Last Christmas of My Forties…

A friend recently pointed out that this would be the last Christmas of my forties. She suggested that I contemplate the season from that perspective, then write about it. So, here goes…

snowman angel

an unexpected Christmas Angel...

Looking back, I realize the most important thing about the holidays to me, is time spent with people. I enjoy gathering my own kids and doing special activities. I like spending time with friends in holiday settings—having coffee, window-shopping, attending a party together, worshipping and singing carols together in church. This year, with “only” two kids home with us, some of this togetherness had to be done via email and phone conversations. A trip back east for Thanksgiving also provided opportunities for spending time with family and friends.

okc light display

Traditional family outing to a wonderland of lights...

Our family has a zillion “traditions.” I’m not sure how many of these are significant to my kids, and I know my husband doesn’t much enjoy the holiday season (although he just might miss some of these activities if we didn’t do them…), but I know that I find comfort and pleasure in some things staying the same, even while so many things change from year to year.

sleeping anna

children tucked all snug in their beds...

Jakob and Anna found little treats in their (wicker) shoes (a gift from my sister from when she lived in Croatia) on St. Nicholas Day. Jakob was sad that we were in a hotel this year so he couldn’t set a trap for Santa Claus (a tradition started by his older brother Rob). Oh well, there’s always next year! I baked a zillion cookies, and I sewed at least some of the gifts for the kids.

mamas gifts

Sewing on Christmas Eve...a long-standing tradition!

Jakob and Anna made gifts for each other, for their cousins, and for their Dad. They opened one package on Christmas Eve – pajamas, of course! And then I forced them to stand beside their trees and have their picture taken. We didn’t have a family tree and it was only two of them this year…but the basic tradition of photo-of-kids-by-the-tree-in-their-new-pjs-on-Christmas-Eve was still upheld.

photo by the tree

Kids in pjs by the christmas tree--another tradition!

So that we could keep the traditions that have developed within our family for Christmas Day, we chose to celebrate on December 24th this year. (We spent the day at a church activity on the 25th.) Kids have to stay in bed until 9 am – but they find a wrapped book-on-the-bed when they wake up, to hopefully keep them occupied until they are allowed to come out of their rooms. We have stocking time, and breakfast, and gift opening. Then everyone enjoys their new toys and books and other gifts throughout the afternoon. Randy usually takes a nap. At some point, the older kids get bored and a card game is eventually started. Jakob and Anna used that boredom-buster technique on Christmas Eve this year.

dealing cards

card game among kids--traditional boredom buster!

And the food, the lovely Christmas spread… No, we don’t have a formal dinner, with dressy clothes, and seven courses. We go the other direction—total informality, day-long snacking, and “fancy” finger foods I don’t fix other times of year: crackers and cream cheese/shrimp/cocktail sauce spread, veggies and dip, broccoli salad, a shrimp ring, and lots and lots of cookies. And don’t forget all the candy in the stockings! There was an advantage to having only four of us celebrating together this year—I bought an entire pint of eggnog for EACH of us! What luxury!

christmas dinner

Christmas dinner---all day snacking!

Decorations change from year to year. I think I would get bored if they looked the same every year! And yet, some things are “always” part of the decorating: we string lights in individual windows. If teens feel up to it, we have outdoor lights on the house as well. (Thanks, Jakob, for this year’s glow!)

christmas lights

house all aglow...

Garland drapes over doors or windows. Stockings are hung early as decoration. And we always set up the nativity set I bought years ago. Kids build the scene, so the specific setting changes each year. This year, we added a Navajo hogan and weaving frame to our set. The little “Celia” spinner and a shepherd looked great in that corner.

nativity set

Our Nativity Set...in navajoland this year!

There have been some significant changes to our celebrations since our son James died 3 ½ years ago. We haven’t yet put up a full Christmas tree with everyone’s ornaments on it—what would we do with James’ collection of ornaments? The first year without him there was comfort in being scattered across the world (Ohio, Colorado, and Africa) for the holidays—it felt as if he just might be celebrating with one of the other family groups. We have had two years back together again. This year was the first time of making an effort to gather each summer rather than at Christmas. There are job-related reasons for this decision and hopes to make it easier to deal with (eventual) in-laws. But it also makes it a little less painful to celebrate the holidays without a gaping James-sized-hole in what “should” be a family centered Christmas.

stockings were hung

stockings were hung...with a bright bouquet in James' stocking...

This year was also different because it was the first time in many years that I hadn’t planned a full calendar of activities, studies, projects, and crafts as we home-schooled our way up to Christmas. On the one hand, there was less running and less stress. On the other hand, I confess I was a little bored. I guess next year I will try to find a balance between the two extremes.

The last Christmas of my forties? It was a good one. And I’m looking forward to many more enjoyable holiday seasons in the years to come…

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. marginalnotes2
    Dec 27, 2011 @ 15:45:20

    Jill, my computer is not cooperating as I try to leave you a note. I absolutely loved your blog. I signed up for a space on WordPress as well. My username is marginalnotes2. You have left your kids with swo many traditions to remember. This Christmas gives me hope for next Christmas in my personal life. Christmas comes every year, but with it come the changes and reflections of what has happened during the year since the previous Christmas. I hope to have a blog up this week………….have no idea what I shall write about, but I am sure there are times you have suddenly been inspired about somethig special. Thank you for sharing your blogs with me.

    Reply

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