Okay — so although it's typical — my absolute favourite part of the holidays is decorating our tree. I have two little boys, and our tradition is that my husband sits on the couch and watches (usually with a baileys :) — typical), and we get the tree looking beautiful. The older they get the more fun it is. They love seeing all the old ornaments and feel very nostalgic when they unwrap them. It's become a really big deal for them — and something that they really look forward to. The biggest challenge for me? To let those ornaments stay where the kids have placed them and not redecorate after they've gone to bed!
In our family, we have a new holiday tradition that may be old hat to many of you, but brings me such joy. In fact, at 44 years old, it makes me feel like a four year-old! Growing up, I did not celebrate the holidays, but I always loved them, and after getting married I loved spending Christmas with my in-laws and my sister-in-law. It is where I would get my Christmas 'fix,' complete with the tree, the lights, the food and the overall festive feel.
I have no idea what prompted me, perhaps it was the build-up of so many holiday-barren years, or now that the kids are no longer infants, but this year I felt inspired to get a tree for our house. I set it up when my boys (four and six-years-old) were not home, so when they came home they saw the tree all lit up. When they walked in the door they were so excited and then started to help put the ornaments on. Whenever I look at the tree it brings me such joy. I sit in front of it every night, after the kids have gone to bed, just taking in the good feelings it evokes. It is truly a magical experience.
I've had many traditions growing up and most of them I am carrying forward with my new family. I believe in lots of Christmas lights... I kinda go Griswold with my display. If there is an inflatable 10 foot reindeer, you better believe I'm gonna buy it and find a place for him outside! My new tradition with my little ones is Christmas Eve we all get new matching pyjamas and wake up Christmas morning all "matchy matchy." I swore to my hubby no one would see these pictures but family! Steven and Chris are technically family right? So of course I said yes to them! This picture is the first year Baby JRO was born and the year we started the tradition. Who doesn't like onesies with Santa Frog on it!? Yes we are all wearing onesies! Happy Holidays!
One of my fondest holiday traditions was going to see the Nutcracker ballet. My aunt used to dance with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet — so the family would always go see it around Christmas time. The best part? I was allowed to get a new dress for the special occasion. My favourite was a hunter green balloon hem dress that came with a free strand of pearls — it was amazing!
My fave tradition is our Christmas Eve open house... My parents used to do it and as a kid I loved it. Loads of other kids would come over — all the neighbours that were not going away. There was always loads of food and laughs. It also ends early as everyone has to get home to bed for when the man in red arrives. Just a great night of sharing a special time with family and friends.
We started a tradition of having a tree trimming party a few years back. It is really an excuse to get friends and family together and force us into getting the tree up mid-December. Each year, I pick a colour to layer on and any new friends have to bring an ornament to hang. Returnees get to find their old one and replace it in their spot.
It's a mid-day Sunday buffet, which gets everyone out of a big meal on a Sunday night, but gets them home early for the gallop of the next week.
I’m thinking that next year, I may add a house trimming party in mid-November to get my Christmas lights hung too! I love the cooking part, but don’t love the decorating bit of the holidays. Many hands make light work.
Most holidays begin with me removing the carcass from a 16-pound turkey to create a ballontine. From the French word ballot, meaning bundle, a ballontine is a meticulously de-boned bird (the flesh left intact except for the first cut into the back) that’s stuffed and tied into a neat roll. I fill mine with an aromatic mixture of ground duck meat, dried cherries, juniper berries, tarragon, and thyme. The skin of the turkey blankets the bird. Roasted, it becomes richly lacquered and crisp. Once sliced and arranged on the platter it is a sight to behold that never disappoints. Each taste is tender to the bite and flavoured to make your mouth dance with joy.
But before the turkey, there’s the other tradition to participate in first. “The Family Dinner Box of Questions” is dreaded by some, loved by most. Inside are 52 questions, and we all take turns answering whatever we pull from the box.
My daughter crosses her fingers to get the question “Do you have a family rule that is unfair? If so, what would you change it to and why?” so she can answer with the whole clan as witness and express her parents—ahem—“unreasonable” ways.
We get to learn interesting things about each other. Sometimes the questions start conversations that go on for a long time. Long after we’ve eaten the turkey. Long after we’ve tidied up. Long after we’ve left the room, or the house, or the town where we came together to celebrate. And what we shared with each other stays with us.