1. Christmas mail. I love writing, sending and receiving Christmas cards, pictures and (most of all) letters. I wish it wouldn’t end soon after Christmas is over. I’m actually grateful to those few persevering souls who write a “New Year’s Letter” or send their Christmas greetings after the holidays. Keep ’em coming! A highlight of my Christmas season was when Kellen burst in the door enthusiastically praising my letter about the birds.
2. Christmas projects. I always seem to spend the last few days before Christmas (and sometimes afterwards) finishing up a Christmas project. This year I had three projects that all were finished around the midnight hour: I made two crazy quilt pillows out of my Mom’s wedding dress. I finished a quilt for Laura that I started at Stormy Lake the week we put our Elmhurst house on the market. I also finished a sweater for Olive in time for Christmas. A sweet spontaneous hug from her was another highlight.
3. Christmas baking. I don’t actually do much Christmas baking. This year I spent one day in the kitchen making dinner rolls and Sweet Rolls. I made some two types of non-Christmas cookies and some UPBC Hot Fudge sauce. Still, it was a pleasant way to spend a day.
4. Gift giving. I’m pretty sure gifts are one of my love languages so I enjoy loving others by giving gifts. Mostly I follow the suggestions given to me, but I especially like coming up with gifts from the heart (or my imagination.) I love to surprise others with thoughtful gifts. Earlier in December (after a gift wrapping session) I thought that others were missing out on so much by not enjoying the process of giving, but later realized that it more than likely has something to do with love languages as we generally love others using our own love language (which may not mean much to them.)
5. Traditions. I’m not big on decorating, but I do like pulling out the same things year after year–Christmas orneryments (John’s term for cute, meaningful ornaments,) my Father Christmas collection, Anne’s Nutcrackers, and lately, my tartan quilts in generally Christmas colors. I also like having Cinnamon Rolls for breakfast and oyster stew (which I never actually partake) on Christmas Eve. This year both Laura and Anne adopted my past tradition of making sweet rolls for their friends and/or neighbors and delivering them on Christmas Eve. That was kind of cool.
6. Family. Our family celebration doesn’t look the way I imagined it would, but I still treasure the time spent with family around the holidays. It was especially fun to have the Birkey family hanging out with us on Christmas Day. We were able to Facetime the Bruce bunch more than usual as they stayed home for the holidays. Since they are a day ahead of us, we called (or were called) on Annie’s NZ and American Birthdays (20th and 21st), NZ Christmas Eve (22nd), Our Christmas Eve/Their Christmas Day (24) and Our Christmas Day and their Boxing Day (25th).
7. Christmas Parties. Joy Peters hosts an annual Christmas gathering at her downtown condo made up of various past and present small group participants. After dinner we walk to a concert nearby and then return for dessert. Everyone brings something to share, but this is definitely not a potluck. Courses are coordinated with the main dish. This year Joy was in the early stages of a kitchen remodel and her oven didn’t work, so we had a pasta bar cooked on the stovetop. My other party was the annual EMA Christmas Party which is always early on a Friday afternoon. New and old employees are invited so it’s kind of a reunion as well as a fun time of appreciation and laughter. All the docs give speeches and one or two of them usually follow up with a second act, providing further entertainment. It is a lot of fun.
8. Christmas Bonus. I almost always forget this perk and love the surprise of a little extra cash at Christmas. This year I didn’t expect anything since I’d been treated generously at the time of my retirement but when they passed out cards and bonuses, I got one too. I held on to mine through the rest of the shopping season and today bought myself a used Apple Watch (with the help of my tech savvy and resourceful daughter, Laura.) Old folks remember when retirees received a gold watch for their years of service. Mine is a rose gold Apple watch 🙂 It probably won’t last as long as the traditional gold watch.
9. Christmas Legos. I wonder if we’ve ever had a Lego-free Christmas? We probably have, but Johnny has maintained a life long interest in Legos which stretched our Lego years much longer than normal. The grandkids are well into their Lego years. Last year everyone got a small set of classic Legos and we had a contest to see who made the best creation. This year Johnny bought the family a group gift of a 1969-piece Saturn V rocket that is almost 3 feet tall. Johnny, Papa John and Kellen spent several hours completing it. (Taylor helped his littles complete their Legos.)
10. The Hallelujah Chorus. When Kellen was three he loved hearing the Mannheim Steamroller version of the Hallelujah Chorus, asking us to play it every time we got in the car, over and over and over again. This year John sang a shortened version of the Messiah at our Elmhurst church and later that same day we heard the Moody Church choir sing it again. My favorite parts are when everyone rises to their feet as the song begins and that last pause before the final Hallelujah. Someday “every knee shall bow” and I can imagine that better when I watch an audience (especially a secular audience) rise at the first strains of the music.
When I started writing this blog, I didn’t know if I could come up with ten things that I liked about Christmas. I thought I might get to four or five and then would end with saying that the best part was when Christmas was over. I still breathe a big sigh of relief when it is over, but in writing this I found that there is more to like about Christmas than I thought.