I love doing the same things, eating the same food, and listening to the same music to mark an event or a celebration.
Christmas is like that for me. Not so much the event of Christmas itself, but the time leading up to it.
I knew that Christmas would be different this year.... we're in a different house, we don't have all of our Christmas "things" with us, we're not surrounded with all of the same people and (HALLELUJAH) there's no snow on the ground. I knew the girls would miss some of those things, and so I was determined to do what I could to make things as much the same leading up to Christmas as it's always been.
We always put up our tree on the first Sunday of Advent. That day is not to be messed with. Any sooner is just wrong, and any later doesn't leave enough time to enjoy it. The girl's were devastated that Mike and I had chosen to leave our tree in the storage room in Winnipeg. I believe Hannah was crying about this back in September. Yes, she has a flair for the dramatic. I had wanted to do a "Jesse Tree" this year to mark the advent season and do something different, but with us not being able to finish it because we'd be in Winnipeg before Christmas, I didn't think it made sense. SO, off to find a cheap tree we went. And lo and behold, good old Home Depot came through with a $19.99 6 foot (skinny and sparse) tree that we surprised the girls with that Sunday. They could not have been happier.
All of our Christmas decorations are safe and sound in their Rubbermaid bin back in our storage room as well. Of course we couldn't have a bare tree! So we got crafty and made some decorations this year. We've added more every few days. We've even strung popcorn for the first time (a new tradition?) and hung that on the tree as well. The stringing of the popcorn kind of fits with our current obsession with all things "Little House on the Prairie". Throw down an old sheet and some white cloth your new ski helmets were wrapped in, and baby, you've got yourself a tree skirt!
Back to traditions and that Sunday night.... a few of our other traditions are held to quite rigidly by all the females in the house. For example, the first carol that can be played in our household each year is the Barenaked Ladies' rendition of "Jingle Bells". It's gotta be played first, and it's gotta be played loud. Them's the rules. Listen to it and you'll know why.
And the food. Tradition has it that we always have a little feast of appetizers after we put up the tree. I like to mix those up a little each year, but there are a few non-negotiables. One "must" is Winkler Meats garlic sausage for Hannah. Wouldn't you know, that the Safeway on East Hastings just happens to carry it! (You can take the girl out of Menno-land, but you can't take the Menno out of the girl.) Cheese Ball and crackers, dill pickles, spinach dip, spring rolls, Christmas oranges, candy canes, cranberry Christmas punch, AND (this is key) one box of Turtles and one box of Toffifee must be unveiled and cracked open and consumed that night. That tradition as been going on since Mike and I set up our tree the first year we were married nearly 15 years ago. We crack open the boxes, then sparingly consume to make them last right until Christmas.
Sunday night we completed one of our other favorite traditions. The decorating of the Gingerbread boys and girls. This is something the girls look forward to with great excitement every year. Mike joins in the fun and painstakingly decorates his cookies like only an engineer can do!
And so the tree has been trimmed, the cookies baked, and the presents wrapped. The girls and I fly out to that frozen arctic land full of friends and family and new babies to snuggle. Mike will join us on the 23rd. We'll be waking up at a strange house on Christmas morning (we're house-sitting for friend's of ours), and our presents for each other will wait until we get back "home" in January. As much as I love tradition, different has an appeal of its' own.