i am grateful that christmas comes every single year. each december i get some stress bubbling up in my gut as i think about alllll the fun and festive and special things i want to experience and share during the holiday season. and then i remember there really always is next year.
there's such an abundance of worthwhile and wonderful things to do this time of year, and my intense love for christmas along with my stalwart loyalty to traditions makes the holiday season full to overflowing. this year (mostly because of my travel to the states right before the big day) i've forced myself to pare down and simplify and cut out. and just look forward to many more christmases to come! i have a feeling that with our kids growing up, it's only going to get better in the future.
today i wanted to share some photos i've snapped of spectacular london christmastime and a list of christmas traditions that we usually observe and totally love. some i've made sure to make happen no matter what, and some i've chosen to forgo this year with excited anticipation for next year. ian and i are excited to continue to let our family traditions evolve as our family grows up.
traditions i just could not pass up doing this year...
- pick out our own, real live christmas tree, string white lights up and down each bow, and decorate with ornaments handed down from both my and ian's childhoods
- make a gingerbread house from scratch (this is one ian had growing up that we've adopted in our own family)
- new christmas pajamas for the kids - this year we decided we are going to give them as gifts on december first
- fill in our advent calendar with a new ornament opened each day (ian's mom made us an exact replica of the one he and his siblings loved growing up!)
- visit santa! (growing up we wrote letters to santa and santa always responded. i'm excited to do this with my kids probably starting next year - when moses really understands. this was a great learning experience for me as a child - we were encouraged to not just tell santa what we wanted for christmas, but rather to ask him questions about life at the north pole and offer profuse gratitude for all the wonderful things he had brought us in the past!)
- have a breakfast-food celebration for saint lucia day on 13 december
- go on a date night to a festive dinner and to see light displays
- send christmas cards
- host a white elephant gift exchange party (this year we did this with ian's coworkers)
- do a family service project
- donate money we have saved up/earmarked throughout the year to a worthwhile cause that we have taken the time to really learn about
- take a trip to a festive location (our first year in london we did a big german christmas markets road trip, the next year we went to copenhagen, last year we went to brussels/belgium, and this year we are going to cologne, germany. next year we plan to stay in england and visit a bunch of national trust sites!)
on christmas eve:
- have a "jerusalem supper" - we eat middle eastern food by candlelight and talk about what the last meal that mary and joseph had before they headed off to bethlehem must have been like (my family did this growing up, but we also dressed up and "went into character" - someone was mary, joseph, elizabeth, zacharias, a shepherd friend, etc etc.). we usually invite friends that otherwise may be lonely on christmas eve to join us in our home for this meal.
- light our german nativity pyramid, read luke 2 and sing carols ("away in a manger" and "in a little stable")
- leave out cookies for santa and carrots for his reindeer!
on christmas day:
- open stockings in bedrooms first thing (santa brings stuffed stockings into bedrooms in our family)
- open presents and don't clean up the wrapping paper until the afternoon (there's just something so happy about that mess!)
- have eggs benedict and orange juice for breakfast
- go to a church service (we like to visit a different church every year. since moving to london we have been wowed by services at st. martin's in the field, westminister abbey, and st. paul's cathedral. this year we will go to a local church in our neighborhood.)
- go on a bike ride
- have pizza for lunch/dinner (those meals kind of bleed together on christmas!)
- make and enjoy a birthday cake after singing happy birthday to jesus! :)
traditions we do pretty much every year but are passing on this year...
- go to the nutcracker
- make a yule log for christmas eve desert (here's the recipe i use)
- visit a fun light display event (we have done christmas at kew and the chiswick magical lantern festival in the past)
- make and deliver cookies to our neighbors
- have friends (usually the primary children in our ward!) over for a sugar cookie decorating party
- participate in the live nativity at the hyde park chapel visitors' centre
i'd love to hear about your favourite christmas traditions! tell me about them in a comment!
happy christmastime to all!!!