This week, I’m focused on preparing for Christmas. While the month of December is always brimming with parties, events, and completing to-do lists, this time of year is so special, that I try hard to never get overwhelmed with lists upon lists (which creates stress upon stress…).
Instead I’m focused on making my house a cozy home for the holidays; one that warmly welcomes everyone through our door, by decorating, hanging wreaths, and “trimming trees”. My principals are: keep it simple, stay elegant, be festive. Pick a colour scheme, fresh greenery, add a couple decorative items (I love red!), and call it a day (…less is always more!).
That said, while I love giving my house a cozy feel, what’s most important are the traditions I share with family and friends that come to life every December. As I reflect on that, I’ve come to realize that for many of us, things have begun to change with traditions we’ve practiced for many years. We have adult children who may have significant others or are married (we now have to “share” them), some even have grandchildren, which brings a whole new level of celebration! And sadly, some have lost loved ones that use to make the holiday traditions so special. Having said all that, cherishing memories of old and accepting the “new” is just as special and important. Today, I’m sharing some of my family’s traditions in hopes that it revitalizes your special traditions too.
- Christmas Movies: Every year, we participate in the comedic relief of National Lampoons Christmas Vacation – a Chevy Chase classic. Our annual family movie watching is scheduled for this weekend!
- Christmas Music: Yes, we are that family that starts Christmas carols all day long as of December 1, straight through to New Years…
- Reading Christmas stories: Through the holidays, I always flip through Christmas books I used to enjoy reading to my children. One of my favourites is a compilation of short stories given to me by one of my best girlfriends I shared the stage of raising young children with. We celebrated many Christmas seasons with their family, and reading it reminds me of that.
- Gingerbread Houses: We usually participate in gingerbread house contests with another family. This year, we will do so in spirit as our family friends recently moved away – so perhaps a family FaceTime call will take its place this year. There is always room for new traditions with loved ones.
- The Nutcracker Ballet: Since Paige performed in a scene of the Nutcracker (when she was 10 years old), it’s been a tradition for her and I to grab dinner and attend the beautiful annual ballet performance.
- Ukrainian Christmas Eve Dinner: December 24 is my family’s time to celebrate Ukrainian heritage. We always enjoy dinner together over traditional, meatless Ukrainian dishes (yes, we indulge in perogies, cabbage rolls, and my Dad’s homemade borscht!). Post dinner is always capped off with a plate of my Mom’s traditional dainties.
- Pyjamas: Perhaps out of necessity following Ukrainian dinner, Christmas Eve always ends with my family opening one gift – new pyjamas. It’s a cozy, comforting, and joyful time where (especially as my “kids” get older) I cherish the moments we still have as a “unit of four”.
- Christmas Day Carols and Games: Dinner on December 25 is time with Michael’s family. It ends with my father-in-law leading us through a few carols before we leave the table, followed by (the highlight of the evening) games my sister-in-law has planned. It’s always a treat to laugh until our stomachs hurt, while enjoying the sheer happiness and creative spirit of my mother-in-law’s participation!
Lastly, we keep it simple. This is a value my family holds dear during the holidays, and we do this to focus less on “things” and more on bringing joy to others. Instead of giving gifts in our extended family, we choose a charity each year to donate to. We’re privileged to enjoy good health, opportunity, and happiness….so especially at this time of year, we prefer to give joy and opportunity to others.
Take the time to make your house a home this Christmas, cherish your traditions or make new ones, and share the joy with others. Why? Because it’s about making memories while you can, and sharing them with others.
Photos – Casey Nolin Photography
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