When I was growing up, my mom and I had a whole set of holiday rituals starting on December 1 with several paper advent calendars. They only had cute little pictures behind the doors, but I loved them. Every December 6, my mom would wake me wearing a crown of lit candles on her head to celebrate Santa Lucia’s Day. The tree went up about a week before Christmas and on Christmas Eve we would always eat three small fish sandwiches which she swore was a Swedish tradition. Not that we have an ounce of Swedish blood in us. Christmas morning played out like it did in most houses with stockings and presents and then piling in the car to go to a relative’s home.
Then it all came to screeching halt for like 20 years as I would always travel on Christmas and most years didn’t even bother putting up a tree. It was a little sad, but without kids, it was fine. I would parachute into someone else’s family (sometimes even my own) and skim on the surface of their traditions for a few days before flying back to my own decidedly non-Christmasy world.
All that’s changed since the girls showed up. Last year we hosted Christmas with one daughter, and now we’re in a new house with two girls. We even have a mantle for stockings and a chimney for Santa. R is 3 this year and she’s pretty excited about the idea of bounding down the stairs on Christmas morning to see what presents have arrived and if Santa ate his cookies and drank his milk. We have a hand-me-down train running around our tree and a whole family of advent elves hanging from the stairs. I’m super-excited to read The Night Before Christmas to the girls ON the night before Christmas.
It’s hard to underestimate how good it feels to be building our own Christmas family traditions, and I’m looking forward to fine-tuning the process for years to come.