As I sit in my recliner tapping away on my laptop sipping ice cold Coke Zero and munching on cheese straws, I let my mind wonder to the events of this past weekend spent with family and friends. With the sound of my little feathered friends chirping happily away at the feeders just outside my window, I soak in this moment in time and pause to thank God for the gift of another beautiful day! It is a cold, crisp December day. The sun shines brightly outside my windows, but I am not fooled. I know the bitter cold that will greet me when I step outside of my home, my safe haven, today. Although I am not a big fan of cold weather, I am a HUGE fan of the one that created it! Thank you, Heavenly Father, for all of Your wonderful blessings that You have sent to me and my family. Thank You for the gift of another glorious day to sing Your praises!
I have been in deep thought about the holiday traditions that my children will remember in their adult lives. Looking back, I want them to smile and fondly remember the times we gathered to decorate the Christmas tree. Our tradition is to begin with decorating for Christmas the day after Thanksgiving each and every year, although this year my husband was anxious to get into the Christmas spirit so we put the tree up the day before Thanksgiving! I am not one to rush the holidays along, as I was enjoying preparing for Thanksgiving. I am also not one to turn down a helping hand either, so we stepped outside of our tradition this year and put the tree up early! But, I want my children to look back with delight as they think of the times we put on Christmas music and danced around happily in the kitchen being as silly as we possibly could as we eventually made our way back to the tree to add another ornament. I want them to smile with delight as they think of all of the presents wrapped with love under the Christmas tree. I hope the twinkle in their eyes will still be there as they remember the Nutcrackers purchased just for them as they were both each in the Nutcracker Ballet production! Those were good times for us. Hectic times as we practiced from October to December for this performance, but wonderful times as we shared this tradition.
The Nutcracker is near and dear to our hearts for a couple of reasons. You see, my oldest daughter expressed an interest in ballet way back in 2001. At just four years old, we took her to see her very first Nutcracker Ballet. Her face clearly expressed all of the joys and wonders she was experiencing that day as she watched in amazement. This ballet production held the attention of our four year old throughout the entire performance! She was entranced, and from that moment on, ballet was a part of her. We enrolled her in ballet lessons in January of 2002. She worked hard throughout the year, and when that October rolled around, she auditioned and was accepted for two roles in the Nutcracker Ballet! She could hardly contain her excitement. Our evenings were filled with “silly time” which consisted of dancing around the living room with tutus and on our tippy toes, smiling, laughing, and attempting to fly through the air and land gracefully as we had seen the ballerinas twirl ever so lightly on their toes. Boy do they make it look a lot easier than it truly is! My darling daughter was looking forward to her roles in the Nutcracker when one day the teacher approached my husband and I asking if we would assist in “the party scene” in the opening act. Oh my! We had never been on stage before in our lives, so imagine the horror we felt with not only being asked to be on stage during this performance but also being asked to dance in “the party scene.” Our daughter’s eyes sparkled and shined when she learned that we would be joining her during this performance! It would truly be a family affair!
The weekend of the performance came, and we all dressed up in our finest costumes provided by the ballet company. With our hair fixed “just so” and our make up, too, we attempted to calm our nerves before we went out on stage. Since the Nutcracker truly ran all weekend long, it gave us a chance to become more comfortable with performing our little parts, which seemed grand to us at that point having never done this before, to overcoming our fear and actually enjoying ourselves tremendously by the very last showing. We were actually sad when the weekend came to an end!
My daughter continued on with ballet lessons for several more years. She was delighted to be a part of the Nutcracker for several more holiday seasons as well. Then after my youngest daughter was born and as she grew, she expressed a desire to participate as well. She got the chance she had been waiting for, and she, too, was a part of the Nutcracker ballet production! Those were good times!
I look back on this time in our lives and am thankful that once upon a time, the Nutcracker was a holiday tradition in our family! I have the pictures stored in an album to reflect back on any time I desire, and I have those memories tucked fondly away in my heart.
Another of our holiday traditions has been to see as many Christmas lights as we possibly can in our neighboring cities. We have traveled to see the lights along the coast, as well as traveling upstate to view their beautiful “Winter Wonderland” of lights. From enjoying hot chocolate around a fire roasting marsh mellows to decorating crafts and visits to sit on Santa’s lap, we try to pack in as much fun as we can during the month of December. It truly is the most wonderful time of the year!
There are plays in neighboring cities that churches put on for the public for free! We have attended several over the years, but one has become our all time favorite. This particular play tells the story of Jesus from His birth in a lowly manger, to being nailed to the old rugged cross, moving through His death, to His resurrection, and ultimately to when He ascended up to Heaven. We have seen this play several times now, and it touches our hearts and brings tears to our eyes each and every time. We have fond memories of our oldest daughter as a child running down to the end of the stage looking up at the character portraying Jesus. She had such delight in her eyes as she came back to exclaim that she had just seen Jesus! We later explained that he was portraying Jesus in this play, but this was not the real Jesus. However, it thrilled our hearts that our little girl truly knew who this man called Jesus was! Our youngest daughter had a very similar reaction when we took her when she was old enough to understand the meaning behind the play and the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior!
Another of our holiday traditions is, of course, baking holiday treats. My youngest daughter has a fascination with eggs and just HAS to be the one to crack open those eggs each and every time we bake. If she acts disinterested initially, all I have to ask is, “Who would like to crack the eggs?,” and she comes running with a huge smile on her face! I love baking goodies in the kitchen surrounded by my girls! This year we actually baked a spoon in our red velvet cake. Ha! My oldest daughter was mixing the batter when I noticed the spoon slip down and disappear into the batter. I mentioned this to her, assuming that she would take the spoon out. She assumed that since I mentioned it that I was going to be the one to take the spoon out. Much to our surprise, when we took the cake out of the oven for it to cool and then flipped the bunt pan over, we felt the cake as it stuck at the top on one side. As we lowered the pan to find out exactly why it stuck even though it was thoroughly greased prior to adding the batter … there it was … lo and behold, we noticed the shiny spoon sticking out from underneath the layers of cake. No wonder a piece stuck to the pan! Lucky for us that it did or we may not have discovered the spoon until our guests cut into the cake at dinner! Are you laughing yet? We certainly had the biggest laugh over that! Boy did we ever make memories with that one?! This is surely a memory that they will reflect back on later and laugh so hard until their sides hurt! I know I will!
This year, in addition to adding the new tradition of “spoon cake” (I’m kidding), we are adding an Elf On The Shelf as a new holiday tradition in our family! My youngest daughter has been begging all month long for an elf! She just “really, really, really, really, REALLY” wants an Elf On The Shelf. So … not wishing to disappoint our princess, we have purchased an elf … she came packed in a box with a delightful book to read along to our little one that tells all about the Elf On The Shelf. We purchased a girl elf, for obvious reason since we have two girls, and since she looks so close to the male elf with the exception of the lipstick she is wearing and the earrings, we purchased a tutu for our little girl elf to wear. We will let our daughter name her, of course, and then year after year we will enjoy the antics of our Elf On The Shelf. We have seen a lot of debate on this subject this year, though. Our desire is not to make messes with this little elf and not to have our elf in all kinds of mischief. Our desire is not so that the elf will report back to “Santa” on whether our daughters have been naughty or nice. No, instead, we would like our elf to be used for good things. For example, we would like our little one to wake up one morning and find her little elf reading the bible to all of her little stuffed animal friends who are gathered around listening attentively to every word she reads! Or, we would like our daughter to find her elf with strips of paper all around with ideas of how to show a random act of kindness to someone that day. These are just some of the ideas we have for our little Elf On The Shelf. She will be a part of our family tradition for years to come, and we want it to be fun but also to be in honor of the King as we prepare our hearts and minds to celebrate His birth!
Last, but not least, our holiday traditions consist of a birthday party for Jesus! Yes, we have a cake decorated that says “Happy Birthday Jesus.” We all gather around as we light the candle and sing “Happy Birthday To You” … then we pause for a moment and blow out the candle. This year I would like for us to break out into “Silent Night” or “Oh Holy Night.” We want to remember and honor Jesus on His special day! After all, He IS the reason for the season! Our holiday tradition and celebration would not be complete without His birthday party.
What are some of your holiday traditions? What do you do to celebrate the month of December leading up o Christmas as you wait in anticipation for Christmas day? We would love to hear all about your holiday traditions with your families. Feel free to post a comment below.