Christmas is fast approaching and i couldn't be more excited.
I've been thinking a lot lately about what i love most about Christmas (there's a LOT), and what makes Christmas special to me.
For me, and i'm sure for many others, it's all about the traditions. Something about doing the same things over again is comforting and cozying (yes, that is a word - true story!).
Here's a few of the things my family has done over the years and a few things that i've started to do on my own:
1) Getting a real Christmas tree and cutting it down ourselves.
Ever since i can remember (probably from about the time that i could walk) my family has gone out to a tree farm and cut down our own tree. The group consisted of my parents and sister, my 2 cousins and their parents. It was always so much fun and we continued this every year until i graduated university. Venturing out into a field of trees covered with snow, searching for the perfect Christmas tree and then cutting it down ourselves and dragging it back to the car was the start of the Christmas season in our house. My dad always had my sister and i cut it down ourselves and often we'd have to drag it back too. We'd always enjoy hot chocolate afterwards and then pile back in the cars covered with sap and snow for the ride back home.
I haven't gone to cut down a tree in a while (probably since moving permanently to Ottawa) but Mat and i do buy a real tree every year. The glorious smell of a beautiful, fresh pine tree in the house is more than worth the expense of buying a fresh tree every year. I hope that when Mat and i have kids that we'll pick up my family's tradition of going out and cutting down our own tree.
2) Decorating the house, inside and out.
Growing up, my mom would literally deck the halls and nearly every other room in the house for Christmas. It was beautiful and i always looked forward to when she pulled out the Christmas decorations and hung garland from the banister and mantle. My dad on the other hand always put up lights on the outside of our house and on our front trees. Not one year went by that we didn't have lights, and i remember one year it was Christmas Eve and my dad hadn't gotten around to putting up the lights. It was literally CHRISTMAS EVE around 10 pm and he said - "Roj (that's what my dad calls me) c'mon - let's go put up the lights" (no he was not intoxicated in anyway...) Of course being a teenager, i whined and told him it was too late, but he insisted and there we were until about midnight in the snow and the cold hanging lights outside our house.
Mat and i both love decorating for the holidays, and just like my parents, i tackle the inside of the house and Mat takes on the outside. Each year we buy more and more lights as our own front trees get bigger and bigger. I love the way the house looks when it's decorated for Christmas, and it's always a little hard to take them down in the new year.
3. Giving and receiving Christmas cards.
Another one of my favourite parts of Christmas is checking the mailbox for new Christmas cards throughout the month of December. Since moving to Ottawa, i have sent Christmas cards to friends and family and have been receiving them in return. I proudly hang them over the dining room doorway (just as my mom did) and they become part of the decor.
My dad's side of the family is Polish (as is Mat's mom's side) which means that we celebrate Christmas Eve with a feast. The FOOD is what i look forward to the most - perogies, borscht, kapusta and cabbage rolls (i always pass on the fish...) are just some of the delicacies that we enjoy. Some of the food on my mom's side of the family include Christmas pudding with hard sauce and lemon brandy sauce, shortbread (oh, i eat her shortbread all day everyday that i'm "home" for Christmas - breakfast, lunch and dinner), Fruit cake with marzipan, rum balls and so much more. If i don't get at least a taste of each of these things, it just wouldn't be Christmas.
5. Potluck dinner with friends
Back when i lived in Oshawa, my group of friends would host a Christmas potluck dinner (they still do host it every year). We would pick one night before Christmas where we would gather at someone's house and each of us would bring a dish to share. I so loved those dinners, and i still try to go if i'm in town when they're being held. Even though i miss my friends at home during Christmas, i've started a "Friends Potluck" here in Ottawa. It's the same principal where i invite my co-worker friends over for a potluck and gift exchange. We all cram into our house and drink and eat and laugh. Warms my heart, and i look forward to it every year.
6. Watching National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.
'Nuff said - wouldn't be Christmas without watching this movie.
7. Recent Christmas Traditions:
I'm always eager to add new traditions to my Christmas celebration, and a couple of ones that we've added recently include:
*Secret Santa. Both sides of my family are big (siblings, nieces and nephews, cousins), so with each of them we've started having secret santas so that we only need to buy for one person each year. I find this works really well because it relieves a lot of the financial pressures of the season, and is another tradition we've added to the mix.
*New P.J.s. This is something that my sister and i started with each other. Many families do this, but we thought it would be nice for us to have new p.j.s to wear on Christmas morning. We exchange these on Christmas Eve with each other.
*Christmas tree ornament. I've tried to acquire at least one beautiful ornament for my Christmas tree each year, and then my sister and i decided that we would start our own tradition of buying each other a new ornament each year. I think this started because we realized that as we decorated our own Christmas trees (in our separate cities) that we missed having the ones from our childhood that held so many memories. We wanted to create new memories and decided we would do this for each other. This too is one of my favourite parts of Christmas.
*Drinking champagne while decorating the tree. This isn't a tradition - yet. I heard of someone who does this, and i want to make it one of my own traditions. I love decorating the Christmas tree, and think it would be that much more special if we popped a small bottle of champagne and took our time hanging ornaments on each bough. 2010 will be the first year of many for this new tradition.
Even though my family has quite a few traditions, i'm always eager to add more to the list. What are some of the things that your family does and which are your favourite?