Holiday traditions

Throughout December, lots of bloggers wrote about their families’ holiday traditions. One person (I can’t remember who, unfortunately) even ran a contest on the subject, promising yarn to one (randomly selected) person who posted a comment about their own traditions.

Some families have pretty unusual traditions (like sending the same Christmas card back and forth for thirty years, or hanging the Christmas tree upside-down from the ceiling). But my family’s traditions were pretty mainstream: decorating a Christmas tree, opening presents on Christmas morning, and eating a big dinner (usually roast turkey or ham, though we did do barbecue spareribs one year, but never the pizza I always longed for) that afternoon.

With a two-and-a-half-year-old around, Jan and I find ourselves thinking harder about holiday traditions and actively deciding which ones we want to adopt, change, or abandon.

pc258914luminaria.jpgOur neighborhood sets out luminaria on Christmas Eve. Not everyone does it, but I’d say over half and perhaps as many as three-quarters of the several hundred homes in this forty-year-old neighborhood put them out. We didn’t know about it the first Christmas we were here, and then we were out of town or completely forgot for the next three. But this year we managed to get our act together and set out white paper bags with sand and tea lights at the bottom, just like most of our neighbors, and the effect was absolutely beautiful. By morning, the candles were long spent, but the paper bags remained as reminders of the previous evening’s loveliness.

pc258873cinnbuns.jpgI’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this before, but my husband is quite an accomplished baker. (Look here to see a gallery of some of his recent work.) Last winter he baked a lot of bread, and the year before he decided to perfect his croissant and pain au chocolat technique. Two years ago he also made Rose Levy Beranbaum‘s caramel sticky buns for Christmas for the first time. We didn’t have them last year because we were in Illinois visiting my parents, but this year he made them again, and we’re all decided that they are a permanent addition to our Christmas morning. They are amazing. The brioche dough takes two days to prepare, and the buns are stuffed with toasted pecans, cinnamon, and raisins (optionally soaked in rum), and the whole thing is smothered in homemade caramel sauce. I think I just had a sugar rush and gained five pounds just by describing them.

pc258899smcookieplate.jpgAnd of course there’s Santa. Jan and I grew up Santa households, and we are telling our own daughter about him, too. Our across-the-street neighbors have a near-life-sized animatronic Santa on their porch, which only adds to Santa’s mystique in Sylvia’s eyes. We haven’t gotten into the “good children, bad children” thing with her—I’m hoping we can avoid such morality tales altogether. She knows (from reading books and seeing pictures) that Santa has a list of the children he will be visiting, but in her mind “Santa loves all children,” and as far as she’s concerned everyone is on his list. I like that way of thinking, and I have no plans to discourage it.

When we started baking Christmas cookies a few weeks ago, she was very adamant that some be saved for Santa. Because the title character in Raymond Briggs’ Father Christmas (one of her favorite holiday books) drinks some hot cocoa before going to bed, she decided that Santa would get some hot cocoa with his cookies, too. So on Christmas Eve, before going to bed, she helped make a batch of hot chocolate, then carefully—oh so carefully!—chose a selection of cookies to leave out for him. The next morning, she was delighted to discover that he’d thoroughly enjoyed her gifts to him!

One Response to “Holiday traditions”

  1. Bethon 03 Jan 2008 at 12:29 am

    On Christmas day had sticky buns too! That will continue to be on our list of traditions as well.