Monday, December 26, 2011

on holiday traditions

I love having traditions--things to look back on fondly, and anticipate joyfully. There are so many fun holiday traditions that each family has, and I love hearing about all of them. 

Growing up with a split family, part of my tradition was drama and anxiety. But there were things that parts of my families did that happened often. Because of the split custody, my mom always had us for Christmas eve. We would do presents and everything on Christmas Eve morning, and then in the evening, there was a family gathering. When I was little, it was at my grandparents' house in Seattle, and then when I was older, it moved to an aunt's house. In the evening, we'd leave the party early and go to my dad's. We each chose one present to open that night, then had the big presents and stockings on Christmas morning. We would eat those big cinnamon rolls for breakfast and go to church. Christmas morning was one of the only times I liked going to church, because we got to sing Christmas songs! Later there would be a big dinner and we always had what we called "kids' champagne"--sparkling apple cider. 

What else is neat is that I have two handmade Christmas stockings. My grandma on my dad's side knit every member of the family a stocking, as well as knit everyone a hat and mittens every year. My mom sewed these adorable stockings for all the members of our family, with contrasting colors for the letters of our names. She even scrounged up enough fabric to make one for Mister Melancholy last year! Both of my stockings are at their respective houses, though; it doesn't seem right to take them from home. Also, I wouldn't want to have to choose which one to use, and I figure that as an adult I should figure out a new stocking I make for myself somehow. 

This is my eighth Christmas in New York City. I think I've gone home for one or two of them, but I've also traveled abroad for many of them. Mister Melancholy always went home for Christmas (and a couple years ago I went with him). Last year was our first staying here together for the holidays, and we did that again this year. 

It's fun to start creating our own traditions. There aren't that many, since we're kind of new to it. But they're shaping up nicely. 

1. For the third year in a row, we made a gingerbread house and watching a Christmas movie. For two years, it was from a kit and Love, Actually, respectively. This year, we procrastinated and couldn't find a kit, so we engineered our own out of graham crackers. 

The spread:

We created load-bearing walls and an under-roof to make the house bigger and more stable.

The addition of a ridge made the roof easy.

We used three full batches of royal icing--almost a full batch just to glue the house together!

We added a small square shed in the corner of our "lot." And then proceeded to decorate as much as we could. 

The movie this year ended up being Santa Claus: The Movie. We watched that a ton when I was a kid. It's on Netflix instant now! I cracked up at John Lithgow, who played the villain. He really must have had a great time being evil--he vamps it up, and it's hilarious.

2. This was our second year with a real tree, and we will never go back to a fake only! The real thing just smells too good. Here is our tree on Christmas morning:

3. We decided two days before to make a "Christmas Feast." Not in the way that we'd have a heaping table full of dishes, but in that we'd make real food ourselves, from scratch as much as possible. It was tasty as well as fun!

Mister Melancholy decided to make a Moroccan spiced chicken recipe.


We also made rosemary-olive oil roasted potatoes. Yum! And I made a batch of buttermilk biscuits, using our Christmas cookie cutters to make them extra festive.

I whipped up a chocolate mousse dessert (from a box, but still counts.) 

Kids' champagne, but apple-peach. Crisp and refreshing!

Here is our full spread! (Potatoes in the glass dish)

The dessert mousse, in wine glasses, with celebratory bokeh dolphins!
We've never been great about making real meals from scratch, but this one was a success and we will surely make this a special tradition too!

What are your favorite or unique family traditions?


Nancy said...

We are Jewish but my mom is a real fan of Christmas, so she has a Christmas bike! It's an old bike that used to belong to my grandfather. She decorates it with lights and ornaments, and puts her Christmas village under it, too. :)
I'm glad you have a real tree. It's actually better for the environment to use a real tree. Don't forget to put it on the curb between Jan 3 and 15th so DSNY can pick it up for mulching and composting!

J said...

A Christmas bike! How fun!

Yes, we plan to take our tree down the street for Mulchfest next weekend. It smells so good with all those chopped up trees!