Christmas is coming and our fourth Christmas into our marriage, we have established a tradition or two. Now depending on how enthusiastic I feel in the run up to Christmas will dictate how much attention I’ll put into all the festivities. This year, I feel really drawn to all the carol concerts at church so lots of my creative energy is going into those (more on that later) but there are a few traditions at home this Christmas that are making me smile. Some of these are inherited from my time in Finland and some are blended family traditions. Here’s a quick round up.
1) Our Advent Calendar
Every year, this is my husband’s pride and joy. He’s written out a bible verse for each day, put a minstrel for each of us in every pocket (I’ve been informed that from the 20th December, we get 2 minstrels each) and he’s also thought 24 Christmas activities to do, one each day. I think this was inherited from his sister who also does a similar thing with her children. These activities range from, “wrap presents”, “make Christmas sweets”, “Sleep under the Christmas Tree” to “Host a carol concert” and “Go to a Christmas Comedy”. He even stamped the numbers on each day – that, my friends, is how dedicated my husband is to the Christmas cause.
2) Oreo Truffles
Oreo goodness in a creamy, chocolaty truffle. I have no idea why these became a Christmas thing, I started making these about ten years ago but nonetheless we’ve made them each year at Christmas and forget they exist for the other 11 months. They’re insanely easy and oh so yummy – a crowd pleaser at parties if you need one!
3) Letters to Father Christmas from Lapland
When Ben and I went to Lapland, my favourite souvenir was a pack of envelopes that children had posted to Father Christmas. The letters are taken out and given to charity and then the envelopes are sold to raise money for Unicef. Letters to Santa from all over the world end up at Santa’s Post Office in Rovaniemi in Finland. Each envelope was beautifully decorated in lovely, neat handwriting from children in countries all over the world. I love looking at the different names for Father Christmas – “Père Noël” or “Joulupukki” or “Sinterklaas” – and all the effort that’s gone into decorating them, some with the barest of addresses (a UK one just saying “Santa” but ended up in The North Pole) and others with imaginary addresses for Father Christmas.
4) That Time we met Father Christmas.
In our twenties, we definitely weren’t over having our photo taken with Father Christmas so obviously when we were in Lapland we sneaked in a photo with him (for the small price of an arm and a leg obviously.) It takes pride of place replacing our wedding photo on the wall every December and reminds of our little escapade to the North Pole. (Ben says it also reminds him not to remove his hat in photos or he’ll get hat hair too…).
You may have seen this in IKEA along with the rows of pretty shaped Pepparkakor (gingerbread) labelled as “glogg”. In Finland, hot glasses of glögi are handed out at Christmas markets, after playtime at school, to warm up after coming in from the snow or gathered round the fire in a cabin in the forest. It’s a traditional type of mulled fruit juice inspired by berries and nuts you’d find in the finnish forest, you can perk it up with wine or vodka too. We’ll either make it from scratch every year or get some at IKEA. It goes particularly well with some gingerbread biscuits on the side.
6) Our Wedding Bauble
My lovely sister in law made us a sweet little bauble filled aspects of our wedding: strips of our wedding invitation, ribbon, material from one of the bridesmaids dresses. It’s a gorgeous decoration and one of my favourites on the tree.
7) New Year Place cards
Every year at New year’s, I make a little place card and we take time to celebrate the previous year, commemorating our last season and looking forward to the next. We scribble down our favourite parts of the past year, talk through our highs and lows and share our hopes for the coming year. We have a box that is kept under the Christmas tree that they’re all stored in and it’s fun to look through old place cards and laugh at what did and didn’t happen and what you’ve hoped and achieved. They’re a reminder of God’s goodness and faithfulness and of the road that we’ve walked. We also snap a picture of us that year and put it in the box with them.
To be honest, those are just a handful of my favourites, I could put lots more. In the busyness of this season, I’m taking time to savour the small moments and allowing myself to take the easy route this Christmas (store bought glögi, no Christmas cards this year). If you enjoy them and these things aren’t a stress then by all means, make and primp and cook and create but be free from the pressure of perfection if perfection comes at the cost of delight. Christ came to give Joy to the world – not a to do list, or burden or stress. These are some of the areas that I find delight at Christmas and I’ll put up baubles and photos and hang envelopes and share treats because it brings me pleasure and I relish the charm and allure of some of these traditions.
Delight over duty. Present over perfect. Stillness over stress.