Today kicks off the holiday season in full force for our family, with the annual preschool "end of year" caroling party. A potluck feast, this will be our third year attending (since we are on our second child in preschool). It is an exciting time for our children, especially since today is their last day of school before vacation. They are thrilled about the coming change in schedule, even though by Tuesday of next week they will be complaining about staying home and missing school. Our boys love school for its social aspects if nothing else.
Other coming rituals of the season include:
- Mailing Letters to Santa: These glorious homemade creations have already been produced and carefully sealed in their envelopes... our first ritual tomorrow will be the walk down to the mailbox with a stepstool so that each child can put them into the mail by him or herself
- Bringing home and decorating the Christmas tree: We wait longer than most because the weather has been especially warm here, with temperatures last weekend in the '80s... makes no sense to bring a tree home that will essentially be dry by Christmas
- Baking cookies and pies: Holiday favorites from my childhood which make their appearance at our table include cream cheese cookies, roll out and sprinkle cookies, almond crescents, pumpkin and apple pie. If I'm really feeling adventurous we may even try to make a version of my mother's famed Christmas morning coffeecake!
- Christmas Eve service and Chinese Food: Soon our sons will be big enough to participate in the annual pageant that our church puts on... looking forward to seeing them someday as little Wise Men or shepherds. We enjoy having a smaller family Christmas Eve celebration just among ourselves and getting ready for Santa
- Santa Arrives! The jolly old crimson-covered Elf manages to arrive at our house sometime between 10pm and 5:30am. This year my children want to leave him an actual meal complete with carrots and zucchini for the reindeer. I'm guessing that as long as Santa gets an ice cold beer from Stone Brewing Company, he'll be okay with vegetables
- Three Christmas Celebrations: Thanks to close and extended family in our city, we typically have three different holiday celebrations to enjoy. Some years they are all packed into one day but thankfully this year they will be spread across several days! This year our celebrations will include gag gifts, game playing and even seeing movies as an extended family
- Holiday parties: Who could say no? The more, the merrier!
These are just some of our own family rituals - variations on a popular theme. I love that every single family has their own holiday traditions ideally suited to their own faith, culture and value system. Some of our dearest friends have just completed their Hanukkah festivities which are every bit as precious to them as Christmas is to us. Others don't celebrate religious holidays at all but still manage to celebrate the coming of Winter and the warmth and joy of the season itself. All around the northern hemisphere stews and soups are bubbling on the hearth to greet the frost and chill of the coming months. I'm sure for many families the holiday ritual may even include digging the family car out of a snowbank.
For our friends in the southern hemisphere, this season may mean a lovely surf on Christmas morning or a hike through the steaming jungle to celebrate the New Year!
Whatever your own holiday rituals may be, there is real beauty in participating in a ceremonious occasion with the people we are tied to by blood, faith and love. Our family wishes you the happiest of holidays and would love to learn about your own holiday traditions.