We celebrated Christmas a day early this year. Because our children have two families, we only get to have December 25th every other year. This was hard in the beginning, but I decided that it was just important that we had Christmas all together, not necessarily what day it happened to be.
I love traditions. We have traditions like Christmas music beginning the day after Thanksgiving (which is also when we usually put up the tree.) and sleeping under the tree the first night. We read a scripture about Christ each night in December, followed by a Christmas story and family prayer. We have advent calendars. We try to do one family service project each week in December. And we make graham cracker houses.
I put off doing the houses until Dylan could be home with us, and I was glad I did. He may not even be fully aware of it, but I think our traditions have meaning to him somewhere deep inside, and I wanted him to know that he is a valued member of our family.
So, the kids got to work and turned out some pretty cool creations this year:
Another of our traditions is to go caroling around our neighborhood. We saved this one for Christmas Eve so we could have Caitlin and Sean with us. Sometimes, by the time we get to this activity, I'm so tired that I start to justify in my mind why it would be okay to let it slide just this year. But I never say anything out loud, because I can't let the troops know I'm weakening. There would be mutiny. Every year, when we knock on that first door, my heart fills with warmth and happiness and I'm so glad we're out there doing it. Our neighbors have come to look forward to it each Christmas season.
When we got home, we did our scripture reading, and then I had a treat prepared. The Giant Cinnamon Rolls from Mel's Kitchen Cafe. This is an ingenius idea, and a delicious one too! Except that rather than "glaze" them, I frosted them with cream cheese frosting, like Cinnabon. We had egg nog too, and watched a Christmas movie (Elf) before sending the kids off to bed.
Of course, we also did the Christmas Eve jammies. And we took our annual family picture in front of the tree. Our 7th picture together. Wow.
Christmas Day itself was wonderful too. Of course, it was Saturday for us, so we didn't have to rush off to church. We opened the presents, I made breakfast (Overnight Caramel Sticky Buns from Our Best Bites.....again, highly recommended. So easy, too.) and while the kids played new Wii games and watched movies, I took a nap. Then I resumed my place in the kitchen preparing lunch and snacks and treats for munching on throughout the day while we hung out together and played games. (Settlers of Catan? Awesome.)
The tradition that seems to flow through every holiday is that I spend a lot of time in the kitchen. Cooking, baking, cleaning up. Eating, cleaning up. Cooking more, cleaning up more. Over and over. I ran the dishwasher three times each day. Having Dylan here seems to multiply the food consumption by a factor of 10. In the five days he was here, we went through 7 gallons of milk and 6 pounds of clementines. And loads of other things. But it is gratifying to feed growing children!
The other tradition is that I finish up the holiday tired. Needing a break. Some peace and quiet. Some fend-for-yourself meals complete with paper plates. Some reading time.
And guess what? That's the (one?) plus of divorce. I just dropped the three big kids off with their dad in Arizona and up next for me is my tradition of decompression and relaxation.
It might be one of my favorite traditions.