Our extended family has been meeting on Thanksgiving due to the uncertainties of the weather at Christmas. We do make some Christmas cookies and sweets at the Thanksgiving gathering, however. I can reflect on some traditions of the past that seem to have been adopted by the children in their own homes. We had Christmas on Christmas Eve because Carl had rounds in the morning and liked to get going early to get finished to enjoy the rest of the day.
-CD's playing in the kitchen pretty much all morning
-singing our prayers as a group - e.g. "God's good gifts around us are sent from heaven above, so thank the Lord, oh thank the Lord, for all his love."
-we have an evening get together and those that want to provide music do so
-late brunch with fruit cups, coffeecake, etc.
-ham dinner with scalloped potatoes or scalloped corn ; indian junk (IJ) or a curry and rice meal with lots of trimming and good Indian bread and Indian sweets
-Christmas story in pageant by the children. The children dream up the costumes, write the script, etc. Special songs or instrumental renditions by the children. I 'll never forget Katie as Baby Jesus asking " When do I cry? Do I cry now?" When it was her turn she just said "Waa."
Christmas traditions are losing ground with all our kids far off somewhere--we celebrate whenever and wherever. We do still wrap the packages in Christmas paper. However the two of us left at home still do certain things:
1. Send out a hundred cards or more designed/produced by ourselves. This year it's a reproduction of a brass rubbing done in Oxford, England. The brass probably dates back to the 14th or 15th century.
2. Invite internationals for a dinner. This year it's an open house for our Indian friend from Shamshabad who has been attending seminary here and is about to leave for Trinity to study under Paul. Our other Indian friends plus Indonesians, Chinese, and Hmong will be in and out as well.
3. I bring steamed persimmon puddings to some of the neighbors.
I can't say that we have any family Christmas traditions...we did when we were in Boulder as the house called for traditional type of occasions so we hung big Christmas stockings and filled them from the Dollar store etc. We also tried the ChooChoo train around the tree but the cats did that in. I guess we are traveling alot at that time since it is hard to get 2-3 weeks at a time any other time of the year. So we have spent Christmas in New Zealand, Denmark, Thailand, Winter Park, Breckenridge, and now the Andaman Islands. So much for tradition!
Our traditions are all small things:
1) Put up the tree the a week and a half after Thanksgiving. (We always wait until a weekend in December, but if Thanksgiving is the last week in November we wait another week, mostly because we are in Omaha every Thanksgiving.)
2) Carol and the girls go to see some Christmas ballet in San Francisco. For a while it was The Nutcracker Suite, but lately it's been something called the Christmas Ballet. (I'm not a fan of ballet.)
3) We watch Christmas movies in the evenings. These include movies like "Christmas in Connecticut", "Remember the Night", "Miracle on 34th Street", etc. The titles and the order vary a little from year to year, but we always watch the new version of "Miracle on 34th Street" on Christmas Eve, and open a family present (which curiously is always a mystery puzzle) to play with that night.
4) Christmas morning we open the presents while eating smoked salmon and toasted baguettes, and for Christmas dinner we have Cornish game hens with chestnut and rosemary bread stuffing.
One thing that we did last year and liked, but which hasn't become a tradition is to go down to DisneyLand during the first week or two of December for a couple of days. It isn't that crowded then, and they have the Christmas decorations and parades going. But it was also pretty tiring to go to Omaha and then come back and go to DisneyLand, so we didn't do it this year (we went down a little before Halloween, instead).
Bria and I always love to have a nice tall christmas tree in the living room, and we always make our own christmas cards. (This year they made neat ones with origami - Jo) We try to come up with something different each year, and our message focuses on what christmas is all about: the birth of the Savior. We usually spend considerable time in the production of the cards.
We make Guatemalan tamales from scratch (wrapped in banana leaves with prunes and green olives inside), and usually enjoy them for several weeks after since the extra tamales can be easily frozen. On Christmas eve we have a midnight service at church, a time to give thanks to God for all that He has provided for us throughout the year.
Since Christmas remains the one time when our whole family can get together, we still try to keep some of our traditions going.
On Christmas Eve we start out by having a curry & rice dinner with all the extras. I'm gradually learning to make decent chapatis and hope to learn to make Carl's Naan recipe.
After dinner we usually are still madly wrapping gifts. For the last years we've been making a number of our gifts for each other and at times the wrapping paper sticks to varnish/paint that hasn't fully dried.
We start our gift exchange with Frank's reading about the birth of Jesus; lately we've gone to a children's version. Then the madhouse of giving/getting/opening/thanking/laughing gets going. We have an old turtle cookie jar of Aunt Edie's that turns up each year, repainted from time to time and with unusual items packed in it. There's also a Terrible-Smelling cream perfume that is disguised and given each year. Frank and I really enjoy these hours.
The next day I make zwiebach to munch on through the day, and in the evening we play Dirty Bingo. Throughout the year we save weird items (garage sales or the Salvation Army are a great source) for this raucousy time. Now with Gentry and John joining us, we've gone to "Savers" and "Traders"---if anyone will trade! Everyone hopes to get the glass jar of loose change Steve keeps through the year.
On New Year's we stay up and play games and have New Year's Coka. The guys eat them as fast as Kristin and I can make them. Then at midnight we welcome in the new year.
Christmas at the Sorensen house