I love this time of year! The weeks leading up to Christmas are magical, and carry a special place in my heart. I have fond memories of Christmas stories told by the tree as a child, with soft Christmas music playing in the background. We kept this tradition when our kids were young by reading at least one Christmas story each night before tucking them in bed. The excitement and wonder on each of their faces was enough for me. As long as the kids were happy, that’s all I’ve ever wanted for Christmas.
One of our favorite things to do as a family is to make homemade chocolates. This takes a huge amount of time! I don’t profess to be a chocolatier, I’m far from it, but we do enjoy homemade truffles and caramels. Early in our marriage, I learned how to make chocolate centers at a church function. I couldn’t master the cremes, or the cherry chocolates, but the truffles and caramels stayed with me. Every Christmas season, we would set aside a day for dipping chocolates. This required me to make the centers beforehand, so that all the kids had to do was dip them and set them on the parchment paper to dry.
Not only did we dip the centers I made, but we also dipped pretzels and peanuts. Once my mom got this crazy idea to have the grandkids dip Fruit Loops! We used white candy coating and they turned out great! The kids loved that the pastel colors showed through. Another one of my mom’s ideas was to make thin Rice Krispie treats and dip them in chocolate! Another success! We also made up a recipe for coconut cremes, using marshmallow fluff and flaked coconut. I have memories of tiny hands, covered in chocolate, faces smeared with dabs of chocolate here and there, and many hours of laughter!
Now that are kids are grown and married, they still love to come home and help with the chocolate making! It’s fun to have my cute daughter-in-law join in with us. She is a much better baker than me, and already has ideas to make our production more festive and efficient!
Of course, what is Christmas without Christmas cookies? In our home, we have beloved recipes from grandmas and aunts that are tried and true, and loved all year round. Our favorites at Christmas are ginger snaps, sugar cookies, and snickerdoodles. All recipes from a grandma or a well-loved aunt. The most fun cookie to make when our kids were young was sugar cookies. When they were tiny, it was fun to see how they spread the frosting “just right”! (Once, my college-aged son used a cookie cutter in the shape of lips to make Valentine dinosaurs! But that is another topic). ☺
I love to give neighbor gifts. The gifts aren’t always reciprocated, but that doesn’t matter to me. I love the spirit of giving. Of course, we made plates of our homemade confections to share with the neighborhood. It was fun to receive complements on how good everything tasted!
As our kids grew, and were more involved with their high school activities, there wasn’t always time to spend in the kitchen. We are a musical family, and because music is such a big
part of our lives, I got the idea of giving a CD of Christmas music as a neighbor gift. (No, we didn’t record ourselves, we are not that important!) I’ve also given tiny little nativities to neighbors and friends. The look on their faces when they receive something as different and special a gift as these makes me want to continue with it. It’s simpler to purchase these small gifts, and the kitchen stays much cleaner!
There’s just something special about these weeks leading up to Christmas. People are kinder, hearts are warmer, days are filled with excitement, and nights at our house are filled with music, love, and laughter.
Christmas day is special. We didn’t want our kids to wake up at the crack of dawn and dive into their presents. Our rule was that nobody could enter the living room until 7:00. (Can you believe it!) Yes, it’s true. One of our daughters was terrified of Santa Claus. Her bedroom shared the wall with the living room. The thought of a strange man dressed in red, coming into our home in the middle of the night, was too much for her. Because of this, the kids all decided to sleep downstairs together and have a Christmas Eve sleepover. That way, they could wake up, use the bathroom, turn on the T.V., and play and visit until the appointed time. At 7:00, they came upstairs to see what Santa had brought and dig through their stockings. They had fun trying out their new things, and relishing in the magic of it all. At 9:00 Grandpa and Grandma, along with their great grandma, came over for a Christmas breakfast of sourdough pancakes, bacon, eggs, hash browns, and juice. It wasn’t until after breakfast that we returned to the tree to open presents. We became really good at making Christmas last most of the day!
The afternoon usually consists of trap shooting, with hot chocolate and butter cookies, with Grandpa. Our kids are really great shots, even the girls! Later, some would opt for a nap, and others would snuggle up in their Christmas pajamas and watch movies. Usually, in the days following Christmas, we venture out to see my side of the family and spend valuable time with them. I love spending time with family. These days include singing Christmas songs around the piano, in four-part harmony. And the evenings usually involve a Rook game!
I’m always a little saddened to see the Holidays end. My heart sinks a little, and longs for their return. If only each month could be like December!