I love the holiday season. It’s not just one day, it’s a celebration that occurs over a number of months and in many different ways and with many different relationships. However, it hasn’t always been this way for me. We all have stuff, right. Well, sometimes this stuff makes the holidays difficult, stressful painful, etc.

It wasn’t until I was an adult and married to my wonderful husband that I/we were able to start creating our own holiday traditions together. Suddenly, the holidays started becoming something to look forward to and embrace rather than something to dread.   It was like starting over in our own way. People and elements from past traditions could still exist, but they are incorporated into our traditions in our way. This has been especially important and fun as we have a young family to enjoy this special time of year with.

Okay … on with the traditions.

So because I have worked at Tonkadale for a good number of years, a lot of my traditions are centered around Tonkadale. This is not a shameless advertisement, it’s just what I do! At Tonkadale, we are decked out for the holidays starting in early October. I generally feel like we are all celebrating around this place together for months on end and also sharing in the celebration with our customers as they shop for all the elements to decorate their homes. That’s a lot of celebrating and I love it. It is my honor to share the beauty and enjoyment of decorating your homes with you.

At home, Thanksgiving is a good starting point to begin the Christmas celebrations. Here is how the timeline rolls out.

  1. Install spruce tops and lights outdoors – a good idea to get a jump on this when the weather is still tolerable. The lights really mean something to me. I love the feeling I get when we pull into the driveway and see my home all lit up. We always hang white icicle lights on the house, and this year we added orbs of white lights in our oak tree out back. I’m going to leave these up all year long! They are so cool!
  1. Establish Christmas outfits for the kiddos. This is always something I do well in advance so that they get lots of use out of said outfits and they can wear them to all below-mentioned events.
  1. Visit Santa at Tonkadale the weekend after Thanksgiving. My family always come first thing on Sunday morning. What they don’t know is that I get to hang out with Santa all weekend long because I generally take the photos. I gotta tell you, there are many times when I nearly tear up during this event as I watch kids and families come to visit Santa. The magic in their eyes is incredible.
  1. Jacobson family Christmas treeBuy an 8-foot Fraser Fir Christmas tree at Tonkadale. We usually put it up the weekend after Thanksgiving, but this year my brother was in town for Thanksgiving so my husband took advantage of the extra help. This year, we managed to get 1,400 lights on the tree. Probably a Jacobson record.
  1. Play Christmas carols at every listening opportunity – except when listening to podcasts of course. And get out the Christmas stories: The Grinch, Llama Llama Holiday Drama, and Madeline’s Christmas, to name a few.
  1. Go to a kid-friendly Christmas play – this year an aunt that is very dear to me was in town, so we all went out to breakfast and then to The Wizard of Oz at the Children’s Theater. Brief review: It was wonderful. We always go to the Stages (Hopkins Children’s Theater) Christmas production with my in-laws and then host them for dinner afterwards. This year, the production is A Charlie Brown Christmas. We will be having a green salad, ranchero stew (sounds weird, but so delicious) and Christmas cookies made by my mother-in-law for dessert.

http://unihomemaker.com/2013/05/09/ranchero-beef-stew/

  1. Buy kids an ornament to commemorate the year. I have done the ornaments at The General Store for years. It is so nice that they will write everyone’s names on them for you while you wait. This year we did the finger print project at Tonkadale with the kids and that is serving as their ornament. It was free!
  1. Jacobson family Christmas cardsHang up the Christmas cards for all to see. My husband has a larger family and extended network of friends. We send a lot of Christmas cards and love to receive them in return. So fun to see how each family has changed over the years.
  1. Christmas Eve celebration. We always celebrate Christmas Eve with my husband’s family. Church is always at 4 p.m. My favorite part is when the whole congregation sings Silent Night. Goosebumps. We all take turns hosting and because this year we have a new house with more space, we will be hosting. Each family contributes to the meal and gifts are small but unique. This year we are making bo ssam – basically a slow roasted pork served in lettuce blankets, with rice kimchi and sauces. Not necessarily a Christmas tradition. The tradition here is sharing home and food with family and friends. I have an auntie blogger who has nicely assembled the recipes with pictures.

http://foodhoe.blogspot.com/2010/12/momofuku-bo-ssam.html

http://foodhoe.blogspot.com/2010/12/momofuku-ginger-scallion-sauce.html

http://foodhoe.blogspot.com/2010/12/momofuku-ssam-sauce.html

http://foodhoe.blogspot.com/2010/12/momofuku-vinegar-pickles.html

The highlight of the evening is when my mother-in-law whips out her accordion and we all sing Christmas carols together. The kids get out their instruments and it is a great big loud riot!

  1. Christmas Morning. We always wake up in our own house. I assemble a cheese, meat and fruit plate for us to enjoy while we open stockings and gifts. We kind of coast through the morning and then head over to my father’s house. When we get there, the kids are excited to do gifts, so we get that over with. Then it’s on to a meal – always something a little bit different. This year, I believe we are having an assortment of small plates to keep it simple. After we eat, we all head over to the sledding hill and enjoy some outside time. Last year, the snow was beautiful, even magical. Please, please, please let’s have snow for Christmas!

To round out Christmas night, we generally take a walk through the neighborhood to take one last look at the Christmas lights. Off to bed for the kids and then my husband and I relax and watch the Yule Log on TV.

Over time, one of the most important things that I have learned about the holiday traditions is to manage expectations. Last year, on Christmas Eve my son had the stomach flu and my daughter had to go to Urgent Care because we dislocated her elbow trying to put on her too-tight Christmas cardigan. Anything can happen – that’s why we call it a season and not just a day.

Wishing all of you the very best Christmas season and a happy and healthy year ahead.