As it has happened every year, I was the first one awake this morning. Radio 2 played classical Christmas music all night long; Carol of the Bells played just as I was coming out of sleep, so it felt like Christmas morning right away. I snuck out of bed successfully and then, anti-climatically, sat waiting half an hour for Mike and Alma to wake up. Once they were up, we opened our stockings and made orange roll (a cinnamon bun with orange that tastes like Christmas). Mike wished the cows Merry Christmas with a bunch of turnips and did the chores while Alma and I washed dishes (I hope she always loves doing dishes with me…ha).
We opened one gift each and then got breakfast ready. Alma was given a French book about a nativity play, Mike received two incredible cook books that he said he would share with me (The River Cottage Meat Book and River Cottage Every Day), and I got a pair of cozy down-filled booties (Alma got a bonus gift of mini versions of my slippers). Our stockings were simple and only had a few things in them (clementines, hazelnuts, chestnuts, and a treat). We are going to do stockings, hopefully, each of the twelve days.
This is the first year that we are stretching out the celebrating and the gifts, and it is the first year I don’t feel overwhelmed. I usually feel gluttonous by Christmas afternoon, as a result of the treats and the gifts. This year I feel relaxed and enormously blessed, plus a little sick from all the maple fudge I’ve eaten. I can’t remember a Christmas day ever feeling this relaxed. Without all the pressure being put on one day, I’m enjoying everything more. I usually feel like I need to DO ALL THE THINGS on Christmas Day, but there are another eleven days to go this year, so we read books and had naps this afternoon.
Happy first day of Christmas!
I began the morning with chicken stock and Handel’s Messiah; I love the build up to the Hallelujah chorus so much that by the time the song is mid-way through I am usually covered in goose bumps and on the verge of tears. Handel was followed by other sophisticated artists like the cast from Glee and 98 degrees. We have a good (terrible?) mix of music at our house. We listened to everything from Bing to Etta today, and I thoroughly enjoyed it all. I still haven’t listened to Carol of the Bells because I want to save something musical for tomorrow, and am as excited about it as I am about the strangely shaped gifts hanging from my ceiling.
The twenty-third was spent in the kitchen, mostly. I cooked like a madwoman, desperate to put away as many meals for the twelve days of Christmas as possible. I took a nice break and wandered through the woods with the family to pick out our Christmas tree. It knocked a few things over on the way into the yurt, but it looked great once it was up. Thin and Charlie Brown-ish if you are used to a groomed tree, but just right for the yurt. It is nearly eleven feet tall and almost reaches into the dome. After the little one was in bed, I gathered all the goodies that were stored away for stockings and organized them into twelve little piles. I tried to plan the gifts, giving cookie cutters for the day we will be making gingerbread houses, but mostly it is just a mishmash of animal crackers and raisins for Alma, and a copious amount of chocolate for Mike.
We baked cookies and played Scrabble today before heading to church for Nine Lessons and Carols (which was lovely). We had plans of watching It’s a Wonderful Life, but I know I would fall asleep five minutes into it, and don’t want to miss it. Mike is making maple fudge and orange roll right now, and I’m contemplating making a couple batches of cookies after I stuff the stockings… but I might just lay here and listen to the Christmas music instead.
Tomorrow is the first day of Christmas, which means it is time to bring on the chocolate. Happy Christmas Eve 🙂
The observation of advent is a new tradition for me. Advent meant a chocolate calendar for most of my life, so it is only recent that we observe it in the more traditional way. Now, it is a time of waiting and anticipation for Christmas. We try not to listen to Christmas music or put up the tree until Christmas eve (although I always cave on the music by the 21st). We listen to beautiful music all December long, but wait for Joy to the World and the Hallelujah chorus. Each Sunday we light an advent candle, read a few things from the Bible, and sing carols around the supper table.
We add something decorative to the house each week. The first week we make an advent wreath and hang our calendar(a homemade string of numbers on which to count down to Christmas). Week two brings greenery into the yurt as we hang branches and cranberries. We put up white lights on week three, and on week four we bust out the stockings. We will put up our tree and string it with lights tomorrow, but will wait to decorate until Christmas eve (during which time we will be listening to Handel’s Messiah).
During the month, I try my best to make meals and pop them into the freezer so that we can pull them out during the twelve days of Christmas. I would love to not cook for twelve whole days and still have homemade food on the table at each meal. If I make a bunch of stuff tomorrow, we just might be able to make it through the holidays without washing a roasting pan. Except for the turkey pan. Which is the worst kind of pan.
We haven’t baked too many things yet, but are gearing up for the big cookie extravaganza. Alma likes to bake, especially if it involves cookie cutters, so it will be a family affair. Mike and I each have specific cookies that we need to eat at Christmas: he needs shortbread full of butter, and I need chocolate crinkles devoid of gluten and dairy. Guess whose cookies are better.
I’m also hoping to make a few treats that my sister-in-law and I can eat over the holidays. She and I both suffer from pretty intense food intolerances, so we don’t eat what everyone else eats. Thankfully, we are very similar in our food issues, so at least we each have a friend at the gluten-dairy-corn-free table. It sounds worse than it is. We both end up with a ton of special treats because our family feels bad for us and is very kind. I will post our favourite allergy-free recipes after the holidays (we need to do a lot of tasting first).