Welcome to Sharing Christmas! I’m so excited to read through the links and hear about how you do Christmas. It really is the best time of year, isn’t it?
When I sat down to capture our Christmas, I realized 2 things –
1. That’s an overwhelming task.
2. I have like, zero photos.
So I’ll share what I can while trying to paint a picture in your mind in the places where my actual pictures fall short. Please join us! I look forward to reading about your Christmas too!
What you’ll SEE at Christmas:
For the last few years, I’ve used our gingerbread house as a centerpiece. And by that I mean I put it in the middle of the table. I’m very fancy and elaborate. This year we set it on a white serving tray, which is an impressive upgrade from last year’s sliver of cardboard!
We always use a kit for our gingerbread house. This year’s was from Trader Joe’s, but I’ve been happy with the ones at Aldi too. Here’s my favorite thing about it this year – we set it up together, sort of. Mostly I did it. Then after the structure was ready, the kids did the decorating! In the past, I’ve been a little more controlling about it, but this year I put dots of icing all over and let them go to town. It’s so fun to see what they came up with! We did this a few hours before I taught a class for the Influence Network, and as we got started I thought, “This is terrible timing, I MUST be insane.” In the end, I posted this photo on Instagram:
It was really nice.
You’ll also see simple decorations. I’m not great about getting decorations up, but having a Naptime Diaries advent calendar is a huge help because it HAS to go up at the beginning of December. We hung the calendar as our Advent activity on Day 1 – this, my friends, is how it goes in my house. We hung stockings that day, and got our tree 2 weeks later. (That’s this past Saturday.) As Christmas cards come in, I line the mantle with layers and layers of them. We use white lights on the tree and the ornaments Duff and I bought together before we were married – they were his, for his tree and his house, and now they’re ours, for our children to break. Isn’t that cool? **wink**
As the years go by we add ornaments we’ve received and ones the kids make at school. I’m not one to have (or want) a designer tree – I want it to be covered with real life, and to me that means more popsicle stick art than anything else.
What you’ll HEAR:
I shared some of what we’re listening to here – for me, nothing beats “Songs for Christmas” by Branches. It’s available for free on Noisetrade! I’m also binge-listening to the Christmas Hymns album Silent Night by Red Mountain Church. So. Good.
My kids’ school does a Christmas program, so from their mouths you’ll hear “Gyooooory, gyooooory to God, inna highestht!” and “There was a little baby, oh my lo, way down in Bethlehem!” (it’s Lord, but Liv is CONVINCED it’s “lo.”)
Last year, Eliza was 2 and didn’t quite get what was going on. She was shocked to see us (especially Duff) in the audience! Here’s a video of what happened when her class came out on stage. She’s the first one out, tall with blonde pigtails.
What you’ll SMELL:
Last year as we decorated our tree, I put some wintry spices to simmer on the stove – an orange, cinnamon, cloves, etc. As the awesome smell filled the house, I breathed it in with a happy sigh, and Duff said, “Ugh, what IS that?” Turns out he can’t stand that cinnamon/nutmeg/clove smell I love so much.
So our house DOESN’T smell like that.
Instead it smells like a REAL Christmas tree and occasionally, like the cookies we keep making for our neighbors and eating before we deliver them. (Seriously, 3 years running. I’m so good at this.)
What you’ll TASTE:
THIS IS THE BEST CATEGORY. I love food traditions. My favorite Christmas party offering is this this Fig and Goat Cheese spread. I use Fig butter from Trader Joe’s and their creamy goat cheese (get the big bar of goat cheese, you’ll want it!). Mix them together and watch your friends go crazy when they taste it.
We eat Pioneer Woman’s Passover Brisket (or at least, my husband’s version of it) on Christmas. We had this for Thanksgiving too, actually, and he cooked it for 8 hours overnight. We woke up to a house that smelled A-MAY-ZING-A. So much better than turkey! (But I don’t really like poultry in general so…)
One of our traditional Advent activities is to make Alton Brown’s sugar cookies (rolled out in powdered sugar instead of flour…I swear this makes them taste like magic) topped with this icing recipe. Sometimes we use sprinkles and sometimes we just stop there! Before, you know, eating them instead of delivering them to our cookie-deprived neighbors. (GUILT. SHAME. I FEEL IT ALL!)
While my pancake prowess has fallen flat a few times, we do love some snowman pancakes in December. Sometimes I decorate them for them, but sometimes I hand them a small bowl with sprinkles and things and let them make the snowman’s eyes, nose, mouth, and buttons themselves. They love it either way!
And the creme de la creme, the best of the best, the waist-widening, taste-bud delighting finale – BUCKEYES. A crunchy, dark chocolate shell filled with soft, sugary peanut butter? I literally so totally can’t even right now. My mom makes a bunch every year, and because my parents live in Indiana and had a screened in porch, she used to leave them on covered trays on the cold porch when the fridge was too full. You’d always know who’d tip-toed out to get a buckeye because they’d come in shivering but totally satisfied.
What you’ll FEEL:
I love the feeling of this season – of delighting in the waiting instead of fighting it. On the front of our church bulletin for Advent, Duff calls waiting a spiritual discipline we embrace this season. I love that – embracing the waiting is not something we normally enjoy, is it? But this season we know what the waiting brings. We know it brings something worth celebrating. Remembering that we’re waiting on God’s best isn’t always easy – but this season we have “peace coming down to earth as a baby” as my kids will sing this week. Calling it a spiritual discipline is so helpful on connecting the idea of waiting with the rest of the year.
This reflection by Frederick Buechner is beautiful, and it helps but words to my feelings during this season.
Advent, by Frederick Buechner
The house lights go off and the footlights come on. Even the chattiest stop chattering as they wait in darkness for the curtain to rise. In the orchestra pit, the violin bows are poised. The conductor has raised the baton.
In the silence of a midwinter dusk there is far off in the deeps of it somewhere a sound so faint that for all you can tell it may be only the sound of the silence itself. You hold your breath to listen.
You walk up the steps to the front door. The empty windows at either side of it tell you nothing, or almost nothing. For a second you catch a whiff in the air of some fragrance that reminds you of a place you’ve never been and a time you have no words for. You are aware of the beating of your heart.
The extraordinary thing that is about to happen is matched only by the extraordinary moment just before it happens. Advent is the name of that moment.
The Salvation Army Santa Claus clangs his bell. The sidewalks are so crowded you can hardly move. Exhaust fumes are the chief fragrance in the air, and everybody is as bundled up against any sense of what all the fuss is really about as they are bundled up against the windchill factor.
But if you concentrate just for an instant, far off in the deeps of yourself somewhere you can feel the beating of your heart. For all its madness and lostness, not to mention your own, you can hear the world itself holding its breath.
I created this last year and it serves as my computer screen background this season (and, let’s be honest, until I change it to my Easter background in the spring). Feel free to lift it and use it as a daily reminder. He’s coming. It’s time.