I am an absolute sap for all things Christmas. It is my all-time favorite season of the year. I love to see the delight on everyone’s faces as each year we get out the decorations, make special recipes and get covered in powdered sugar, sing beloved carols, snuggle up to the fire and read cherished books. It’s a time to love on one another, play in the snow, experience the joy and exhilaration of giving a gift. It’s a time to read the Christmas story, to read of a young mother, who knew she carried the savior of the world. Oh the broken hearted-ness and despair as she knew He would sacrifice Himself for us all, oh the humility that she should be chosen to be the mother of the Messiah. Oh the incredible JOY to know that Her savior came for her and for us all.
I was asked from a dear friend to share some of our traditions that we celebrate year after year. I included recipes, book lists, events, etc. Every town has different events: find out what is in your area (especially the free ones!) and make the most of it!
Dec 6th: we celebrate St. Nicholas Day. The night before, we read the book Saint Nicholas: The Real Story of the Christmas Legend and we set out the children’s shoes underneath the Christmas Tree. I find chocolate coins at my local Winco and place them in bags for the children. Sometimes I’ll also add a Clementine or apple. They wake up to a special surprise in their shoe and remember what St. Nicholas did for the people of Myra so long ago.
Dec 13th: We celebrate St. Lucia Day! After living in Sweden, this holiday is near and dear to my heart as I got to dress up like St. Lucia and go door to door singing in the wee hours of the morning in a tiny town called Holsbybrunn! We usually read this book and this book. And then we make Lucia Buns (Lussekatter) and Ginger Snaps (Pepparkakor).
This year, I saw in a Sunset magazine the idea of making paper St. Lucia wreaths, which I’d like to try out.
*We like to drive to a nearby town and go to their drive-thru Nativity scene. They serve hot chocolate and candy canes. And the participation level is epic. You drive through a “Market place”, you have to give gold coins to Roman soldiers on horseback, you talk to the wise men and their camels. It is amazing!
*Our church has a Lessons and Carols service that is always breathtaking. We wouldn’t miss it for the world.
*We love to go in the forest with our pass and chop down a Christmas tree. It’s $5 for the pass, we drive out in the middle of nowhere, and the entire experience is magical! I think it’s funny how tall it ends up looking once you get the tree inside. I think this one must have been 15 feet high!
*Each year I give the kids ornaments. Yes, it is adding up quickly and it’s a good thing we get tall trees. But once they get married, they’ll have a good little collection to take with them and start their own Christmas traditions.
*We always have an advent wreath and each week we light it! The first purple candle is called Prophecy or Hope. The second purple candle is called Bethlehem or Peace. The third candle is the pink one: the Shepherd’s candle or Joy. The fourth candle is purple and is called Angel or Love. The white candle in the middle is called the Christ candle and it is to celebrate the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ.
*We go to our church’s Christmas Eve service. It always blesses us, always challenges us, always helps us grow. Every single year, I cry when we light candles and sing “Silent Night”. My heart wants to burst as my sweet church family, my brothers and sisters, sing in the beauty of dark and candles.
*We celebrate the 12 days of Christmas. We try to have over as many families as possible and enjoy the season with them. We go sledding and have hot chocolate and popcorn. We sit by the fire and have lovely conversations or play a board game. I love being with people and enjoying their company in my warm, cozy home.
*We burn lots of good smelling candles (I love Pine!), we cut lots of greenery, make lots of wreaths, hang cinnamon ornaments all over the house and keep things festive!
*We have Christmas movie nights: The Nativity, Elf, It’s a Wonderful Life, the Christmas Story, Charlie Brown Christmas, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Home Alone…We love it all!
Here is a book list of my favorite Christmas books. I usually keep these up high for the rest of the year, so it’s a special delight when we bring them down and re-read these treasures!
Letters from Father Christmas- by J.R.R Tolkein
Mortimer’s Christmas Manger- by Karma Wilson
The ADVENTure of Christmas-by Lisa Whelchel (really a neat and informative book and perfect for lots of fun ideas to do with kiddos)
The Crippled Lamb-by Max Lucado
A gift from the Lonely Doll- by Dare Wright (a favorite among the girls of the family!)
Unwrapping the Greatest Gift- by Ann Voskamp (an advent reading book, every single day, I find myself crying over the preciousness of the words!)
The Legend of the Candy Cane- by Lori Walburg
The First Christmas- by Jan Pienkowski ( gorgeous illustrations!)
A Redwall Winter’s Tale- by Brian Jacques (a precious gem of a book!)
The Story of Christmas-King James Bible, Illustrations by Pamela Dalton (really beautiful book!)
The Birds of Bethlehem & The Friendly Beasts- both by Tomie dePaola
The Tale of the Three Trees- a folktale retold by Angela Elwell Hunt
The Snowy Day- by Ezra Jack Keats
Christmas!-by Peter Spier (no words, just delightful cartoons)
Bear Stays up for Christmas- by Karma Wilson (I may have this one memorized as my children adore it and beg me to read it over and over again!)
Christmas in Noisy Village-by Astrid Lindgren
And my absolute favorite:
Good King Wenceslas- by John M. Neale and Tim Ladwig
I could go on for hours and hours about what my favorite Christmas music is, but I’ll just give my top 10. Everyone has different tastes. But here are mine!
- Folkjul (I literally have this playing non-stop. It is amazingly gorgeous!)
- Anuna Christmas Songs (The Wexford Carol is particularly beautiful)
- Sufjan Stevens Songs for Christmas
- Charlie Brown Christmas
- Future of Forestry Advent Anthology
- Mannheim Steamroller (I mean, come on…)
- Choir of King’s College, Cambridge Christmas
- John Rutter’s Christmas Star. (Really anything by John Rutter is my favorite)
- Sting’s If on a Winter’s Night
- And last but not least. A song from my childhood… Christmas for Cowboys: John Denver.
Les Truffles Au Chocolate (I make these french truffles every year and they are delish!)
6 oz. semi sweet Chocolate chips (1 cup)
6 oz. milk chocolate chips
1 Tb Water
5 Tb butter
Melt above ingredients in a double boiler over medium heat. Stir until melted and smooth.
Remove from burner and add:
1 1/8 cups powdered sugar
3 Tb. cream
3 Tb concentrated orange juice
1 tsp. vanilla
Mix well and refrigerate for 3 hours. Then shape into balls. “Truffles” are very rich so shape into small balls, rolling chocolate between the palms of your hands. Work quickly as chocolate will soften. Roll balls in 3 Tb cocoa powder combined with 1 Tb. powdered sugar. Makes 36-40 balls. Keep truffles refrigerated.
Land of Nod Buns ( I make this every year for Christmas morning and we usually eat it with a good lot of sticky bacon!)
20 frozen dough rolls
1 c. brown sugar
1 package vanilla instant pudding powder
2 t. cinnamon
1 cup raisins, or dried cranberries, any desired dried fruit.
1/2 cup melted butter (or 1 stick)
Before you turn out the lights.. grease a 10′ bundt pan or a 9×13 dish and add frozen rolls. Sprinkle with brown sugar, pudding powder, cinnamon and fruit. Pour melted butter over all. Cover with a clean, damp cloth. Leave out at room temp over night. In the morning, preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake for 25-30 minutes. Let sit for 5 mins and eat.
Lussekatter (Lucia buns)
1 pkg active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp saffron
4 cup flour
Dissolve yeast in warm water and set aside. Warm milk, add butter to melt. Place all above ingredients in a mixing bowl using 2 cups of the flour. Mix for 3 minutes with a mixer. Add rest of flour and beat with dough hook or wooden spoon. Knead dough, adding a little flour for easy handling. Put in a bowl and let rise to double. Turn out on floured board and shape into an S shape. Let rise on a cookie sheet and brush with a mixture of egg and water and sprinkle with sugar before baking. Put a raisin in each curl and bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes. Make about 3 dozen rolls.
Ginger Snaps (Pepparkakor)
3 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 T. powdered ginger
2 t. ground cloves
2 t. ground cinnamon
1/2 cup dark corn syrup
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
Mix flour, soda and spices. Heat syrup in sauce pan. Melt butter and Sugar in syrup. Add the egg slowly. Add dry ingredients to this mixture. Put in a cool place over night. Roll out onto board and cut into desired shapes. Place on a greased cookie sheet and bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes.
May you have a delightful Holiday Season full of spiced wine, good friends, sweet treats, laughter and love and most of all…Jesus!