Thursday, December 23, 2010

Honoring Traditions ~ New and Old

Traditions are wonderful. They evoke memories from the past, usually our childhood, and help shape new memories for the future. Traditions are especially plentiful and sacred during the holidays, but I think they are important all year long. Annual birthday celebrations with girlfriends, anniversary dinners at our favorite restaurant, fall pilgrimage to Hood River to see old friends, summer vacations in Tahoe. These are a few of my favorites. We look forward to and back at them. They imprint memories in our hearts and minds forever.

For, in fact, Webster’s definition of tradition is: “an inherited, established or customary pattern of thought, action or behavior.”

Traditions connect generations and inspire creativity. They feed my soul.

Here I share some of my family's holiday traditions. What are yours? I always love hearing new ideas.

Festival of Trees Tree Lighting and Santa Photos

Held the Sunday before Thanksgiving as a benefit for Seattle Children's Hospital, this wonderful event at the Fairmont Olympic Hotel in Downtown Seattle kicks off the season for us. We admire the beautifully decorated trees that are for sale for Children’s Hospital, watch the tree lighting ceremony, see old friends and have Sofia’s picture taken with Santa.

Christmas Wreath
Putting a wreath on my front door signifies it is Christmas. It usually goes up the week after Thanksgiving, around the time we get our tree. Each year, I add pretty ribbon and adornments.  This year I reused this beautiful bright green satin ribbon that came on a gift basket from a new friend and a sparkly star.

Santa Lucia Day
I dedicated a blog post to this beloved Swedish holiday that is celebrated on December 13.

Food and Feast

There is nothing like food and scents to evoke memories and traditions. My holiday favorites include:
·         Aroma of Christmas – Besides the smell of a freshly-cut Christmas tree, this warm, spicy blend of cloves, cinnamon sticks, orange and lemon, is my favorite.

·         Nuts and Bolts – aka Chex Mix (no explanation needed, YUM!)

·         Swedish Smorgasbord – complete with lox, Farmer’s Cheese, rye hard tack crackers, pickled herring (see below), cardamom bread, Swedish meatballs, lingonberries, Johnson’s temptation, Potatis Korv (Swedish potato sausage), Glogg (Swedish hot mulled wine), Pepparkakor (Swedish ginger cookies) and rice pudding for dessert. This feast is my 100% Swedish mother-in-law’s specialty. My husband and I do a scaled-down version of it each year.

·         Pickled Herring – not my favorite to eat, I usually only have one bite per year to keep claim to my Swedish heritage, but the smell of it reminds me of my dad. He and my childhood friend Scott’s dad used to spend a whole day each December pickling herring in our kitchen. I remember our house wreaked for days but I try to appreciate it during the holidays, at least!  

Advent Calendar
While the advent calendar’s origins are religious, most kids (young and old alike) use it as a countdown to Santa’s arrival. Hands-down the best non-registry wedding gift we received 13 years ago was this hand-sewn advent calendar made by my childhood friend Lara’s mom, Kathy. It is such a treasure and so fun to see Sofia’s joy each day as we get closer to Santa’s arrival. So far, she doesn’t know that most kids get chocolate in their advent calendars! I’m sure she’ll catch on soon enough. Until then, we’re enjoying this special, sugar free version!

Meatballs by the Fireplace
For at least the last five years, we have had my friend Tessa over for Swedish meatballs by the fireplace the week before Christmas. When we first started this tradition, Tessa was single and we were childless. It was just the three of us enjoying a quiet evening in. The evening is a little more boisterous and joyous since Robert (Tessa's wonderful fiance) and Sofia joined us four years ago. Now it is the five of us and it is truly one of the highlights of our holidays.

This year we toasted with wonderful Italian Limoncello, lovingly made each year by my friend Shana.

Teddy Bear Suite

The week before Christmas, Sofia and I visit the elaborately decorated Teddy Bear Suite at the Fairmont Olympia Hotel in Downtown Seattle. All dressed up in her red taffeta Christmas dress, yesterday Sofia cuddled with the soft teddy bears and admired the pretty decorations.

New Traditions

We are starting a couple of new traditions with Sofia this year. We got her her very own tree for her bedroom with pink lights, of course, (such a lucky girl) and we are giving her a nightgown (her first) on Christmas Eve just like my mom did for my sister and me every year of our childhood. It is a sweet, sweet memory and I can't wait to see Sofia twirl around in her new red Hello Kitty flannel nightie on Friday night!  We are also going to the family Christmas Eve service at a church we started attending again recently. I am excited for the annual Christmas pageant and hope it becomes a tradition for our family too!

Looking ahead to when Sofia is a bit older, I envision going to the Nutcracker will be a wonderful tradition. I enjoyed seeing it every year when I was a child, and even performing in it too. We saw Le Petite Nutcracker this year (a 45-minute version) which was just perfect. I am excited to share the full Pacific Northwest Ballet Maurice Sendak version with Sofia in a couple of years. Until then, I will have visions of sugar plums as I take in the magic of the season and honor our wonderful holiday traditions ~  new and old.

 Once again, from my home to yours, Happiest Holidays to you and yours!

1 comment:

  1. Merry Christmas, Amy! So fun see the photos of beautiful Tessa and the wonderful Robert! I am enjoying the aroma of Christmas right now, getting ready for our tradition of a fondue dinner, The Grinch and Charlie Brown Christmas and exchanging gifts before we spend time with my family. I wishing you the merriest and thinking of you and your family! I hope it's just beautiful. See you soon. XX