love. My mantlepiece is adorned with Shiny Brite houses, greenery, lights and brass stocking holders. I have a special fondness for snowmen, so there is a disprportionate number of them on my tree as well. A snowman garland is hung over the entry to the dining room, and a retro snowman candleabra sits atop the television. Carolers sit on top the china cabinet in the dining room, along with a ceramic Christmas tree that reminds me of the one my mother has.
There are mountains of presents underneath the tree already and tonight, after a dinner of lasagna and a candlelight service at church, we'll come home and the kids will each open one present -- new jammies that they'll immediately put on in the living room. Then they'll hang their stockings and leave cookies and eggnog for Santa. We have a split household of believers and non believers (having a 1 yo, 3 yo, 14 yo and 17 yo), so we'll get the little ones to bed and shoo the older ones away so that Daddy and I can stuff their stockings. We then haul out the "Santa" presents. These are unwrapped and go in front of the tree, each kid has a little section and pile of their own. My mother told me when I was older how difficult it was to determine which presents would be the Santa ones and I could never understand -- it seemed easy, they're presents you don't have to wrap! But now that I'm constructing the scene myself, I completely understand, and it's especially hard to determine Santa presents for the older girls. For the younger ones it will be dollies and trucks and toys that they''ll dive upon as they enter the living room.
And as for that -- we have a strict rule on Christmas morning. No one can go downstairs until we all go down. Daddy or I go down to turn on the heat, set out the coffee cake and the coffee, while the children wait impatiently at the top of the stairs. I love their faces as they come down the stairs, the anticipation is palpable. Upon entering the living room, chaos rules as they each claim their territory in front of the tree and unwrap to their hearts content. At some point Daddy is called up to tackle packaging, insert batteries, and generally get things to go. My husband and I will end up with a pile of gifts still to open, as we spend so much time observing others. This is another thing I never understood growing up, why my parents didn't open as feverishly as we did. Now, of course I understand completely the joy of watching your child's face as they open something they love. (and thus, on this Christmas night, our stockings are still hanging and we've yet to dive into them).
A Christmas quirk of mine is that I hate sunny Christmases. I think it stems partly from my desire for it to be snowing on Christmas. Also, I feel the day is so amazing anyway that sun always seems like overkill to me. (I may be partly English in this respect, as in general, I prefer an overcast day to a sunny one). So, because of this, in case of sun, I require the curtains in the living room be shut. This leads to low-level irritation on my husband's part that we don't have enough light for the photos. Luckily this Christmas turned out to have just the lack of light I require outside, so I did relent and allow the curtains to be opened at some point in the afternoon.
After the unwrapping (which goes so quickly!) we clean up and loll about, the kids playing with all their new treasures. At some point I'll haul myself to the kitchen to start cooking - butternut squash, mashed potatoes, turkey, cornbread stuffing (ok, I'm making that today). My in laws will bring the traditional Puerto Rican pernil and Spanish rice. At dinner we'll open Christmas crackers - a tradition that began after my sister and I each studied in England in college. We'll put on our crowns and tell each other the silly jokes and fortunes that come inside the crackers. My favorite part of the day, or maybe my second favorite, is the late afternoon or evening when there is nothing that I HAVE to do. We'll probably be visited by relatives at some point and do some catching up, munch on cookies, drink wine, enjoy some Stilton Watercress spread and, at some point, Skype with my parents in NH.
I hope that everyone had a very, very Merry Christmas!