Easter is one of my favorite holidays but unlike Christmas with the big build up that you can see in the stores, listening to Christmas music and participating in holiday festivities, Easter can sometimes creep up quietly. I do admit, there is some candy out in the stores this time of year even in Australia and, of course, Girl Scout cookies in the US seem to mark the beginning of this special season somehow in my mind. But unless your church observes lent there really isn’t a huge build up towards Easter/Passion Week. Since getting married Ryan and I have done our best to observe this season and mark it in our own way. Lenten lights are my favorite tangible reminder.At the beginning of the season (Ash Wednesday) it begins with 7 lit candles. We have a special candle holder but 7 tea lights on a plate would do the same thing. Then each night during the meal or at another time during the day all the candles are lit and each day has it’s own reading. This is the one we’re using for this year: Lent Devotional. On each Sunday during lent one candle is blown out and the following week one less candle is lit during the daily reading.Three weeks in and now we’re only lighting 4 candles each day. And slowly we will work our way down to blowing out the last candle on Good Friday. Seeing the darkness represented tangibly is a powerful reminder for me that helps my heart prepare for the joyous celebration that is Easter/Resurrection Sunday. It may seem counterintuitive but understanding what Jesus did on the cross, makes the celebration of His resurrection more beautiful and more jubilant. I look forward to continuing this transition and making it a part of how our home marks the Christian seasons.
“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”Merry Christmas from our family to yours!
One of my favorite family traditions is tree cutting up in Placerville. I have so many amazing memories of cutting our own tree year after year, amazing Italian family meals, hanging out with cousins and being visited by Santa Claus. It was wonderful to be able to celebrate one more time with my family before heading to Australia.It’s about generations gathering together, reconnecting and making memories.It wouldn’t be tree cutting if we didn’t walk over to the tree farm. It’s just down the hill and up another hill.And you always have to find the perfect tree. Sometimes it takes awhile but you know the right tree when you see it.This is my crazy wonderful family. I’m going to miss these special events.And the homemade raviolis. They are amazing and delicious. This is the Italian side of the family.And Grandma got a whoopee cushion from Santa Claus. She’s going to be a riot in the community where she lives.The average height in this group is 6’3. We’re a tall family.Go Zapp family cousins!
Since we don’t have the snow to remind us that Christmas is coming, we have to rely on decorated shopping malls, cheerily lit homes after dark and our own Christmas traditions to help us get in the spirit of things. Some of these things are on pause for us because we’re in transition but I can still do my best to celebrate what I can and savor the traditions I can still enjoy. Here are 14 ways that I try to remind myself of the good things about the holidays and enjoy the anticipation of Christmas.
- I blogged last week about The Season of Advent. Having Advent reading, an Advent wreath and pausing at least once a day to read scripture and pray through the season reminds me of what is important during the holidays.
- Christmas music! Once Thanksgiving has been celebrated, I am all for Christmas music. Christmas music in the car, Christmas music at home, Christmas music in almost every store I walk into. I love a good mix of secular favorites and Christian songs. Each are festive in their own way. It all makes me happy.
- Baking and making delicious goodies. I will do a little baking this week but I look forward to making cinnamon rolls for my family to enjoy one morning and I’m sure there will be cookies made at some point too. My tastebuds love Christmas. And the smell of baking treats definitely helps get me in the Christmas mood.
- Decorations! I really enjoy decorating for Christmas but this year in our home all we have is our Advent wreath because we are moving. However, I look forward to being in my parent’s home and enjoying the beautiful tree lit for the week leading up to Christmas. Next year we’re decorating right after Thanksgiving and we’ll leave it up until January 6th, 3 Kings Day also known as Epiphany. I love stretching out the holiday season and enjoying the decorations as long as reasonable to my own standards.
- Christmas movie marathons. I will watch Elf multiple times this season. We’ve already watched Elf, The Grinch, Home Alone and A Christmas Story. Tonight we will watch It’s a Wonderful Life. There are so many good ones! It’s fun to snuggle up in a warm house when it’s cool/cold outside and enjoy a good movie. I’m also looking forward to watching the TV classics like Charlie Brown, Rudolf and Frosty the Snowman.
- Walking or driving through beautiful Christmas light streets. Almost every town has a street known for the amazing Christmas decorations. It’s always fun to gather a few friends, dress warmly, carry something warm to drink and enjoy the shining lights and creativity of our neighbors.
- Opening Christmas letters and cards. In my circles, I have a lot of friends who keep in touch all year around but it’s typical to just hear major updates from people at the end of the year. I love opening cards, seeing how the families have grown and hearing about the past year. I enjoy celebrating the joys of life with people and being able to pray through the hard things too. A mailbox filled with Christmas cheer is a wonderful thing.
- Early Christmas shopping. There is nothing better than having your Christmas shopping done early. Even if things don’t get wrapped right away, I love not having to think of last minute gifts. This is definitely the planner in me but it allows me to better enjoy the holidays not having yet another unfinished list.
- Christmas wrapping. Seeing a growing pile of pretty wrapped presents is always cheery and festive. A little Christmas music or a Christmas movie and wrapping with a cup of hot chocolate is a wonderful way to spend an evening.
- Eggnog. So before this year, I never would have said that eggnog was a necessary part of the holiday but then my sister-in-law introduced me to Royal Crest Dairy eggnog and now I’m hooked. Although Royal Crest isn’t available everywhere, eggnog will definitely be a staple in our refrigerator this season.
- The Nutcracker Ballet. I can’t always go and see The Nutcracker but when I can, I always enjoy it. During the holidays growing up it was always a treat to dress up and attend The Nutcracker as a family. It’s such a festive, entertaining part of the holidays. And the music is beautiful too!
- Stockings. There is something that is special about stockings to me. Leading up to Christmas, I love looking at them hanging across the mantle or on the wall if there is no fireplace. Even if we opened gifts on Christmas Eve, stockings were always Christmas morning. And my favorite tradition is always finding a tangerine in the toe. I look forward to making stockings something special for my own kids some day (this is NOT a pregnancy announcement).
- Candle Light Service. There is something particularly beautiful and celebratory about a Christmas Eve candle light service. It’s a wonderful way to calm our hearts and refocus during a busy season.
- Christmas reading. In the past couple of years I would download a Christmasy book to enjoy leading up to Christmas. Today, I sat with the pile of my childhood books that we will be shipping to Australia and read through all my favorite Christmas stories. From The Polar Express to Santa Mouse, these are Christmas classics for me. The Story of Holly & Ivy is precious and The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree always makes me cry. I fondly remember reading these books as a child and I still enjoy them now.
What are the traditions that help you remember, enjoy and anticipate Christmas?