Monday, December 22, 2014


"Oh, this beautiful tree, with its branches wide, We hail it with joy at Christmas-tide." F. Schilling

Christmas time is here, with happiness and cheer. Cold days, dark nights, snow flurries, chapped lips and hands make me want to settle down for a long winter's nap. When I was younger, my parents spent time celebrating the holiday spirit through traditions. My father witnessed elves peeping in the windows, keeping watch on whether we were naughty or nice. This was scary and mysterious at the same time. Every year we looked forward to our big adventure up to Hampton Falls, NH to pick out the perfect Christmas tree. My sister and I journeying too far off the farm, getting stuck in the mud, and enduring a long drive home with wet pants and boots.

With my birthday in the middle of the month, I was happy the day wasn't forgotten. I made a wish, blew out the candles, and enjoyed my favorite cake, layered with berries and fresh whipped cream. On Christmas Eve, my mother always let me and my sister open one gift. It was usually a new pair of pajamas to wear on Christmas morning. My father read The Night Before Christmas to us in front of the fire, and we talked about how Santa rode in his sleigh up in the sky guided by his eight tiny reindeer.

As I got older and met my husband, a new set of traditions unfolded as we united with his family. We attended parties, dinners, and got together with friends. We played duets for our family, and sang Christmas carols. We spent time together, enjoying walks in the freshly fallen snow, snowboarding in the mountains, basking in the glow of a warm outdoor fire under a dark night sky sprinkled with millions of stars. We exchanged special gifts picked out for each other in honor of our new love. When we moved into our home, I bought a vintage silver Christmas tree complete with a color wheel that rotated and shined rays of red, yellow, blue and green onto the branches. We snuggled in the evening by the twinkling lights, and slept late into the morning.

When our babies were born, we slowly started adapting our own traditions. My husband has ornaments from his childhood, drums, bicycles, Bugs Bunny and Kermit the Frog carrying an armful of presents, Goofy riding a skateboard, and Garfield the cat playing a saxophone. We have a special red reindeer that bears the beauty of love and time, which is our first ornament hung on the tree. My breakable ornaments had to stay in boxes for the first couple of years, and our holiday decorating remained minimal for safety reasons. This year, upon my husband's request, we got a real tree. We picked out the first tree we saw, which was perfect. Our small home is filled with the scent of pine boughs and so far the tree is still standing. Grandparents have given special ornaments to the boys and they hung them with pride. My mother sewed our stockings with our names on them and they are up waiting to be filled. The boys ask every day about Christmas and like to countdown the days, which gave me the idea of making an advent calendar. I wanted one that would last us from year to year filled with holiday ideas, special events, and notes about the meaning of Christmas. Cutting out felt squares and sewing pockets is taking me a long time, so we will have one ready for next year.

"O' Star of wonder, star of night, Star with Royal beauty bright, Guide us to thy perfect light." J.H. Hopkins

As a mother, it is important for me to place great emphasis on giving to others in need and creating experiences that make happy memories. Every year we fill a bag of toys to donate to charity and talk about what the spirit of Christmas means to us, reading stories, singing songs, and being together. My favorite part of the holiday is baking and decorating Christmas cookies. I started with a simple sugar cookie and expanded into experimenting with different recipes from across the world. Buttery French Palmiers, Light Italian Pizelles, Spicy Dutch Pfeffernuesse, German Cinnamon Zimtsterne, and the Austrian Crescent Vanillekipferl make wonderful gifts for loved ones.

For me, baking these cookies is a way of remembering that the world is all one family. Surrendering to the sugar, flour and butter that splatters my small kitchen is a sacred time to honor the freedom and space in my mind to send out a prayer of loving kindness into the universe. 

My husband and I try to make homemade gifts, and we have made some beautiful things in the past, but time is limited these days and even though our creations have become smaller, they are still filled with love.  With the boys being young, we like to stay home these days enjoying visits from our parents and siblings. We make cinnamon rolls for breakfast on Christmas morning and slowly open the gifts we have presented to one another. Creating a feast and enjoying a dinner together and taking time to eat it is a blessing. Our gift is spending time with family and friends, feeling grateful for all we have and are able to share. Our holidays have been simple and sweet, and every year I wish for peace, love, health and joy.

Finding Christmas spirit and filling this special time with personal traditions is a meaningful way to bring more of what you want into your life. If you want love, show love, if you want health, live healthfully, if you want peace, be peaceful and calm, there's still time to give, to share, to be thoughtful and respectful. When you are able to give up a part of yourself freely, for the sole purpose of benefiting others, the gifts you receive in generosity and kindness are tenfold. This is true Christmas spirit.

Ebenezer Scrooge knew this at the end of the Charles Dickens classic, A Christmas Carol. "I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach!"

Dr. Suess knew about Christmas spirit as he told his famous tale of the Grinch, "Maybe Christmas,"
he thought, "doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas...perhaps means a little bit more!"

Charles Schulz who created the wonderful Peanuts characters said, "Christmas is doing a little something extra for someone."

"It came upon the midnight clear, 
That glorious song of old, 
From angels bending near the earth, 
To touch their harps of gold: 
"Peace on earth, good will toward men, 
From Heaven's all gracious King." 
The world in solemn stillness lay, 
To hear the angels sing." 
R.S. Willis

Life feels so rushed these days, we try not to fill it with too many things to do in hopes that new traditions can unfold in their own time.

"Thine Angels watch around, All bending low with folded wings. How sweet it is to see thee lie, In such a place of rest, In such a place of rest." J.B. Dykes

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