Als ich wisse das Morgen der Erde enden wuerde, immernoch wurd ich mein Apfelbaum pflanzen.

Even if I knew the world would perish tomorrow, I would still plant my apple tree. - Martin Luther

"Factory work's easier on the back, and I don't mind it, understand, but a man becomes what he does. Got to watch that. That's why I keep at farmin' although the crops haven't ever throve. It's the doin' that's important." Madison Wheeler in Blue Highways by William Least Heat Moon

Sunday, December 2, 2012


What I think of as the tedious (and sometimes stressful) aspects of getting ready for Christmas are 95 %  finished - Christmas cards, house decorating, present buying and wrapping.  This means I can really spend the next three weeks just focusing on spending time with my family, and spending time reflecting on the reason for the season. 
We have a lot of holiday traditions.  Some of them were imported from my own childhood, but many of them have been created by our family.  Every year we seem to add new ones.  I remember having great difficulty waiting for Christmas as a child.  It felt like Christmas would never get here.  Some of our traditions help the kids wait.  Some of the traditions help us all anticipate.
A new tradition this year was to decorate  and really clean the inside of the house before Thanksgiving.  In previous years I'd resisted having the decorations up so early, but I'm really enjoying having them up already.
We also started making cookies much earlier this year.  We give a lot of cookies as gifts, and we never seem to be able to limit ourselves to making just one or two kinds - so in years past we've had major cookie baking marathons which were fun when they started, but frustrating and exhausting by the time they were over.  I've really enjoyed the time the kids and I have spent in the kitchen this year - this is partly because the kids are older, and partly because we're only doing two varieties as a time.
My parents will be down this year for Christmas Day - this has inspired me to make a traditional Dickens type Christmas Day meal (the plum pudding is steaming as I write).  I'll let you know how that turns out.

Holidays and Holy Days

St. Nick's Day

My Aunt Joyce started celebrating St. Nick's Day with my sister and I when we were tiny.  My mother then continued the tradition - although she calls it Mrs. St. Nick's day.  Mrs St. Nick even found her way to my college dorm room via a room mate.  Now that's love.  At our house, on the Friday night closest to St. Nicholas day, the kids put out their shoes and load them up with apples and carrots.  I then put small treats and a few new Christmas books in their boots for them to find in the morning.  This year one of the treats was an advent calendar with chocolate and a scripture reading for each day in December leading up to Christmas.


Starting on the first Sunday in Advent we light an advent candle, and do an Advent reading.  We all enjoy having this devotional time together, and love the anticipation built when moving to the next new candle.
This year we're also adding a new tradition.  We'll be creating a Jesse Tree (making ornaments and reading a short daily Jesse Tree poem).
The base was created out of a pine round; the greens are rosemary, sage and lavender.


We have no Jewish roots, but like to expose the kids to other faiths.  Hannukah is a natural fit.  We'll make latkes, play dreidel for chocolate gelt, read Hannukah books and light a small mennorah. 

 Santa Lucia Day

We're adding a new tradition this year.  On December 13th we'll have gingerbread for breakfast and welcome back the light - I think we'll skip the crown of candles.  Firemarshal Farmer Dan would have a heart attack.
Here's a great link for information and ideas for both St. Nicholas and Santa Lucia Day.

Also, on December 13th, and continuing until the 24th, we'll open one present from our stockings.  The presents have riddles on them about the content of the package.  Some of the presents are coupons for family activities - like a lantern tour of our local living history museum, a holiday concert, a holiday movie night, and maybe - if we get snow - an early season night on the slopes.

Next weekend we'll head to my parent's farm to bake a traditional Slovak cookie - Roshke.   My 89 year old grandmother is still able to bake with us.  I've been making these cookies with her since I was a little girl.  Now I'm the main baker, and she's the helper, but she still gives me instructions the whole time.  While we're there Farmer Dan will also help me cut the tree we tagged at Thanksgiving, then we'll tie it on top the roof and bring it home to Virginia.

Our tree is decorated with ornaments bought on our travels.  We always decorate it together, and enjoy remembering with each other.

Later that week the kids and I will take the extra greens, and some holly branches (also from the farm) and we'll decorate the outside.  I usually also manage to make a fresh green wreath.  Wreath making is something I learned from my dad - just one more tradition.

Once the tree is up we'll light the candles, light the tree and sing carols.  It's one way to ensure that we enjoy the tree, and it's another way to spend time together.

Christmas celebrations won't end on the 25th either.  We'll mark the next two weeks celebrating with friends and family.  This year we hope to have a 12th night celebration (the night before Epiphany) to sing our last carols, eat the last of the cookies and drink the last of the eggnog. 

I'm sure some people will look at this list and think I'm insane - all of these traditions make for a really busy December.  It's true - it does make the month busy.  But somehow, it doesn't feel busy or stressful.  We do most of these traditions together.  We build memories and forge bonds with our traditions.  Christmas reminds me how blessed I am.  This is probably the last post I'll put up for a while.  I'm going to be too busy making memories.
White Chocolate Cranberry Oatmeal and Peppermint Chocolate Pinwheels

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