This Christmas season has taken on a whole new excitement as our first daughter is now 3 and is learning about and embracing the holiday. She's been so excited about Christmas and Santa, that the magic of Christmas has returned for Alex and I as well. Seeing as this will be her first "aware" Christmas, we have been thinking a lot about what kind of traditions we want to have as a family. We've drawn from our family traditions, and from experiences in our lives to start new and old traditions for our children.
Thanks to my mother for this first of traditions. She built and gifted us with this nativity advent calendar. Little M has looked forward to moving the star down one notch every day, knowing that when the star got to the stable that Christmas would be here.
Another form of advent I adopted from my mission in the Czech Republic. They have 4 candles that they begin lighting the 4th Sunday before Christmas; adding one new candle each week until the Sunday before Christmas all 4 candles are lit. These little snowmen decorate my advent candles. (The floating candles in the center are just for fun.)
Another inspiration I took from my mission: The entire month of December, the Czech people fill their homes with many different kinds of little Christmas cookies (cukrovi), so that they always have a spread to offer guests who come to their home. I found myself wanting to bake when December rolled around this year. I made 3 different recipes from my mission and many other candy and cookie recipes I've collected over the years. Three Christmas "must makes" came from memories of my Christmases of old. Homemade almond roca and fudge were always to be found in our home at Christmas time. As was wassail brewing on the stove Although not a cookie or candy, this spiced cider just smells like Christmas to me. However before long, I found my home this year STUFFED with sweets, and I'm afraid we Americans don't just go visiting as much as they do in the Czech Republic; so I assembled several plates of treats to give away to families we know. Little M had fun delivering them and wishing everyone Merry Christmas!
We found ourselves the subject of another family's tradition this year. We have a secret Santa that anonymously delivered a piece of this adorable nativity set each night for the 12 nights preceding Christmas, accompanied by a story or song about each piece. Tonight we received the last, and most important piece: the baby Jesus.
Tonight, after it got dark we drove around the neighborhoods, looking at Christmas lights then came home to our Christmas eve dinner of fish and rice. (In typing this I realized that it was a serendipitous choice of meal, as fish (carp to be specific) is the traditional Christmas eve dinner in the Czech Republic. It's representative of Christ and his apostles being "fishers of men" or something like that I think. They have live carp sellers in the street there like Christmas tree lots here. I think we'll make that a tradition too. Fish for Christmas Eve, Turkey for Christmas Day.
After dinner we opened one gift from under the tree; the Christmas pajamas to be specific. I've heard of families that have this tradition, and I've always liked it. This year the jammies of choice were Tinkerbell themed. Except for Alex. I tried to find him green pj's to just match the color of Tinkerbell. All I could find were X-Box pajama pants. Oh well, it's probably appropriate for such an avid gamer as he is anyway. Here's me and my girls in our Tinkerbell jammies:
After changing into our jammies, we made some hot cocoa and in keeping with the old family tradition on both sides of our families, we read Luke 2 together and talked about the real meaning of Christmas.
Then we helped little M set out some milk and banana bread for Santa before putting her to bed. (We had a lot of old bananas around the house this week, so that's what Santa gets this year.)
Christmas day traditions I'll be keeping from my parents: an orange in the toe of the stocking and a mini box of cereal for a tide over breakfast in the stocking. And we'll be opening presents one at a time as a family. And after the craziness is over I'll make cinnamon rolls (my sister-in-law's tradition; only she makes hers fresh, and I'll be doing them from a can).
Yes, I know it seems like a lot, but I figure, as the years go by some will stick and some won't and we'll probably add a few new ones along the way. In any case, we wish you all a very Merry Christmas!