The day after Thanksgiving is my favorite day because everyone catches up and starts getting ready for Christmas! Overnight it becomes socially acceptable to listen to Christmas music, and it’s okay to deck the halls with Christmas cheer. Finally.
This year we went to Northern Lights again. We made the trek with Jesse’s folks this year. We found a perfectly lovely Fraser Fir that was tall, and sparse, and green.
Jesse, with some help and encouragement from the girls and his dad, cut down our tree. It has a much thicker trunk than our past trees, and Jesse had to work quite hard to fall it.
I love this rainy, muddy, sunny, chilly annual adventure. I figure that since we live in the place where most the Christmas trees are grown, it’s worth it to go to the source and get the freshest of the fresh.
Because, just look at the sweet memories we are creating.
Back home we got the tree all decorated. When we were done, there was a pretty solid ring of ornaments right at Harriet and Alma height.
And adding the star to the top is a family affair. I love the magic of this moment, every single year.
We also got to visit Santa after church on Sunday. I seriously love this Santa (except that this year, he told the kids he’s just a helper… I was fully committed to teaching our kids that he was the real deal, but, whatever…).
I think this was the first year both girls have happily gone right up to him and jumped into his lap.
We went, of course, with Rory and Poppy. Poppy was a little unsure about the whole deal.
We wrote our letter to Santa and put it in the mailbox. Then a talking tree – Doug Fir – came up and made us all a little uncomfortable.
But, hey! It’s Christmas time! It’s Advent! Let’s be jolly!
First and foremost there is “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” (I wrote all about my love for this perfect song two years ago). Then there are the classics, the obvious choices – “White Christmas,” “Let It Snow,” “The Christmas Song.” Then there’s always “O Holy Night” – such a lovely, simple song.
But, I have some other, more eclectic favorites. Bear with me, some of these are strange, but all of them are worth it.
[I’m posting some videos below, but I only wanted to post links to videos that where officially posted by the artists. You can look up the other songs on YouTube for unofficial videos, or on Spotify. But I do suggest that you listen to each and every one of these songs.]
“A Baby Changes Everything” by Faith Hill. This one was all about the timing. I first heard it when I was 9 months pregnant with Alma. It’s slightly cheesy, but it still has a beautiful message about motherhood, and Jesus and all that.
“It Won’t Be the Same This Year” by Vince Gill. This is a sad one. I don’t know why I love sad Christmas songs. We had this album when I was little, and I always loved this song.
“Love is Christmas” by Sara Bareilles and by Evynne Hollens and Emily Sangdor. This is probably the most modern song on my list. I love anything by Sara. I also love everything by Evynne, so her version is perfection.
“Where Are You Christmas?” by Faith Hill (again). This one is from the Grinch movie that I have never seen. The song, though, is one of my very favorites. It’s all about hope and love and joy. What a great message to have all year, but especially at Christmas.
“The Man Who Would Be Santa” by Vertical Horizon. This was another song that came into my life at the right time. It was my freshman year of college. “The man who would be Santa tells his son to write, to call him if he needs him in the middle of the night, ‘don’t you worry, don’t you cry now, your mother and I love you, and think about you all the time.” This is an acoustic version on the band’s YouTube channel, but the original is also great.
“Magic” by someone on an old Christmas in Sun Valley cassette tape that my brother turned into a CD. I can’t find a video of this song, but it’s great. It’s all about how Christmastime is magic. Absolutely magic.
“Good King Wenceslas” by The Roaches. I love this one so much. The idea of helping others, especially those who are less fortunate, is such a beautiful idea. And the fact that the Feast of Stephen is the day after Christmas is perfect. After all the craziness, it’s great to take a breath and give back.
“The Cherry Tree Carol” by Peter, Paul, and Mary. I love a good story song. Peter, Paul, and Mary’s Christmas album was in heavy rotation when I was a kid.
“Silent Night” all versions, but especially Cantus and the Dublinaires.
“One Little Christmas Tree” by Stevie Wonder. Another song of the year. I listened to this one on repeat while we were in Azerbaijan. Christmas felt so strange there, and this song seemed especially poignant.
Last, but certainly not least – The entire Very Special Christmas, Volume 3 album. Especially “Christmastime” by the Smashing Pumpkins, “Oi to the World” by No Doubt, “Christmas” by Blues Traveler, “Christmas in the City” by Mary J. Blige ft. Angie Martinez, “Christmas is Now Drawing Near at Hand” by Steve Winwood, and OF COURSE “Christmas Song” by Dave Matthews. I know this is a crazy 90s flashback. I remember listening to this during my senior year of high school. If I started the Dave Matthews song right as I left school, it would end as I pulled into my driveway, every time, WITHOUT FAIL. Christmas miracles, folks.
This is our fourth year visiting Santa at the Festival of Trees. It’s great to see him every year. This year we went with Rory and Poppy, and all four kids were (mostly) happy to go say hello. They were a little nervous, but there were absolutely no tears. I’m sure the candy canes helped.
Alma told Santa she wants a unicorn with a glowing horn (anyone have any ideas for this?). Rory told Santa he wants a Poli. Harriet and Poppy didn’t tell Santa what they want.
For the girls’ Christmas dresses, I used Oliver + S’s Fairy Tale pattern (the same one I used for Harriet’s baptism dress) and solid fabrics from Piece By Piece. Alma got to wear her dress to the Nutcracker, and Harriet got to wear her dress to my dad’s Rotary meeting, but unfortunately, Alma was really sick on Christmas, so we skipped church, and didn’t have the kids wear their fancy Christmas dresses to Christmas Eve dinner at my dad’s.
Luckily, we’re really lazy and still have our Christmas decorations up, so before we went to Alma’s birthday party, we had a quick photo-shoot with Jesse’s old sled, decorated with some Christmas boughs.
It was Jesse’s idea to make Alma’s dress look like a Christmas tree. I thought it could be awesome or ridiculous, but I decided to go for it anyway!I raised the waistline and lengthened the skirt, and added a few extra layers. I think the tiers of green look really sweet, and I love the petal sleeves in this pattern.
For Harriet, the initial idea was to make it like a poinsettia, but in the end, I decided making petals would be too much, so I just lengthened it, and added the dark red lining, longer than the dress.I love how the Christmas dresses look Christmas-y, but are plain enough that they can wear them all year long. I also love how Harriet was totally mugging for the camera. She seriously cracks us up, all day long.
I always love pulling out all our Christmas decorations. It’s great to see our old creche that’s been in the family for at least four generations. I love the stockings I made for the girls. This year, I’m happy to have some new decorations to add to the mix. I was inspired by Sarah (a common occurrence, being inspired by Sarah) to get out my wood burning tool and make something. We had a spare piece of plywood sitting around from Alma’s new bed. I looked around for some Christmas inspiration and decided to do a O Holy Night wood burning.
I also decided to actually display the Christmas cards we received this year, and I figured they would add a little color to the yellow wall with the O Holy Night wood burning. I just strung up some red ribbon, got some wee clothes pins, and let my friends and family provide the color.
Last year, my friend Jacque made me this awesome chalkboard. It’s been fun changing it up through the year. For Christmas I drew a tree and added some completely random Christmas words. Pretty sloppy, but still gets the message across.
My mother in law is a fantastic water color artist and gave us this painting of Mary and Jesus with a poem. It’s a lovely Christmas decoration.
They made their first appearance earlier this month. As luck would have it, the girls got a package in the mail from my aunt Kim. When I shook it, I could tell it was something Christmasy – I figured ornaments or something. I decided it would be cool if the Goodness Gnomes delivered it to Alma and Hattie as a fun introduction.
When they girls woke up in the morning, they found that two gnomes had come through the fairy door with a package.
They also had a note saying that they should name the goodness gnomes. Alma named the red one Tasty, and Hattie named the blue one PuBa.
They loved the goodness gnomes.
I thought to myself, “Yes! It’s working! My girls are amazing and I will be able to teach them all about kindness and goodness and giving!”
They opened the package and for the most amazing Christmas hats. Seriously, my aunt is a knitting genius. Hats with jingle bells. I can’t even. They are gorgeous.
We had lots of fun that day. Alma wore her hat to school. Hattie kept hers on much longer than she usually keeps hats on. We did lots of jingling. And playing with Tasty and PuBa.
But… the day was sort of hard on Tasty. Alma took it upon herself to give him a shave. He almost lost an arm.
He has gone back through the fairy door. He has not come back. He might send some (more sturdy) friends next year (or maybe the next…) to continue this tradition. For this year, my girls got a taste of magic and some amazing hats. Good enough for me, I think!
I’ve seen faerie doors all over Pinterest, so this is one of my Pinterest Projects! I finally got around to making Our Faerie Door.
The main inspiration for this came from The Imagination Tree’s idea of Kindness Elves. I love this alternative to Elf on the Shelf. I wrote a little bit about it last year when I was thinking of new traditions to have for Christmastime. Last year I bought some gnome dolls that were in the girls’ stockings. They will be our Kindness Gnomes (unless I come up with a better name in the next couple weeks…).
I bought the door and doorknob on Amazon, but I imagine you could get it at a hobby shop that sells things for dollhouses. I used my woodburning tool to burn some fae-ish designs. Then, we used wood glue to glue it to the staircase.
Alma helped me glue it on.
Then we said this rhyme:
Faeries, faeries, everywhere,
Come to us so we can share
all the love we have for you.
Faeries, faeries, come on through!
I totally just made it up, on the spot, but Alma was pretty impressed. It sounded pretty authentic to her.
Alma loves our faerie door and I will often find her stretched out on the floor, talking to the faeries behind the door. She knows that it takes magic to open our faerie door, and that the faeries only come out when they are ready.
She has told me about some faerie visits she’s had.
Pretty magical, right?
When Christmastime comes, the Gnomes will start appearing out of our faerie door, and I think that will just about blow her mind!
It’s that time of year. In fact it’s been that time of year for a couple months around here. The time of year when pretty much the only music I have playing is Christmas music. I have my iTunes all set up so my favorites are at the top of the list. This list is basically the same every year, but it tends to be a bit fluid in the order of songs.
The song that is always on the top is “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” Always and forever.
This song became a favorite the year I spent Christmas in Azerbaijan during Peace Corps. The line “through the years we all will be together, if the fates allow” hit home, since I wasn’t at home. I plan on writing more about my Azerbaijani Christmas next week, so check back for more about this.
Not only do I have that on the top of my list, but I also have an ordered list of my favorite versions of the song. Here they are (please note that I am embedding videos here and that they might not show up on all viewers):
1. Bright Eyes
I love the almost melancholy take that Bright Eyes has on the song. “Let your heart be light, from now on our troubles will be out of sight.” They way they sing this line just gets me. It’s a mixture of hope and sadness. Good stuff.
2. John Denver and the Muppets, or more specifically, John Denver and Rowlf.
John: “Faithful friends who are dear to us, gather near to us once more.”Rowlf: “That’s nice…”
It really is nice, Rowlf. It really is.
3. Judy Garland
The original. “Next year all our troubles will be miles away.” So beautiful. So unique.
Then there are all the other greats. James Taylor, John Denver (without Rowlf), Frank, She & Him. Oh man. So good.
I have been thinking a lot this year about how to make traditions for my daughters. I know that it is very important that they grow up with special traditions – especially at Christmas time. We already have some fun traditions, like going and cutting down our Christmas tree, doing Advent calendars, eating dinner by the light of the Advent wreath, going to the Festival of Trees, looking at Christmas lights… there are so many ways to build traditions.
One thing I want to do is create traditions that are focused on giving to others. Most of these won’t work until they are older, so I thought it would be good to put them in writing so I won’t forget about them!
Here are a few things we’re going to do:
1. Christmas Stockings: I want this to be more concretely connected to Saint Nicholas. Instead of filling my daughters’ stockings with little toys and candy, I will fill it with gifts for others. Some ideas I have are putting in a roll of quarters – they can keep half, and give away the other half. They can leave them on a playground and watch as other kids find the small treasures, they can leave them in the offering plate at church, give them to homeless people, whatever they want as long as they are giving them away. Another idea is to put a gift for their sister in their stocking that they will give when they notice their sister doing something nice or generous. The other idea I have is to buy a small ($10 or so) gift card to our grocery store that they can give to another shopper on our next shopping trip. I’m sure I’ll get more ideas over the years, but that’s a start.
2. I want to do something for the homeless on the day of the Feast of Stephen. What better way to unwind from the craziness of Christmas than by helping out those who are less fortunate the following day? I’m sure this will change as the kids get older, but it will always revolve around helping homeless people.
3. We are going to do the Something you want, Something you need, Something you wear, & Something you read gift giving idea. I love this to stave off some of the hyper-commercialism around Christmas.
4. Kindness Elves. The idea of Elf on the Shelf never really felt right to me. I don’t like the idea of having an elf come into our home and be a bad example for my kids. This idea of kindness elves feels right to me. They come and give ideas of how to be nice and helpful. They compliment my kids on being nice and helpful! What a lovely idea for Christmas time!