Fresh baked cookies and hot cocoa greeting me as I come home from school…
A sea of poinsettias…
The Christmas season is filled with magic, none greater than the wonderful anticipation of Christmas morn when we celebrate the birth of our savior.
Family traditions have a way of making this season extra special… magical even.
When I first launched Scrumptious Moms I wrote a special post about our family traditions that I want to share with you today.
It’s Christmas Eve 1970. I’m 8 years old. It’s a cool and delicious night in Paris. We’ve
just come home from midnight mass. The fire crackles in the fire place. The tree
sparkles with hundreds of lights. The stockings are hung and awaiting Santa’s coming.
The smell of Mom’s hot cocoa tickles my nose. My favorite Christmas carol “Away in a Manger” is playing. This song has a way of wrapping itself around my heart… I can picture baby Jesus sleeping soundly in the warmth of his mother’s arms. A warm and magical feeling fills me from head to toe.
My eyes glisten as I look at the manger… the moment we’ve all been waiting for is here… Mom lifts up my little brother, who is four years old, and he carefully places babyJesus in the manger.
We sing “Happy Birthday Jesus” and each one of us opens one present. Then it’s ‘That Time’. We rush off to bed, trying our best to fall asleep so the morning will come just a little bit faster.
Through the years that single moment has never lost its magic for me. So simple yet so special. Today we celebrate in the same way with my girls.
The Christmas season has always been a special time for our family. It always begins on December 1st, the first day of Advent. As a Christian family, this is a time of reflection and preparation. It is a time to be grateful for our many blessings. A time filled with promise. A time of peace, hope and love. A time when my siblings and I behaved particularly well… perhaps because of one of my most cherished family traditions..
When Mom and Dad were married they received a little “crèche”, the French word for nativity, as one of their presents. It was a beautiful little set made of clay and carefully painted, with Mary, Joseph, the donkey, the ox, two doves, and of course baby Jesus asleep in the hay. The figurines are no more than 2 inches tall and beautifully hand painted with intricate details. As the years passed this nativity grew to include several hundred little figurines, each representing a special character, such as humility, love, hope, music, friendship, abundance, harvest and so many more. Dad crafted an elaborate scene with hills, deserts and other environments. And with the birth of myself, and each of my siblings, our saint was added to our crèche.
At the beginning of Advent each of our saints was placed far from the manger. Each day our saint would take a step closer – IF that is – we had behaved well. However, if we had misbehaved, well then, we’d take a stop back! As you can imagine we were mostly on our best behavior during all of Advent!
My crèche is nowhere near as complex as that of my parents, but it is the very first thing I set up every year. I think I choose it first is because I’ve noticed It fills me with that special feeling of home. For me, home is far away. I live in Los Angeles and my parents now live in the South of France. But this little crèche brings us together in a way that nothing else can.
I remember wonderful dinners with my aunts and uncles. Each year we’d all spend Christmas Day all together. One year at our house, the next at one of my uncles’ house. He lived in an apartment in the 17th Arondissement in Paris, in an building filled with his extended family. So we’d go from floor to floor spreading Christmas cheer. The food was always fabulous! And one of my uncles would always sneak a little champagne in the kid’s orange juice! The best part was sitting around after our meal, playing board games, and simply delighting in each other’s company. The end of this special day always came too fast, but the feeling lingered on for weeks.
One of my other favorite tradition began when we were a little older. We had moved to a house in the outskirts of Paris and every year my parents would host an “open house” the Sunday between Christmas and New Year! That day, in and of itself, was amazing! Close to a hundred people would stop by beginning around 4:00 pm and it would go until the wee hours.
In preparation for this special day Mom, my siblings, and I would bake up a storm! For
a week leading up to our open house, we baked day in and day out! The house was
filled with the most delicious smells. We always made Mexican wedding cookies,
hundreds of them, which was a tradition from Mom’s side of the family. And of course
we made “fruits déguisés” (dressed up fruits) which are a traditional French treat. Each
year we discovered new recipes. I still make many of these with the girls today. We
love to make boxes of homemade cookies as special gifts, for friends, teachers, or anyone who needs a little Christmas cheer.
I’ve adopted many of the Christmas traditions I grew up with and have incorporated
some from my husband’s family too. We’ve also created new ones with our girls. My
parents are in France and my siblings are all on the East coast now, so every year we
invite some of our friends, who, likewise are far from family, to spend this special day
Traditions are the glue that keep families together. They are a beautiful way to bring
families together, and form a bond that transcends time. They are these special rituals
that make us unique, and keep us smiling through the years. Traditions don’t have to
be complicated or elaborate. Often the simpler they are, the more meaningful they are.
Traditions are some of the most beautiful things to create and pass on to our children.
In a special way they bring together many generations.
I wish you, and your family, a blessed and beautiful Christmas and holiday season!
What are some of your special family traditions?
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