Christmas is filled with all sorts of traditions. As a child, many of our traditions were based around food. Every family seems to have their menu worked out well in advance, and may well be carried over from year to year. But beyond the tradition of what is prepared and consumed on Christmas day, there are other way to integrate beautiful and meaningful traditions that can create a sense of joy and anticipation for that first weekend of December.
I looked forward to that weekend every year; baking batches and batches of German treats for our neighbours and friends. Even when the hot Australian December was really too hot to think about turning the oven on, we did anyway. There were certain cookies that we only did at this time of year, never baked in between or for any other occasion. My mother would shop for special ingredients in dusty delis and pokey little stores. We would work furiously all weekend and then with satisfied exhaustion, pack little parcels with bows for delivery in the following days.
Carrying these traditions on once I started my own family took some tweaking and experimenting, as I wanted to include what my husband enjoyed and looked forward to as much as my children and myself. However, I must say that the smell of spice and sweet cookies in early December wasn't a hard sell. My kids are on board, even if they may flounder before I do in finishing all that icing that needs to be piped onto gingerbread.
So here's a few simple ideas that might be worth a try in your household:
- Bake cookies or treats that your family loves, wrap them up in brown paper and ribbons, and share them with neighbours, teachers, friends, coaches and others as a meaningful gift. Perhaps think of some elderly people or those who may not have family around and share your parcels with those to show you care. Homemade treats will always be so much more touching and personal.
- Bake a gingerbread house and decorate it together. You might decide to only start eating it on Christmas Day. This could also make a wonderful gift for a family. Don't be shy to use a kit if it means that you can get your family interested in the activity.
- Collect additional groceries and donate them to a charity that need such donations, as so many people have little during this time.
- Make Gingerbread Christmas decorations to hang on the tree. It makes the room smell so much more like Christmas, and will help everyone feel the spirit of Christmas a little more. I use Gewurtzhaus' Gingerbread Recipe for this.
- Bake personalised name tags from Gingerbread to place on your table setting. I only started this one recently, but was a fun surprise for my guests as they sat at the table, and added some fun to the meal.
I would also suggest to try like inviting someone who may not have family to share Christmas with, to share it with you. Be inclusive and generous. One year, we included a senior lady who had no family, which was the beginning of a long and deep connection and became our adopted grandmother.
Share these ideas with your family and see what they might be interested in. See what will work. It may take some experimenting, trial and error, discussions and feedback to see what is going to stick. Adding relevant traditions to your Christmas calendar may mean taking out some things that are less important in an effort to bring more meaning and less craziness to the Christmas season.