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This time of year, we gather and celebrate the holidays with family and friends. For members of our family, this is a particularly meaningful Christmas: this is the first Christmas without Barb Taylor and without Mary Cicero.  Two great ladies that made our world a brighter and better place.  While these wonderful women left us too soon, we continue to practice Holiday and Christmas Traditions that bring family and friends together.  We will build on these Christmas Traditions in the future as we celebrate each other, our lives, our history and our heritage.  In this post, I will discuss Five Christmas Traditions that we practice, and if you don’t have your own Christmas Traditions, maybe that will inspire you to give some of them a try!

Just to be completely honest with you, I am late with this post.  I originally wanted to post it earlier this week.  Given the mix of emotions this year, I found that this was a particularly difficult post for me to write.  I struggled with how to frame and write it as I have been working on it all week.  I want to thank my sister-in-law Kelly Domres for helping me “get over the hump” on this post. As she said eloquently, “Do not dwell on the negative; you have a lot to be thankful for this year.”  She is absolutely correct.  This post is dedicated to my sister-in-law, Kelly.

1. Decorating the Christmas Tree

Christmas Traditions, family, friends, history, traditions, Christmas tree, Small Scale Life, podcast

We moved from our house in St. Louis Park in July, and most of our stuff is still in a storage locker.  This is by design because we moved into a furnished house, and we were planning to move our gear when we finally purchased our house.  The drawback to this strategy, however, is that all of our holiday decorations (Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter) is buried deep in the storage locker somewhere.

Fortunately for us, Julie’s parents had an artificial tree, lights and ornaments stored in the basement of this house.  Christmas was Julie’s mom Barb’s favorite holiday, and she always tried to make it special for the family.  Using her tree, lights and decorations is comforting and special for all of us.  Julie and I set up the tree and the lights, and then we all took turns adding ornaments to the tree.  There are some special ornaments from the past, some that are funny and some from relatives long since passed. Inspired, I even decorated the outside of the house with lights and ornaments.

Barb might not be with us in body this year, but her spirit and her memory lives on for all of us.  Her decorations, lights and trees remind us of what a great and generous woman she was.

Christmas Traditions, family, friends, history, traditions, Christmas tree, Small Scale Life, podcast

2. Favorite Christmas and Holiday Movies

I have really made a conscious effort to NOT watch much television and movies in 2017.  Sure, I watched Taboo (and even did some podcasts about the show Taboo earlier this year), Game of Thrones and The Punisher, but overall, I have done a pretty good job limiting my time in front of a television or movie screen.

This time of year, however, I make an exception.  With Ryan home from college, we gathered together as a family to watch some classic Christmas and Holiday movies.  There have been some great ones over the years, and the following movies are our family favorites:

  • Planes, Trains and Automobiles (I seriously know almost every line of this movie)
  • Christmas Vacation
  • Elf
  • A Christmas Story

We have watched two of the four movies so far this season, and we will have to find the time to watch the last two. It is easy to forget how funny these movies actually are, so if you need a break and want a good belly laugh this time of year, check out these classics.  You won’t even shoot your eye out, kid!

3. Wooddale Church Christmas Program

Christmas Traditions, family, friends, history, traditions, Christmas tree, Small Scale Life, podcast

For the past few years, we have gone to Wooddale Church in Eden Prairie, Minnesota.  This year, Julie, Danny, Ryan, David and Jenny (brother and sister-in-law) went to Wooddale’s Christmas Program.  The church is massive, and they had a full orchestra, choir, organ and even interpretive dancers.   The program consisted of the following songs:

  • Overture “Canticle of Glorias”
  • Gloria in Excelsis Deo
  • O Come, All Ye Faithful
  • White Christmas
  • How Great Our Joy
  • Pat a Pan
  • Noe! Noe!
  • Fum, Fum, Fum
  • The First Noel
  • Angels We Have Heard on High
  • The Christmas Story
  • Ecolgue for Piano and Strings Opus 10
  • No Eye Had Seen/All is Well
  • Amazing Grace

It was very profession and extremely inspirational.  Some of the songs had a Celtic feel to them, and the grand finale included a Scottish man playing bagpipes in traditional dress. It was amazing to hear, especially since it was my dad’s and Barb’s favorite hymn.

If you have a chance to go to a church program, you should.  It is a chance to decompress, tune out the commercialism of the season, sing carols and hymns, and share in the Christmas message with family and friends.

4. Decorating Christmas Cookies

Christmas Traditions, family, friends, history, traditions, Christmas tree, Small Scale Life, podcast

When Julie and I were in high school, we would decorate sugar cookies with Julie’s family, her cousin, her aunt and her uncle every year.  It was a lot of fun (and it tasted good too)!

This year, we gathered once again to decorate Christmas cookies.  It was a team effort: we made dinner, Julie’s dad and fiance Sue made the sugar cookies, and Julie made the frosting.  We had a great dinner, and then we got down to business decorating the cookies.  It was a lot of fun, and we had a bunch of laughs as some of our “artists” got creative with gingerbread men and Santa cookies.  In fact, you can see one of those cookies in the picture above (just don’t point it out to your kids).

I am sure eating tons of cookies covered in the world’s best frosting didn’t help my healthy lifestyle goals, but it was worth it!  We’ll have to do it again next year!

5. Christmas Eve Meal

Christmas Traditions, family, friends, history, traditions, Christmas tree, Small Scale Life, podcast

My ancestors on my mother;s side came from Poland and Czechoslovakia.  This year, I did a little research about Polish Christmas traditions.  In Polish households, Christmas Eve is an extremely important day.  The Polish people celebrate Christmas by preparing a big meal called “Wigilia.”  This traditional meal is a big deal.  According to the Polish Women’s Alliance of America, the wigilia consists “of twelve meatless dishes, and includes many kinds of fish, beet or mushroom soup, various dishes made from cabbage, mushrooms, or potatoes, pierogi, followed by dried fruit compote and pastries for dessert.”  The meal does not start until the first star is seen in the sky.

Like Polish homes, we traditionally have a big meal on Christmas Eve.  Unlike the Polish dinner, we eat meat (and lots of it).  We have adopted something my side of the family started doing years ago: fondue.  We will cook shrimp, beef, and vegetables in boiling oil or broth (we have tried both).  We will make a cheese fondue and dip bread into it (big hit around Green Bay Packer fans), and we will have a dessert fondue with chocolate, marsh mellows, strawberries and pound cake.

The beauty of the Christmas Eve fondue is the social aspect of the meal. It takes time to cook the food, and it is a lot of fun to talk with everyone, joke around a bit, and yes, steal someone else’s meat or shrimp (accidentally, of course)!  It takes some time to prep: cutting the meat, breads, pound cake and vegetables; preparing the various fondue pots; and gathering the various dipping sauces for the cooked food.

A few words of caution before you do fondue:

  1. The oil, cheese and chocolate are VERY hot.  Be careful around the fondue pots!
  2. Things splatter and spill, so use a disposable table cloth.
  3. Be careful using the fondue forks.  Someone usually ends up spearing their finger by accident.
  4. There usually is a lot of clean-up after the meal, so be prepared for that!

This year, we are planning on a smaller meal on Christmas Eve, but we will eat very well.  We will celebrate Christmas Eve dinner with Julie, Danny, Ryan and me, and we are eating steak, shrimp, twice baked potatoes and salad.  It will be a great dinner!

How about you?

Christmas Traditions, family, friends, history, traditions, Christmas tree, Small Scale Life, podcast

What are your Christmas Traditions?  What do you do with your friends and family?  I would love to know, and maybe we will incorporate some of your traditions into our Christmas and Holiday Celebrations.  Feel free to share your Christmas Traditions as a comment on this blog post.

This is a busy time of year.  Before we let the moment get away from us, I would like to thank you for following Small Scale Life.  We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for you and your support.  Please be safe this holiday season. Enjoy each moment, and be kind to someone.

In case we haven’t said it yet, Julie, Danny, Ryan and I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!