Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

I was reading my friend Melissa's blog yesterday, and she was talking about Christmas traditions--which got me thinking. I really love the holiday season, and it has been an interesting process the last two years figuring out what traditions from my childhood to bring into our new family, and what traditions we would like to start. Randy and I were fortunate enough to go see the First Presidency Christmas Devotional two Sundays ago, and our favorite parts were when President Eyring spoke about the Christmas tradition of a Christmas play at their house, and President Uchtdorf's memories about Christmas traditions in Germany. On the way home Randy and I talked about our favorite Christmas traditions in our house, and the differences between Christmases in a big family (he is one of eight) verses a small one (only child). Last year he got to experience Christmas at my house: this year it is my turn to see the other side of the coin. Growing up, Randy's favorite tradition was the annual enactment of the Christmas story, inevitably showcasing his mom as the donkey in the stable (Darlene, you were such a good sport!). We never had adequate cast numbers to act out the story, but we always read the story out of the bible as we sat around the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve. Christmas at my house started the day after Thanksgiving, when we would bundle up (which most often meant rain gear--I am from Western Oregon, so who are we kidding) and trek out into the "woods" (aka a Christmas tree farm) and find the perfect tree. The rest of the day would be spent decorating the tree and the house, eating leftover delights from the feast the day previous, and listening to all our favorite Christmas music. By the way, favorite Christmas song ever: Santa Baby performed by Eartha Kitt. Feed me enough Christmas cookies and cranberry punch late at night and you'll get a performance. That night if it wasn't too late by the time the house was completely decked out, we might watch "It's a Wonderful Life." Cheesy Hallmark Christmas movies were a big tradition this time of year for my family--the more ridiculous the better. My mom has a top secret cranberry punch recipe she has handed down with an oath of secrecy (seriously, I think I would be disowned if I gave it away) that we drink all season--it's our family's wassail. We always have a ton of the most delicious chex mix, and assorted Christmas treats my mom has baked to give away to friends as gifts. Christmas day begins when my dad--I mean Santa--rings the sleigh bells hanging from our front door, and then we go out to the beautifully lit tree with presents from Santa magically there. Before we open our gifts we read Christmas letters that we wrote to each other and placed in each others stockings, which always brings a nice spirit into the gift giving. Then there was present opening, and general merryment. Later that day we would have a Christmas feast, prepared by my parents who are amazing cooks (it is a miracle I'm not like 500 pounds). The Christmas season would pretty much end for us at New Years, when my dad would finally insist we take the tree down.

As Randy and I have started our own family, there is inevitable give and take with traditions. The cheesy Christmas movies are out (Randy just couldn't handle the really poor quality cinema. Plus there weren't enough explosions or car chases) but he has been good enough to keep watching "It's a Wonderful Life" and usually I can wheedle an evening of "White Christmas" out of him once a season. The tree goes up the day after Thanksgiving, along with the decorations still, and having been entrusted with the secret we sip on punch all season. The Christmas feasting is a little different now that I'm Vegan. I have decided that in place of the American turkey on Christmas night I will make traditional Mexican tamales, which I learned how to make from a lady on my mission--which is what hispanic families eat on special holidays like Christmas. In honor of our scandinavian heritage sometime during the season we have special rice pudding for desert, with an almond hidden in someone's portion. Be lucky enough to get the almond and you get a prize. This year I am starting a tradition of celebrating the 12 days of Christmas--British style, the 12 days following Christmas leading up to Epipheny, Jan. 6, when many Christians celebrate the arrival of the wise men to worship the baby Jesus. So my decorations will come down the 6th instead of New Years, and I'll have a special treat every day for those 12 days. I'll let you know in future blogs how this new tradition plays out.

With the arrival of our precious little Wesley, it is fun to look forward to all the years of traditions with him. It will be interesting to see the things that he likes to do at Christmas, and how he makes this season all the more exciting. Little kids at Christmas are the best--that excitement and joy are contagious, and I can't wait until Wesley has enough awareness to celebrate the season with us. This year he is our little stocking stuffer, and really he is all the Christmas present I wanted this holiday.

I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday season, filled with the best traditions and memories.

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