Since my daughter was born, we’ve given even more thought to the kinds of rituals and traditions we want to bring into our lives. Some, like the huge Italian Christmas Eve dinner, the new Christmas ornament that tells a story about the past year, the Advent wreath and calendar, and celebrating a second Christmas with dear relatives who live further away, are traditions from both sides of her family that we are all keeping alive. Some we’ve established more recently: we decorate our tree and have grandparents over to join us; we go to morning Mass on Christmas Day and have brunch, just the three of us; we bake cookies for Santa and read The Grinch Who Stole Christmas on December 23rd.
(As an aside, what are your favorite gluten-free Christmas cookies, with bonus points for simple recipes and prep times? We want something that can stand the test of time and be a regular staple of Christmas Eve….)
Some, we’re weaving in this year, and hope to make them permanent traditions. A friend of ours has her children receive three gifts Christmas morning, to honor the gifts the Wise Men brought baby Jesus, and to focus on reverence and love on Christmas, not an avalanche of presents, and we love this idea. (Getting three gifts can be categorical, too—for example, if my daughter asked for books, she would get more than one, but books would be one of the three gifts.)
We check out new Christmas-themed books from the library each week of Advent, some that are appropriately religious for a two-year-old, and some that are a bit more secular, too. (She asked me the other day what God loves and why, so the wheels are turning.) We’re going to dinner as a family on December 23rd , before we come home and make cookies, just to stop and spend time as our little family unit before all the festivities begin, and hopefully that will be a regular thing, too, especially as she gets older and life gets even more busy and complicated.
Without being totally conscious of it, we’ve been moving toward an ongoing celebration of Christmas and family, rather than just the day itself. There is so much going on right now as we wait for my father’s possible transplant that for all of us, simplicity and quality time are more important than ever. It is an emotional process, watching my father’s physical decline every day, while balancing the sadness and fear with hope and optimism that he will get a transplant and have a successful outcome. The food will be delicious and the kids will all love their presents, but really, it doesn’t matter what we end up eating, wearing, or unwrapping. I just want a few minutes of joy—for my father, for all of us.
What are your hopes for this holiday season? What traditions are your favorites? Are you doing anything new or different this year?