And just like that, Christmas has finished, leaving behind the sweet smells of cranberry and stuffed bags filled with old red and green wrapping paper. Christmas is a peculiar time of year, a time where we have space to slow down and yet, at the same time, are often in a tizzy, completing all the tasks that go into making a potluck meal and gathering with loved ones.
Christmas – and the entire holiday season – has always been a nostalgic and special time of the year for me. The holiday is wedged between the gratitude-oriented times of Thanksgiving and my birthday, when I start a new year off while turning another year older. Though I can do without the cold weather, there is something magical about the glow of Christmas lights and the sounds of Christmas classics. This year, Chelsea and I have been repeating Whitney Houston’s version of Little Drummer Boy because it’s just that delightful.
When I was young, we would usually have multiple gatherings across the metro area of Denver because of all of the different family members we needed to see. I loved it growing up, but as I have gotten older, it has been more difficult to attend each family gathering because they often overlap with one another.
Since I was a young girl, it was a tradition to celebrate Christmas with my grandfather on my mom’s side prior to Christmas, and then to have another celebration with my grandmother on my mom’s side on Christmas Eve. We have always read the Christmas story on Christmas Eve before opening presents and I have found that to be a soothing and lovely tradition. Christmas Day was usually reserved for opening presents from Santa (and our parents) and getting together with my dad’s side of the family (if it wasn’t going to be held on the day after, on Boxing Day). Often, church would be visited, candles would be lit, and feasts of delicious food were eaten. I enjoy looking at old pictures from when I was young and celebrating Christmas. That, and not having to go to school due to Winter Break, usually left a feeling of euphoria as the days moved closer and closer to December 25th.
What I find most interesting is how as we change, the holidays do too. Our family has experienced this transition most notably in the last few years. My brother, now a father, dedicates his Christmas holiday to be with his kids. We aren’t the kiddos anymore, that’s for sure. This has been a similar experience for my cousins who have had children – this year, my mom’s side of the family welcomed four new babies into the family! Inevitably, that changes the dynamics of Christmas, bringing sweet, new generations into our family. It is truly a beautiful and nostalgic experience to be a part of. What an honor it is to witness our own maturity and growth – we have become adults, and in turn, our parents get to play a bit of a different role than they had before.
For me, the biggest change this holiday season has been celebrating with my wife. I’m married! Because of that, we have focused a great deal of time thinking through what traditions we want to start and carry through for ourselves, and eventually, to pass along to our children when we have them. The key to starting traditions, I think, is to simultaneously make them meaningful and simple. You want to follow through with them and you also want them to be reflective of who we are as a family.
In the end, we landed on a few traditions that we want to integrate within the holiday season each year. Weather permitting, we’d like to do something outside on Christmas Eve. As long as we live in Colorado, this will always be unpredictable, however, this year we were graced with a sunny day in the mid-fifties. We visited Washington Park so Chelsea could practice sketching and I could rollerblade. It was refreshing and nice to move around before visiting family.
On Christmas Day, we want to make homemade cocktails (for example, cranberry mules) and a nice Christmas Dinner (this year it was a Cacio e Pepe recipe that we discovered in Italy). Additionally, to add to the relaxation of the day, we want to play games and watch holiday movies (we chose Home Alone 2 and Elf). We were also able to host both sets of my parents at our home, and we found this to be fun, joyful, and relaxing. We hope to continue to do this as the years and celebrations continue.
Though we have celebrated Christmas together before, there was something uniquely distinct this year. Being recently married, the experience felt like a tangible milestone in which we could forge ahead intentionally with our newly created home and traditions. “Home” isn’t always so much about the brick and mortar of place, but rather, the essence of being together and finding an identity as individuals and as a couple. The loveliness of the holidays is being able to create and partake in this, while also including others and building community around family and loved ones.
The idea that we can continue, re-create, and introduce all kinds of a traditions into our experiences allows us to re-shape what any holiday might mean to us. We have the power to effect meaning into our lives, and this is something that I keep on learning, each and every year. I look forward to the many years to come of laughter, vintage Christmas sweaters, and the integration of both new and old of the holidays. This year was especially sweet, and for that, I am infinitely grateful.