I think the holidays take on a new meaning when you become an parent. Though the holiday season has barely begun, and my child is still snug in his or her little cocoon, I find myself having a different relationship with the lights, the beauty, the energy of the holiday season.
Growing up, we had certain traditions every year that we could rely on. My parents spent only one holiday season alone before I was born, and they have had children in the house each of the nearly thirty years since. For that reason, I always thought many of our traditions centered around making us, the children, happy. As I've grown into an adult, and my siblings have done the same, I've come to suspect that our traditions make my parents just as happy as they make us.
I remember going to pick out a "hunt and cut" tree every year - each of us campaigning for our tree of choice, the whole process taking much longer than it should have. I've always had a soft spot for short, chubby frasier firs, and my sister prefers tall, slender trees. My mother likes a tree that is perfect from all angles, and my dad tends to look at the practical aspects of the tree - straightness of trunk, ease of trimming, strength of branches. As the youngest child, my brother never got much say in our tree choice - though he always seemed to want whatever tree meant we could go home and decorate the fastest. Once we'd get the tree home, we would spend untold amounts of time trying to get the perfect side facing, straighten it in every direction, and finally start hanging our ornaments.
Ornaments... Yet another tradition our parents started for us. Each year, we got to pick out an ornament to hang on the tree. When I moved out of the house, I took a box of ornaments with me, and today, when I hung all my trinkets on the tree, I was able to look back over my childhood and remember what things were important to me each year of my life. Our tree is a reflection of my growing up, and each little hanging ballet dancer, rocking horse, special bulb, has a little story with it.
Close to Christmas, after we were out of school for the holidays, my mom always set aside a special evening just for baking cookies. Each year we would try out a few new recipes, but always have our faithful standbys - mint pixies, cookie press cookies, butter crunch, peanut brittle, fudge. Even though we are scattered across severalhouseholds now, we come together each year to make a tremendous mess in my mom's kitchen, and make enough batches of cookies to feed an army of elves.
From an early age, and I'm not sure why it started, we were allowed to open one gift on December 24th. Then we'd pile in the car, go to the candle light service at church, come home and perform our "Christmas skit," and all three cuddle into one bedroom for the night. Again, I'm not sure why we started sleeping all in one room on Christmas Eve,but I'm sure it made things a little easier for those distributing gifts...
As we have grown up and moved out, our traditions have changed slightly, but many things have stayed the same, and we have incorporated our partners into those traditions. This year, my sister and I have the blessing of introducing our babies to those traditions. We will also start our own traditions for our little families to enjoy, and hopefully reflect on with as much love and fondness as we have for our childhood memories.
Though we haven't put up a Christmas tree in several years, it was very important to me to decorate one this year, and POSSLQ was kind enough to drive us to the tree farm three times - we just couldn't seem to get there when it was open! Finally, we hunted down the perfect little tree yesterday. After shaking, wrapping, and paying for our happy and only-slightly-chubby frasier fir, we loaded it up and then spent a good amount of time here at home trying to make it stand up straight. Just like when I was a kid - it made me smile.
As I began to string the lights and hang the ornaments, the little one in my belly rolled around a little, and I smiled to think about trying to hang ornaments next year with a one year old stumbling around the house. Then I ran across the now tarnished little bear with a faded snapshot that is engraved "Baby's First Christmas," and I thought about how my mother probably felt the first year she hung that ornament on her tree.
I quilted little stockings for us several years ago, and through the past few years they have changed "assignments" depending on who needed a stocking - the dog, the exchange student, etc. This year, I'll be embroidering our names on them and making their assignments quite permanent.
I've put a few small decorations around the house, and am working on a crafty little fabric garland for the staircase. I saw a beautiful pine cone door hanging in Family Circle magazine, and was inspired to make one for ourhouse - thirty minutes with ribbon and a glue gun never looked so good! I also cut up a pretty floral arrangement I found at the local big boxmart, and arranged all the little twigs into a basket for our dining room table.
One of my very best friends crafted a beautiful wreath for us, which she brought over to me the other day, just as I was lamenting the empty space on our front fence. It is made with pine cones and berries from the heavenly bamboo bush POSSLQ and I planted the first spring we were dating. It's just breath-taking, and each year we will be able to decorate it a little differently.
As I decorated the house and waited not-so-patiently for this little person to make an appearance, our first beautiful snow fell on Saturday afternoon and evening. We usually don't get snow this early, and some years we don't get any at all, but this makes the second year in a row we've had a good snowfall in early December. That, along with time spent with family and friends, truly makes it feel like the holidays. I can't wait to see what the next few weeks bring.