Christmas is always a magical time for me. Our home growing up was always richly decorated for the holidays. The Rotary Lights display in my hometown area was always a must, boasting millions of magical lights throughout Riverside Park. Lefse, Chex mix, Lora’s Sugar Cookies, and rosettes were always staples. We had Advent calendars to open and there was an Advent wreath in the center of our dining table; every night we would light the purple and pink candles and do a reading. We would gather at my aunt’s house for an oyster stew dinner on Christmas Eve. On Christmas Day we would be greeted by my dad blasting carols through enormous speakers connected to a reel-to-reel and opening presents by a fire in the woodstove.Even in college and living on my own, I bought decorations for my little apartment (when I should have been buying more important things like food). We continued to travel to my hometown for Christmas Eve and Day, even after Theo and Quentin were born – until it became too hard to transport Santa presents secretly, and my parents moved away from the home I grew up in. We began to form our own traditions here, including:
- Decorating the house the day after Thanksgiving. I have a lot of decorations, so this is a multi-hour production.
- The Elf on the Shelf appears sometime the weekend after Thanksgiving. I hate moving that little bugger, but the kids’ faces light up every morning as they look for Daniel.
- Every year we go to the Museum of Science & Industry early in December to see their Christmas Trees Around the World exhibit.
- We assemble a Gingerbread house, from a kit (usually from Trader Joe’s). Our houses always look like they belong on a “Pinterest Fail” meme, but the kids have a blast putting it together.
- My family had this video tape of Christmas movies that had been recorded from network tv over the years – including commercials. It has priceless gems like Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, Frosty, Mickey’s Christmas Carols, and others. My dad was able to put it on a DVD one year for us and the entertainment value of the 1980s commercials alone is amazing. We also get a holiday popcorn tin and watch my favorite Christmas movie – White Christmas.
- We choose a charity to make a tangible donation, such as Heifer International, and let the kids help choose what to donate.
- Since it is typically just our family on Christmas Eve, we bundle the kids up in the car and drive around a large route of houses decked to the nines in Christmas lights. There is a Google Map we can follow to find the best houses, and then stay warm in the car. After, we choose a restaurant and have dinner.
- Our Christmas morning is reminiscent of my childhood – with music blasting (from the Amazon Echo rather than a reel-to-reel) and presents from Santa. Santa never wraps his presents, and they are always left in small piles around the room for each child. Rather than fill stockings with oddball items, I always do one pair of Christmas socks, one ornament for the tree, and one candy cane of M&Ms.
This year is the first year when I have thought about incorporating some new traditions to honor Nelle and Iris. Pregnant for Christmas in both 2015 (with Iris) and 2016 (with Autumn) it wasn’t something I could bring myself to do. But this year, I bought stockings for my other two girls and hung them in the master bedroom near the tray that we have that has their framed footprints and other items I treasure. I also have a small tree to put ornaments just for them. The first ornament was from a fellow loss mama, in memory of her son Andrew. It is a glass ball that contains a feather, because “even though you may not see a bird, you know it was there by the feather left behind.” I ordered snowflake ornaments with Nelle and Iris’s names and birthdays engraved and am waiting for them to arrive. It feels healing to include them in our holidays, when the past few years have been filled with so much pain.