This weekend, Bee will don a polyester veil and trot down the sanctuary as Mary in our church’s pageant. Can you send me her measurements, or take a look at these size charts? our children’s director asks before sending me links to various costumes on Amazon. We sift through dozens of options, find ourselves giggling at the irony of Mary’s robe arriving to a modern-day Bethlehem by drone.

In short: Christmas is here, or something like it.

Books on [our collective] nightstands:
Winter Fire: Christmas with G.K. Chesterton
While the Story Log Burns, by Thornton Burgess
All Creation Waits, by Gayle Boss
Hallelujah, by Cindy Rollins
Treasury of Best-Loved Christmas Stories, by Julie Hogan

Ah, December. There is a dusting of flour on every surface, wet boots upturned over the floor vents. The kids are happily preoccupied with any number of their own holiday escapades, having recently transformed the toddler’s climbing apparatus into a makeshift sleigh delivering apple juice to a dark world below.

It is safe to say the season has arrived triumphantly, chasing away our ever-predictable rhythm of Chinese lessons, Landmark read-alouds and all manner of chord progressions, stamen diagrams, recitations to our fair Lady with an Ermine. We’ve tossed our daily checklists out the frost-caked windows for the month, and instead, we’ve arrived at something else entirely: the slow and peaceful keeping of tradition. Acorn tosses in the night air, surprise poems tucked into an advent calendar.  Borrowed picture books to unwrap daily, salt dough at the ready, paper snowflakes on repeat, oranges sliced for the oven, thrift store hunting for one last (perfect) gift. Tickets to the ballet, a candlelit Handel – a cappella, no less. Traditions hard-won, kept with purpose, glowing with delight.

Except for one. With every friend that has entered our home in the past two weeks, an eyebrow or two is raised. Colored lights? they’ll joke, asking the kids which one managed to talk their stickler mother into the change. No one is more surprised than me, I admit. But this is the year we untangled every cord of attic-stored lights to find that each white strand boasted an exact 50/50% ratio of working-to-burned-out bulbs. The colored lights for the kids’ room worked just fine, of course, and so, part of me caved in the name of efficiency and resourcefulness. But the other part? Sheer nostalgia. While I can’t say I’ll keep the tradition alive, I’ll admit – this one’s growing on me. Our living room is less calming, sure, but more festive. Less Oh Holy Night, more Rudolph the Reindeer.

And at Christmas, there’s always room for Gene Autry.

At Christmas, there’s always room for us all.

Tell me your favorite, most beloved holiday traditions? What are you switching up this year? Holding on to for dear life? I can’t wait to hear it all.


p.s. I’m still sharing guided journaling prompts + reading recs here each week. Come join if you’d like — we’ll start a new round of reflections on Jan 1st!

  • It is such a sweet and inspiring moment when your essays land in my inbox. I feel inspired and full of wonder.

  • Hi Erin – lovely post today, thank you! Like your friends’ reactions to your coloured fairy lights, my favourite tradition raises a lot of eyebrows, most judging it to be entirely unsuitable!
    We have a traditional plum pudding every year for Christmas Day afters – served offered with hard sauce, creamy rye sauce, custard or vanilla ice cream (or – cousin Linda – all of those at once). Before it is served, the hot pud is always doused with warm brandy and lit. It’s such a pretty, etherial flame, burning brandy! When me and my generation of cousins were all small, our nana began a tradition whilst the pud was aflame, of singing happy birthday to baby Jesus. It was a staged pause in a day of happy chaos, to remind the smalls what the day was really about. Mind, many of my friends, (and when I was young, my friends’ parents) were all scandalised and thought it was very sacrilegious. Still, to this day (our generation now has grands), the singing – lustily and mostly off-key – continues and it is, by far, my favourite Christmas tradition. Love, Pam. xx

  • Every year, I buy a giant haul of books for my kids, hoping they’ll feel inspired and excited about reading. They like reading just fine, but something about opening a ton of books on Christmas started to feel like a downer (I think it sort of interrupted the glittery magic of the toys). So this year, I organized a book advent. Each day in December, one kid gets to open one of the books. Suddenly, they’re enthralled with reading. It’s also fun because they exercise patience for several days and joy for others as they wait their turn to open their book. I love it and plan on doing it every year.

  • So excited to read this post and have a literary warm feel of your loves.

    Our tradition, turning the 25 baby socks I saved into an advent calendar, and doing the same 300 piece glow in the dark Christmas tree puzzle that befuddles us for days, but someone always gets completed.

    And keep the colored lights! :)

    • And love the “trust you.” I

      That’s why you’ll always be my bestie! :) Allie is so lucky I found you! Lol!

  • One of my favorite traditions with my family is filling fancy goblets full of ice cream, sticking a little birthday candle in each one, and singing happy birthday to Jesus on Christmas Eve. Then we all compete in a (slightly dangerous) game to see who can have their candle still lit with the smallest amount of ice cream around it in the goblet. All us kids are past our twenties now, but it’s one of those childishly fun things that we still love as adults.

    A new tradition that my housemate introduced to me (today actually!) was celebrating St. Nicholas Day on December 6th! She filled our stockings with treats last night, and it was super fun to have some goodies and joy during what seems like the more stressful/planning phase of December :)

  • We are tradition fiends! We start by making Advent wreaths in time for the first Sunday. Decorating the house. Dec 6th is a visit from Santiklaus in Switzerland where the kids get a small sack of chocolate, nuts and fruit. We make dough and bake „Grättimänner“ or „dough men“ to eat with the contents of the bag and hot chocolate for dinner. We are the tree fairies in the family, helping both the grandmothers set up and decorate their trees. Each year we go to the all year round Christmas store and each kid picks out a decoration for the tree – by the time they leave home, they will each have a solid collection of ornaments of their own. And of course cookies – so many cookies! And I also bring out the huge box of Christmas books and we soak those all up through this month. Getting dressed up for The Nutcracker. Matching Christmas pajamas. The school carol concert. And so on… It is truly one of our favorite times of the year.

  • I have 2 favorite family traditions:
    1) Opening our advent calendar & reading an advent devotional each day.
    2) Watching A Muppet Family Christmas (original 1986 version) as many times as time allows

  • Oh happy day when I see your name in my inbox. No matter what is on my to do list, I carve out the time to read your words. This one made me smile – I too delegate the colored lights to the kids room . They are still there but our 11 year old requested candy canes and all the red glass balls this year and without a hesitation I said yes. Watching his eyes when I said yes and then watching him take the time to meticulously place each one – favorite holiday moment so far.

  • Years ago, I made these craft sticks with written things to do on them for each day in December. Things such as: make Christmas colored pancakes, watch a Christmas movie, take treats to the neighbors, etc. This year, two of my kids are teens now, other one is nine. I thought it might be time to retire these Christmas sticks, but my teens were adamant about still keeping this tradition of ours. I suppose it has become a tradition after doing it for five years now.

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