the first of December at our house

I put off Christmas as long as I can.

That made me sound a little like Scrooge.  I am not.  I love Christmas.

In December.

Not while I’m shopping for back-to-school supplies.  Not when kids are singing trick-or-treat.  Not when I’m glazing the ham for Thanksgiving.

I have been thinking about Christmas for months: brainstorming creative gift ideas for my husband and daughter, ordering early when I spotted sales, and generally spreading the cost (time, energy, dollars) out over time.

But that peaceful at-my-own-pace thinking and planning is quite different from what I would do if I reacted to the constant barrage of advertisements and Christmas songs that retailers have, um… shared with us as they panic about the state of the economy.

If I have not turned the calendar to December, I am not interested in Christmas carols.

I mean it. Hands-over-my-ears-la-la-la-la-la-I-can’t-hear-you…

What I do on the first of December is hang the Christmas calendar.

I made it for Kristina when she was five.  Every year, on 30 November, I stay up late organizing dates and notes and trinkets into an Advent calendar of sorts.

Kristina opens one little package each day leading up to Christmas.  The first day holds our Christmas gnome.  The last day holds Kristina’s ornament for the tree.

In between are a collection of treats (in the past: candy canes, caramels, gingerbread, and such) and tiny gifts (sample sizes of shampoo or bubble bath, socks, hair ribbons).  The rest of the days have decorated cards that show what holiday activity we will do that day.

Most of those holiday things we would do anyway – they are part of getting ready for Christmas at our house.  By setting it out at the beginning of the day, making it a present on the Christmas calendar, we give those activities special attention.

We appreciate how special it is to get out the Christmas dishes (stored deep under the stairs) and to bring the Christmas music upstairs (finally!).

It is not a chore to hunt down the tree, bring it home and decorate it – it is a celebration. (Okay, possibly I curse fuzzy-goat-nuts when stringing the lights.  Possibly.)

And because we wait for our tree,  we don’t get tired of having it there.

There will be a card for the day, in the midst of the inevitable hustle, when Kristina and I take time to sit by the fire at a coffee shop, have holiday drinks, and chat.

(I will miss our coffee dates when she goes to college next year.  I plan to enjoy every chance I get until then.)

There will be another card that announces the day we watch Charlie Brown Christmas, and another for White Christmas.

Christmas would be missing something without these traditions.  The calendar helps us spread out these events, so they don’t happen all on top of each other, so that we enjoy each one.

Last year, I didn’t get it together to tie up all the gifts and hang the calendar outside Kristina’s bedroom door before she got up in the morning of 1 December.  I figured I’d get it done while she was at school – she would understand, right?  She wouldn’t care.

I was wrong.  She was completely bereft.

This year, she came to me just after Thanksgiving.  “Madre, you are making the Christmas calendar, right?”

I teased her for just a moment, asking with a straight face, “You are 18 now.  Sure you’re not too old for this?”

“NO, Mama.  And next year?  I want you to send it to me when I am at college.”

I guess we’re never too old for tender traditions and rituals.

Kristina has quite a collection of those 24 December ornaments now.  I’m in no hurry for the day she heads off on her own, but I am preparing for it.  She’ll take that box of ornaments with her to decorate her first tree, with fond memories of Christmas-past.

What about you?  When do you start your celebrations?

Are you digging in your heels, kicking and screaming that it’s too much, or have you had reindeer on your lawn since you put away the pumpkins from Hallowe’en?

What are the traditions that mean the most to you?


  • I spent a number of years as a single adult before having my daughter. Our family has just a few traditions and they have mostly gone by the wayside in my adult life. I have been thinking about what traditions I want to start with my daughter.

    Last year I put alot of pressure on myself to figure out exactly what traditions I wanted to start, and exactly when, so that for everything I could say “we’ve done this since your FIRST Christmas”. I love your Advent calendar, but probably what struck me most was that it is so treasured and loved, and it wasn’t started her FIRST Christmas.

    I, too, like to begin celebrating Christmas in December, not before Halloween. I actually sometimes don’t get into the holiday spirit until Dec 15th, because by then I have graded all the finals and posted all the grades and finished work stuff, (and gotten paid!) and can devote all of my interest and energy toward celebrating and relaxing.

    I really enjoyed this post. Thank you for sharing.

  • Fa La La La La La La La La!!

    Oh and thanks for the snow–thought it was computer dandruff at first, but then realized that I had just shampooed it with head and shoulders just this morning.

  • What a beautiful Christmas tradition that is! It warms my heart to read about it. Thank you for sharing.

    My Christmas traditions are small right now, and often flexible as to when they happen (putting up the tree, going to see the Christmas lights around town), since it’s just me, my fiance and our cat. But I’m collecting ideas for traditions we will start when we have kids.

  • he he he
    i also curse fuzzy-goat-nuts when i am untangling x-mas lights (oddly, also coat hangers)

    you are so awesome.

    it is so awesome that you have held such loving space to make such awesome xmas traditions in your home.

    ps your x-mas calendar looks awesome!

    love you.

  • This post is great — I love that you are taking the holidays on your own terms. I also like the notion of being respectful of time — by waiting until December, having special days for traditions, etc., you leave yourself space to really celebrate the season! Cheers to you! Also, love the fuzzy-goat-nuts link to lights 🙂

  • So many lovely comments!

    Thank you, all, for your kind words.

    MommieV, I hope you will be gentle on yourself this holiday season, that you will do what feels good and warm for you, the way YOU want to celebrate. We are STILL making new traditions to share over the holidays. It is not a static thing. By now, your exams are done – hug your little girl close and do something fun. One of our favourites from the calendar is to go out for a walk in the neighbourhood to see the holiday lights on houses.

    Dr. Kim, you are an irreverent crack-up, and that is one of the things I like about you. You have a lot of other good qualities, too.

    Ashley Erin, I’m so glad you dropped by to read this post. It is one of my favourite Christmas things. I especially like hearing Kristina tell her friends about it. The gnome sits by the candles on the kitchen counter. When Kristina was younger, we took turns hiding her for each other. I’m not sure when that stopped, but it was fun!

    Bratty Sister, I hear you on the coat hangers thing. One day, I finally decided I had HAD ENOUGH of the wire coat hangers. I banished them from existence. The plastic ones take up more room in the closet, but they make up for it in PEACE OF MIND.

    SJG, I love that we have this blog-visiting back and forth going on. Your photos are such an inspiration, and I appreciate your comments here. I’m glad you got a giggle out of our creative cursing – it’s not a harmful or even negative thing, just a fun way to exorcise temporary frustration. And our tree looks lovely.

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