There’s not much I love more than vanilla candles with cinnamon sticks and dried apples built in to them. Or drinking a cup of hot chocolate while wrapped up in a cozy blanket watching a movie. Or wrapping Christmas presents. Or getting phone calls/texts from people who receive those gifts.

I love the food. The colors. The season. The spirit.

As of this week? I’ve just been itching to break out into complete and utter holiday mode. And I’ll be in total holiday madness when we put up the Christmas tree on Sunday πŸ˜‰

Taking a cue from this wonderfully worded mama over at Liberal Simplicity, I thought I’d talk a little about my family’s traditions for the season. I’d love to hear back from you about anything you do that’s special for your own family and what you look forward to this time of year!

(Ol’ Saint Nick on the Holiday Express, one of the Chicago Transit trains that gets decked out in lights, festive decor and a real life Santa that visits with the kids! I see it every year as I wait for my own train to come.)

Every year around the holidays, I used to _____________ growing up.

  • I used to…Not help out much with Thanksgiving.Β Most of the times Thanksgiving came at a time when I really needed a break from school. I’d crash the night before after driving back in from school and sleep until noon. As most of you are probably already aware, the morning time is the PRIME time to make/cook Thanksgiving dinner. So essentially I’d wake up at noon, take a shower and eat turkey for dinner around 3 p.m. Sometimes I’d help when I was younger by peeling potatoes, but my grandmother took over that task as it was one of the few that allowed her to sit down and work. Now that I’m of an age to appreciate all that my mom did for me growing up, I’m hoping to help out more.Β But my experience so far is marred:Β two years ago I made crunchy, over-sugared bread pudding, over-cooked the stuffin’ muffins, made runny cranberry sauce, and made real pumpkin pie that NO ONE LIKED. Last year I brought snacky things to eat before the real meal (Those went over ok…), perfect cranberry sauce (That didnt get set out and instead remained in the fridge…), and rolls that weren’t cooked all the way through. I AM DETERMINED TO MAKE SOMETHING BETTER THIS YEAR!
  • I used to…Β Listen to Christmas music while cooking Thanksgiving dinner.Β My mom never put on Christmas music until Thanksgiving day growing up. Since this was the first time all season we’d have heard it, it made cooking and helping clean the house a lot easier. To this day, I won’t listen to Christmas music until Thanksgiving day πŸ˜‰
  • I used to… Talk with my brother the night before Christmas and swap “Mom got you this” gossip back and forth. He’d point at a present and ask what it was. I’d tell him. Then I’d do the same. Sometimes he lied to me, which was ok πŸ˜‰
  • I used to… Get to open one present on Christmas Eve. It was always pajamas. For a little kid who was extremely excited about the possibility of toys, I was often sad about the pajamas. But my mom always did it so we’d have new, clean pajamas on in our Christmas pictures. Now, Christmas eve is the only time I ever GET new pajamas. So I always look forward to it (And she’s been buying for DH too!). Probably the most brilliant concept in the world here πŸ˜‰
  • I used to… Put up the bleach bottle Santa. My mom got this Santa at a craft fair (I think…) and we’ve had it FOREVER. I’m eager to get one of my own because it has such a wonderful family memory for me. My brother and I used to fight about who got to hang it up…and it always hung above a doorway.

  • I used to… Help my Β mom paint sweatshirts and t-shirts for craft fairs. Every Christmas she’d turn the kitchen table into a big craft workshop. She’d have Christmas and seasonal iron-ons, glitter paint, fabric paint, and little jewels/beads. And it never failed that my grandmother would come down, see how pretty everything looked and then TOUCH THE WET PAINT. But I did it too, which was why I always got to paint my own shirt πŸ˜‰
  • I used to.. Put up the Christmas tree after December 3. Why? Because that’s my mom’s birthday. And she didn’t want to have the tree up until after. All special occasions need their own celebration after all πŸ˜‰ The tree always came down the day after Christmas, too πŸ˜‰
  • I used to…Be the one that woke everyone up on Christmas day. My mom would set a time that we couldn’t wake anyone up until. And then she’d say, “Make sure coffee is ready.” So my brother was in charge of coffee (trust me. It was better that way). And I got to run upstairs to wake up my grandma and grandpa (paternal), downstairs to wake up my other grandma (maternal) and then run and wake up mom and dad.
  • I used to… Celebrate with everyone all the time. As you probably counted, growing up I lived with both sets of grandparents. So there were 7 people in our house at all times for holidays. Christmas was AMAZING. There were so many presents jampacked under that tree that my favorite part of Christmas as a kid lasted all morning. Everyone had a turn to open their presents and my brother and I both had ample opportunity to be “Santa” and hand them out. Then we’d put piles of presents in our room and run to eat food and watch How the Grinch Stole Christmas on tv with everyone πŸ™‚


(Ren, in all his cuteness, showing the world how to not peek when tempted by presents)

Now that DH and I are living together, we are slowly creating our own traditions and incorporating ones from our own childhoods (I was going to put up DH’s traditions, but we just haven’t had time to sit down and talk about them!).

Every year around the holidays, DH and I ___________.

  • Every year, we put up the treeΒ the weekend after Thanksgiving. It’s a bit of a hassle for us to go down to the storage room, rank out the tree and all the accessories, lug it up three flights of stairs and set it out/rearrange the living room. Because of this, we like to keep the tree up early and take it down a bit later. I like the tree to come down the weekend after New Years, but it can go up right after Thanksgiving. He agrees with this, but told me that when he grew up the tree would sometimes stay until March. ❀
  • Ever year, we make a Christmas Stollen. I started making these last year as my foray into The Daring Bakers. But when that program got too much for me (Cooks AND bakers is a bit much…), I kept this recipe. It was a huge hit and I plan on making it for every Christmas. Even if it takes two days to make πŸ˜‰

(taken with my cell, please excuse the quality! But last year’s Christmas Stollen)

  • Every year, we make a sweet potato pie. Because I love it, almost more than pumpkin!
  • Every year, we open all the gifts on Christmas day.Β Unless my mom sends us pajamas. Then we open those on Christmas eve. DH’s parents used to let him open all his gifts on Christmas eve after Christmas mass at church. They’d get home super late (midnight-ish) and then open everything. They’d save the BIG gift for the next morning if they could wait that long πŸ˜‰
  • Every year, we set a budget for one another for gifts. It makes things alot easier and saves each other from the embarassment of, “What if he/she spent a whole lot more?? I feel awful!” So this solves that and we both can afford to spend it.
  • Every year, we go to the downtown Macy’s to buy chocolates, look at the trees, and marvel in the window shops. Despite the fact that we live so close to the city, we hardly ever go down there to browse around and enjoy the sites. Macy’s always has a gorgeous window display, beautifully decorated trees and floors, and their candy shop in the basement? Is to DIE for. I always have to pick up a few boxes for folks on my list!
  • Every year, we tend to weasel our way into our extended family’s New Year’s celebrations. We are always invited, but sometimes we don’t know until the day before. My aunt (my dad’s brother’s wife)’s mom and dad are Italian. Direct from Italy italian. And they make the BEST food ever. Pasta. Homemade sauce and meat. AND SEAFOOD. Fried shrimp. Baked and breaded cod. Oysters. Mussels. Crab legs. Salmon. Fried calamari. And then there’s baked goods. Lentils for good luck. Celery root. Fruit. Italian bingo. Horns, hats and whistles. Cake. And champagne. And homemade wine. And beer. You get the picture. The entire family together and I love love love it. The basement is always packed. There’s always good food. I always feel so welcome! And it’s time with my family that I love. (And DH looks forward to gorging himself ;)).
  • Every year, we try to focus on family. We call family members. We spend as much time with family as we can. We bake breads and cookies and deliver them to the folks in our lives that we can’t buy gifts for, but want them to know they mean something to us. I love the focus and I get all sappy and mushy thinking about Christmas together. I’m even teary-eyed thinking about it now. I just LOVE this time of year so much!


(Boberto, trying to sleep with visions of sugar plums dancing in his head)

So there you have it folks! Some Christmas insight! What are your favorite holiday traditions and memories? Anything you’re looking forward to this year? πŸ™‚