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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Holiday Traditions from our Smarty Moms & Dads

By Rachel H

'Tis the season to be jolly! We thought this week would be perfect to share traditions with you from the Smarty Moms and Dads we have profiled over the past year. We will feature a few traditions most days from now until Sunday, so be sure to check back and get your family in the holiday spirit!

Stephanie Dillon - I always make German cookies along with my two boys, Charlie and Tyler. You roll out these cookies and cut them with cookie cutters. They are called Spitzbuben cookies. They have almonds in them and an icing that includes almond extract. When I was growing up, my mom, sister and I baked them every year that I can remember. Baking these cookies with two little boys is not quite the same experience that I remember with my mom and sister but I am determined to keep doing it. The boys love decorating them and no matter how crazy they look in the end, they always taste great!

Leigh Ann Woodruff - One of our favorite traditions is pulling out the St. Paul's advent calendar that I bought at the St. Paul's bazaar when Wills was little. Wills especially loves marking the calendar each day. We also make eggnog cookies each Christmas and have a kids' tree with their decorations on it and train around the base, as well as a "mommy" tree with my decorations.

Monica Casey - My brother, sister and I still laugh about the lengths we would go to on Christmas Eve to plan the exact way we would find our toys on Christmas morning. No details were overlooked, and we knew exactly who would wake up first, who they would wake up next, and in what order we would barrel into the living room to see what Santa brought. My parents took great care in teaching us the meaning of Christmas, and the midnight candlelight services at church were always special to me. Playing in the NC mountain snow, eating lots of great food (including snow cream), and just spending quality time with my family were all special times and traditions. Today the holiday season isn't officially underway until my husband and I watch Christmas Vacation on Thanksgiving night. We quote the movie all year so when we finally get to sit down and watch it, we know Christmas time is here. We love seeing the excitement in our twin toddlers faces when they see the pretty Christmas lights, and can't wait for them to learn all about the wonderful and fun things that go with it!

Klarisa Cizmek - Christmas in Croatia brings to mind different images, smells and sounds, and the dearest one is that of a bell. My father bought it on one of his trips and my mother hangs it on our Christmas tree every year. It had a wind-up mechanism and it played a beautiful Christmas tune.

In Croatian tradition Christmas trees are brought into the house in late December, as
we decorate them on Christmas Eve. That whole day, December 24th is filled with excitement and anticipation which culminate in the evening. It starts with the family dinner, traditionally a cod fish and boiled potatoes dish seasoned with olive oil and garlic. Following the dinner families usually go to the Midnight Mass (some mothers stay behind to make sure Santa delivers the gifts in time), and when they return home families gather around the Christmas tree to open the gifts.

Christmas was such a special time for us. My father worked away most of the time but he was always home for Christmas. My brother and I were so happy when the whole family was together. And so, on Christmas Eve after the dinner my mother would take a lead in opening the boxes with Christmas decorations and my brother and I would eagerly help. I can still feel the bristles pricking my fingers and hands as I helped hang the ornaments. Our parents handled the candles, for they were real and they had to make sure the tree would not catch fire. By the time we finished it was time to go to the Midnight Mass. When you are little and they let you stay up THAT LATE, it is a treat in itself and I remember feeling so excited and happy as I held my father’s hand on the way to church. It was freezing outside and it was difficult to walk on icy ground. I kept slipping, and my father kept steadying me. Once we arrived the church courtyard was filled with merry good wishers. We walked into the church. It was very crowded and being so small all I could see were dark, heavy winter overcoats, and when I looked all the way up to see the faces of the grown-ups I noticed the light in the church was very bright, yet somehow very soft. It was a mesmerizing sight and I felt as if I were floating on a cloud of happiness while everyone sang in perfect harmony.

After the service was over my father and I made our way home. As we walked into the house I remember the warm color of the hardwood floor under my feet. It made crackling noise as I walked across the hall. I was headed for the living room to see the tree. I could smell the candles and the pine, and then I heard – the bell. My mother had wound it up when she heard us come in and its little mechanism was playing a beautiful Christmas melody. It brought back the light, the joy and the festive, merry feeling from the church. I stood there and listened. My mother, my father and my brother were around me. We were all home. I was whole and it was Christmas.

On one of the recent trips to Croatia I asked my mother if I could have the Christmas bell for my family and she let me have it. My father walked into the room as I was putting it into my suitcase. He smiled with approval and said, “So, you’ll take the bell.” I smiled and nodded.

With Christmas atmosphere in the air I remember my father frequently. Sadly, he passed away a few months ago. Thankfully, I saw him beforehand and we said our goodbyes. He was at peace. I came back to the States and carried on with my life but it has been hard to comprehend that he is gone. Still, this season when I decorate the tree with my husband and my children I am going to wind up the bell and I know hearing its music and having my family around me - I will be whole again and it will be Christmas.


Carrie said...

All of these are so sweet! Happy Holidays!

Anonymous said...

We watch Christmas Vacation every year, too. And LAUGH every single time!!!

maythi said...

We love Christmas vacation! My parents call me every year to tell me when it's on. It never gets old.

wii cable video said...

I too do the christmas eve pj's my mom always did it and this year we are doing it with our family. Growing up we always made sugar cookie cutouts and painted them with frosting. I plan to continue this tradition with my son this year he won't really get into it, but I am starting it anyway. My mom and I spend one whole day making christmas cookies and when my son gets older I will let him help and be a part of it. I include my neice in it since she is older and she loves it. I too will be getting my son his first ornament and I just went and got his picture with Santa yesterday. I love holiday traditions.

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