My mother’s extended family has a tradition of trying to be the first one to say,”Christmas Eve Gift!” to other family members on Christmas Eve. I’m not sure how far this tradition goes back in her family or from where it originated, but I do know that it’s a tradition that I love and am doing my best to pass on to my kids. With cell phones, caller id, text, and modern technology in general, the game has lost a bit of its excitement and intrigue. I remember timidly answering the rotary phone with, “Christmas Eve Gift!” every time it rang and being slightly embarrassed when the caller, a non-family member, responded with a confused, “Excuse me?” But, when the caller was a family member, it was fun to “get” them! I think the person who never got caught was awarded with a gift to open on Christmas Eve. Apparently, that was not me!
For most of us, Christmastime is full of traditions, and it is difficult not to add more and more each year. This season, I’ve tried hard not to busy our family with too many activities, but to focus on a select few ,time-honored family traditions. Like many mothers who have gone before me, I’m learning the art of embracing tradition in a simple and meaningful way, rather than filling up everyday on our calendar with a holiday activity.
This year I left most of the Christmas decorations in the box, pulling out only those I really love. The only decorations I purchased were a Christmas tree and cedar garland for the mantle. I’m always surprised that year after year, just by varying their placement, the same decorations feel new.
While I admire all the beautiful themed homes that I see in magazines and on other blogs, I just can’t bring myself to decorate our tree in anything other than family ornaments. Each tells a story that I love sharing with my oldest son as we hang them on the tree. We almost opted for white lights this year, a first ever for our family, but my boys insisted on old-school colored bulbs.
One of my most favorite things to hang is a strand of vintage Christmas postcards from the 1930s that I found several years ago at a flea market. Each card has such a charming illustration and contains a note written in the most beautiful cursive script. Since our home was built in the late 20s, I like to imagine that many cards just like these passed through our door.
We’ve started our own tradition with Christmas cards that we receive during the season. We hang them in the hallway (and often leave them up all year) so that we are daily reminded of the blessing of sharing life with friends far and near.
Our stockings find a new location every year. This year, they chose the old chest of drawers-turned-tv console. They don’t match, but they do coordinate. I like that each stocking reflects a bit of its owners’ personality.
My kitchen is always a bit more whimsically decorated than the rest of the house. It is where I display the boys’ handmade gifts and keepsakes. The boys decorated their little white trees with colorful, shiny garland. A vintage santa cookie jar found its spot next to my coffee mugs, and the boys’ growing collection of Nutcrackers stationed themselves on the kitchen scale.
Decorating for Christmas helps us share the peace, hope, and joy of the season with our family and friends. What I love is that everyone shares the season in a different and unique way. There is not right or wrong way to decorate a tree or display your Christmas cards. Decorate as much or as little as you like. Continue traditions and start new ones. Sincerely sharing peace, hope, joy, and love is what Christmas is all about.