Creating Christmas traditions and memories

28 November 2011
The year is winding down fast, soon the summer school holidays will start and then, Christmas. We have extra excitement over Christmas this year - this is our first year with grandchildren. I have a million wonderful memories of our own children at Christmas, now it feels like we're being given another ride on the merry-go-round. Now Alexander and Jamie are here. It will be exciting to have our family here over the holidays but we're also looking forward to closing the gate and winding down properly after a very busy year.

These are some little hand embroidered Christmas decorations I made a few years ago. 

The evenings leading up to Christmas can be a wonderful time for families. Making decorations, baking, making and wrapping gifts, decorating the tree, re-telling family stories from years past - all these small activities bring a family together, they mean something, and over the years they create a tradition that can be relived every year as it slowly passes from one generation to the next. The traditions that we create for ourselves on special occasions bring us together as a strong unit, they give children parts of their family identity and they glue families together.

To help you on your way to Christmas, here are a few links I thought you might like:

Gingerbread - make either people or a house. Make up according to the recipe for gingerbread people, if you want to make a gingerbread house, double the recipe and use M&Ms, licorice, jelly beans and jelly lollies for the roof, door and window decorations.

Apricot Balls recipe from the Next to Nothing Cookbook by Helen Harrison. This is an easy to make and frugal treat for the holidays.
Mix all ingredients and shape into small balls. Roll in coconut and store in the fridge.

On Thursday it will be 1st December. Now is the time to organise yourself so you're not rushed and worn out at Christmas. Make up a list of your Christmas tasks and every day (or evening) from this Thursday, make or do something on your list. That way you'll get through your tasks and you'll have control over what you do each day. If you've had a busy day, do one of the easy things, if you're full of energy tackle something bigger.

No matter where you live, the period over Christmas and New Year is the ideal time to relax and take some time out for yourself. Even if it's only for an hour after the kids have gone to bed each night for that week, take the time to pamper yourself in whatever way it works for you. Even if it's just going to bed early with a book, or getting someone to give you a foot massage, whatever you do is valuable. You'll feel like you've taken some time for yourself and you'll start building your strength for the following year.

I haven't made many plans for Christmas yet. I know Kerry, Sunny and Jamie will be here on Christmas Eve and Christmas day and that we'll all go to the Neighbourhood Centre to help cook and serve breakfast for a few hundred people. When that is over, we'll come back here for a late lunch and to relax. Shane, Sarndra and Alexander will be here over Christmas too but Shane is not sure when he's working yet so we'll just be happy to see them when they walk through the door. Whatever we do, I know we'll be eating and drinking so I'll have to plan my menu soon and if I need to prepare something early, I'll be able to do that.  I'm thinking elder Champagne and ginger beer will be on the menu so that will have to be started fairly soon.

Have you started your Christmas prep yet or are you like me and still thinking about most of it?  What are your plans and family traditions? What is your Christmas menu? Are you doing something special this year? I'd love to know.


  1. Hi Rhonda,
    You are going to love Christmas with grandchildren, I have 3 and honestly they another dimension to your life. My 4 yo grandaughter helped me put my tree up y'day, I know it's early but only a few days and she is so excited. I sat with my daughter y'day and we planned our xmas lunch menu. We are sharing it with my son, his wife and boys and my parents. Have a lovely day, great to see another early riser like me...Kathryn A. ps I don't know how to log into this section using my forum name!

  2. We reread all of our favourite Christmas stories from December one. We always read the poem 'The Night Before Christmas' on the eve of the 24th. We have a vegetarian menu which always includes - nut turrine with spicy tomato sauce,Pan-fried seitan (homemade Japanese gluten cooked in an Asian stock then fried),various salads and tiramisu for dessert. We always have an Advent calender which chocolates in it - hopefully this year my youngest will manage not to eat them all at the start of the month! Can't wait to see what everyone else is doing.

  3. We divide up cooking & baking the week of Christmas between my sister-in-law and my family -- my teens make the potato salad and "birthday cake for Jesus" while I do the gammon (ham). SIL cooks the turkey and we slice it cold with the gammon. She makes several salads too. We buy mince pies & Christmas pudding from charities that make it from scratch and the proceeds benefit the underprivileged.

    While we'll miss Granny this year as she passed away in July, we'll welcome my sister, niece & nephew who will be visiting us from the USA. I thought it'd be great to start a new tradition and have them help us make traditional British-style Christmas crackers (toilet paper roll filled with wrapped sweets, a toy & a joke wrapped in colourful paper tied with wool) and deliver them to a children's home we know.

    A Carol service a week before and a Christmas church service on the 25th Dec will balance out pressies under the tree and stockings by the (unlit as it's summer) fireplace.

    Cape Town, South Africa

  4. Hi Rhonda
    Made gingerbred with my youngest son today, first sunday of advent. We have sometimes made gingerbred house. We like to celebrate traditional christmas the scandinavian way. Our christmas is traditional, festive and formal. And big family get-togethers.
    Love Kristin

  5. First time hosting Christmas at my place. (gulp!)

  6. I usually have Christmas with my father's side of the family - i love "going home for Christmas" as now that all of us grandchildren have left home it is the only time of the year I see (most of) that side of my family. Each family brings one or two dishes so no one has the pressure of cooking for so many people! I will also be stopping by to visit my other grandparents on my way north. I organised my travel plans quite some time ago as these need to be booked well in advance before ticket prices soar!! This year I am also determined to give only gifts which are homemade, ecofriendly, ethical, and/or locally produced. I am only a beginner knitter but I have already completed a few small projects. I have also tried your soap recipe for the first time so I am looking forward to testing it out! I am also in the process of making a batch of boysenberry liqueur. This sort of gift giving is so much more fun than pacing the stores!

  7. Fairy from Organised CastleNovember 28, 2011 7:05 am

    Hi Rhonda

    Great minds think alike! I made the 'plant' for my ginger beer yesterday (and posted about it on my blog).

    We are looking forward to sharing Christmas with our daughters and our 2 grand-daughters. They are 4 and 2 now so are really beginning to understand all of the fun. We will decorate the tree with them in a couple of weeks. I need to clean the windows in the lounge before I put the tree up in front of them :)

  8. Lovely post rhonda....i began making some lists on the weekend as time is really slipping away. I'm looking forward to Christmas this year as we have young ones in the house again and really they just make Christmas i think!
    We always have cold roast meats and salads on the day as it is usually so hot so i cook them in the lead up week, salads day before and dessert is usually trifle, pavlova or plum pudding and brandy custard depending on who is coming for lunch...i love dining on leftovers for the next few days.
    The down to earth forum has been a wonderful help in ideas for homemade presents although sorry to say i am not makiing much progress there!
    Enjoy your planning

  9. My grandson who is 4, now remembers last Christmas, and when they were visiting last night we heard pitter patter and the fridge door closing. :) Lo and behold there were gingerbread men there for him and his 1 yr old sister! He loves to sing the little song "run, run as fast as you can you cant catch me - I am a gingerbread man!" I am thinking I might try those apricot balls with dates - sounds like a great recipe. thank you for all the good info you keep sharing.

  10. I'm knitting a vest for my grandson, age 7, at his request. I'll make a blanket for him and finish the crib quilt for my grandaughter, who is due to be born in a few weeks. Those are probably the only handmade gifts, but I'm flexible and may change my mind if I have time to get some others done.

    Peace to you and your family this Christmas, Rhonda, and thank you for your writing and thoughtful posts. Can't wait until your book comes out !

  11. Working on a flurry of knitted gifts for the many kids in our extended family! As Nicola said, hand making presents really is so much more satisfying than shopping. And I think less stressful, too, because it requires planning ahead. My big tradition (carried on from my Oma) is baking lots of cookies based on German recipes. Very fun to hear about everyone's traditions!

  12. What a wonderful post, only a couple of minutes ago I was thinking that I have to make sure that everything for Christmas is planned soon.
    I really enjoyed my firstlittle bits of decorating yesterday and when the children come home from school we are going to decorate the windows of our flat.

    Thank you from Kate in Hamburg

  13. I have made a pair of knit dishcloths for each of the women on my list. I also knit a scarf for my sister. I hope to finish a quilt for my grandson, too. I usually make pajama pants for my daughters and found a cute Kermit flannel print yesterday.
    We will be dividing the cooking chores for the first time this year as my daughters both have proper kitchens now. We decided to invite many of the "singles" (anyone who loves alone and has no family in the area) from church to join us. After we reach about 15 people, it really doesn't matter how many there are. We will eat at every table in the house and have a great time. Church service has been moved to midnight so we won't be trying to make it to church in the morning and still have all the usual Christmas activities.
    Still deciding what goodies to bake, but I can search the internet this afternoon. I am more excited about the holiday than I have been in many years. I think the grandson may be a part of that.

  14. Every year my husband's parents (both in their 80s) and brother, who live right next door, walk over for Christmas breakfast. The kids always wait for them before beginning to open presents.
    Then it's my family's turn for lunch. We used to gather at my parents' home but a while ago decided it would be easier for them if my siblings and I took turns hosting. This year it's my turn!
    We have been concentrating on getting our garden more productive and have fallen behind on some home maintenance. We made a list of chores and started attacking them 2 weekends ago.
    It is just hubby and me for now as the girls are studying hard for exams and we don't want to interrupt them. They are eager to start helping though, they are sensing an excitement in the air =)
    Progress is slow because of rain but hopefully we won't be rushed come closer to the day.
    I like to get any shopping I have to do out of the way early, so hopefully I can do this next weekend.
    One of the traditional foods of the season is pastelle:
    This involves a lot of work. Ever since I can remember my mom's family have always gotten together to have a day of pastelle making and fun. Now my siblings, our kids and my parents meet at one of our houses a weekend or 2 before Christmas and carry on this tradition. We also make breads together on this day.
    Last year the girls and I made a little package up for each family member as part of our Christmas gift. We filled bags that we decorated with a trove of delicious homemade goodies, including cookies, fudge, sesame brittle, chocolate bark, little chocolate mice and lots more. We had great fun and it meant so much more than store bought stuff because a lot of the recipes we were trying for the first time and each success made it more rewarding. We want to keep this new tradition.
    Some food preparations are also being timed by nature and will be part of last minute preparations:
    I make and give jams: sorrel (which has now started flowering so should be just in time), passion fruit (which my youngest has been patiently collecting everyday) and ginger (which I only started growing myself this year).
    The pommerac tree has little buds so this local 'apple' will be just in time as well.

    Trinidad & Tobago

  15. At the moment I haven't got any idea what to do with Christmas. Here in The Netherlands we celebrate Sinterklaas first on December the 5th, after that we decorate the home for Christmas. Our daughter has her birthday on December the 20th, so it's a very busy month. Our son has moved to his own place this year, so we don't know if he will be home with his girlfriend. That is the problem when they have another family to visit too. We will have to wait and see if they will come with Christmas or with New Year. I'm thinking about a simple celebration this year. The magazines and Supermarket booklets are already filled with all kinds of excotic and expensive dishes, candy and pies. I don't want to join that spending spree with Christmas. We live on disability and we're starting to feel the crisis in our pockets, so I vote for a simple family Christmas celebration with lots of simple, delicious homemade food.
    Thank you so much for the links !!!

  16. Hi Rhonda, Do you have the pictures anywhere on your blog of the embroidered christmas hangings that you have made. They are gorgeous and I would like to make them for my house too. I have already made your 'give generously' one and it looks lovely framed above our wood heater. Thanks so much, Kerry

  17. I just love Christmas. Whether we have a hundred gifts or no gifts - it makes no difference. I love the way people act. They become compassionate, kind, and giving. Who could ask for more? Shopping is complete. The rest will come together after we celebrate Thanksgiving. "God bless us, everyone!"


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