The most wonderful time of the year has officially begun. All the decorating and partying, baking and eating, shopping and giving starts in full force today.
I must admit that I’m feeling a little intimidated. This year, I’m working outside my cozy house for the first time since 2005, and I haven’t quite figured out how to create Christmas magic with a limited amount of free time.
In evaluating what kind of Christmas cheer I can deliver for my little family, I’ve been thinking about what makes Christmastime so special. Which traditions are nonnegotiable?
While considering our plans for the next four weeks, I asked a few friends to share their own favorite traditions.
Liz and her mom exchange ornaments every year:
“We each purchase one ornament for each other at Christmas. We try to find one that reminds us of a special memory we shared that year. I love decorating my tree and hanging the ornaments my mom gave me. It’s like a walk down memory lane.”
Zita, her husband and their two daughters hop in the backyard hot tub in the afternoon on Dec. 24:
“Andy and I have a glass of Champagne, and the girls make cranberry sparklers (cranberry juice and Sprite). We talk about the best and worst parts of the past year. Where we want to go on vacation the next year. It’s a great way to catch up after all of the holiday rush. And, we get to spend some time just the four of us before all of our assorted family arrive for Christmas Eve dinner.”
Angie’s most treasured tradition is attending her church’s Christmas Eve candlelight service:
“Being surrounded by my family, friends and the very strong presence of Christ is the best part of the season for me! I love the music, the familiar message, the beauty of the sanctuary decorated with poinsettias, candles and nativities. All of it is very spiritual and uplifting. Definitely that one hour is the best time of the holiday season for me.”
Kerith chooses a special ornament for each family member:
“Each person receives an ornament that represents an activity or event in his or her life that year. The ornament is wrapped, and the receiver has to guess what is inside based on three clues taken from Bible verses. Our tree is graced with a gymnast, a basketball player, the Eiffel Tower representing a trip to France, a dump truck for Josh’s second Christmas when he loved trucks, a tooth fairy sitting on a big resin tooth representing one of the girls’ first teeth falling out, and many others.”
Heather and her son kick off the season with a movie:
“On Dec. 1, Greyson and I make hot chocolate, snuggle on the couch and watch the movie Elf.”
Janet keeps alive traditions from her own childhood. She and her family attend Christmas Eve service, eat cold shrimp as the main course for dinner that night and open gifts one at a time on Christmas morning:
“We all get to see the look of joy on each recipient’s face as they open their presents.”
Jeanne, a transplanted Yankee, insists on a live Christmas tree:
“Every year since about 1996, the family has headed over to East Texas or up to Denison to chop down our tree. We ride in a hay wagon out to the field of trees. We laugh and giggle as we discuss and argue about which tree is the best for us. Meagan helps Joe saw the tree at the base and then tip it over, saying, ‘Timber!’ Our family tells hilarious stories of prior 60-mile drives home with trees that were way too large for our car. The togetherness means so much to us all.”
At the center of Susan’s beloved traditions is family. She takes “a tour of West Texas” to spend a couple of days with each of her three brothers and their families. She spends a few days with her dad’s only living sister. And she remembers the love of her parents, who have both passed away:
“I remember once that Mama told me that she and Dad worried some years that we kids would be jealous of our cousins’ gifts since Mama and Daddy could only afford to get us each one gift those years. Through tears, I told her that I wished they hadn’t worried. We never knew that we were poor. We had love and family.”
Tyra Damm is a Briefing columnist. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.