For me, seasons are all consuming. Every season. Just all of them. With each new season comes new holidays to celebrate. With each holiday there are reasons to get excited and embrace the present. I find that I get so wrapped up in almost every holiday, throwing myself into festivities, colour coordinating my outfits to match the season, that I sometimes forget what holiday is truly my favourite.
But for real, it’s Christmas (that is until next Thanksgiving when I fall for fall all over again and claim Thanksgiving is FOR SURE my true favourite. I really can’t be trusted when it comes to choosing favourites).
I love to love Christmas and most of that love comes from all the necessary unnecessaries that Christmas brings upon us. I’m not going to lie, these things come with somewhat of an inner battle, me vs. me. Me thinking “participate! Embrace Christmas! FEEL THE SPIRIT!” and me also thinking “netflix and chili, it’s a blizzard and Christmas is a lot of work.”
WELL, I put down that warm, inviting bowl of chili (it wasn’t easy), turned on my Christmas Cheer playlist and thought about all of the things I must accomplish in these 12 short days before Christmas is finally upon us.
CHRISTMAS MOVIE MADNESS
One of my favourite Christmas movies, Love Actually, begins its story at five weeks until Christmas. After that, it acts as a Christmas countdown, subtitling how many weeks there are until Christmas and ends at Christmas Eve. Because of this, my mom and I have this fairly strange tradition of watching Love Actually five weeks before Christmas, and then once each week as Christmas draws closer. To the untrained Christmas movie viewer, watching the same movie five times in a five week period may seem excessive. One may even think it doesn’t leave enough room for other Christmas movies to be viewed. But this little Love Actually tradition, is only the cornerstone for many more nights of many more Christmas movies. The Family Stone, The Holiday, Miracle on 34th Street, Elf, The Grinch, the original Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas, The Santa Clause and Rudolf the Red Nose Reindeer are favourites that get watched every Christmas season, without fail. You’d be surprised how many movies can be watched in just a five week period when hot chocolate with baileys is involved.
As previously mentioned, most Christmas movies in my house are enjoyed with a tasty Christmas beverage to match. Hot chocolate with Bailey’s never disappoints, and adding marshmallows on top takes it straight from basic and boozy to crazy cozy. Another option, one that goes better with dinner than dessert, is cranberry gingerale with amaretto. The trick is buying the cranberry flavored gingerale, instead mixing gingerale with cranberry juice. Oh, and lime. Lots and lots of fresh squeezed lime. Both of these drinks are super cozy and are guaranteed to bring a little bit (or a lot, wink wink), of Christmas cheer to anyone who indulges in them.
ALL OF THE LIGHTS
Every year I am truly stunned by how much time and effort people put into their light displays in, on and around their homes. And although the great debate of white lights vs. coloured lights returns every year, when a house is so beautifully decorated in lights of all sorts, is one type really better than the other? Icicle, twinkling, flashing, white, coloured, I love seeing them ALL. And I love doing this by putting in a Christmas CD, grabbing some hot chocolate to go and driving around the neighbourhood to admire each house’s unique and dazzling lights. Lights strung up on awnings, lights wound around front porch columns and lights hiding in snow covered trees. It’s as if each house is given an individual personality by whoever decorated it, and it’s fun trying to figure out what that personality is. Sophisticated and elegant homes decorated in meticulously placed white lights. Cute and shy homes draped in traditional red and green with a few candy canes in the garden. And the christmas loving showstopper, with lights, on every awning, doorway, window frame and fence post, the front lawn full of lit up Christmas characters (this house is often accompanied with Christmas music, we all know the one).
TRIM UP THE TREE
I love decorating the Christmas tree. To me it’s a somewhat nostalgic time to reminisce about special moments as each ornament gets taken out of the box and placed on the tree. Ornaments I’ve collected from all over the world, ornaments I made as a child and ornaments my mom has had since she was young. However, I’ve never had a real Christmas tree. I’ve never even had a Christmas tree over 4 ft tall. My childhood Christmas tree was a 3 ft tall artificial tree that folded up neatly into a cardboard box and was easily stored in our basement.
Every year, my mom would ask me if I wanted a new tree, assuming I wanted to fit into the norm of having a big, glamorous tree. Not necessarily a real one, but at least a larger artificial one! And every year without hesitation I would answer “No! I love that tree!” We became so attached to our little Charlie Brown Christmas tree, with all its flaws, sparse branches and endless memories, that we never had the heart to replace it. Even when I got my own apartment shared with my boyfriend, I continued the tradition of Charlie Brown Christmas tree, and bought a tiny one of my own. Granted, this was more a small apartment issue than anything else, but I still held strong with tradition. It’s not about the size of the tree or where it comes from, it’s the togetherness that each tree brings to a family that matters the most. It’s the stories that get told as each delicate ornament is unwrapped and carefully linked onto a branch. It’s the remembering of Christmas mishaps and special Christmas moments. It’s Christmas magic. Just all of it.
“I never thought it was such a bad little tree. It’s not bad at all, really. Maybe it just needs a little love.” -Linus
ALL WRAPPED UP
Growing up, I always marvelled at my mom’s gift wrapping skills. She always managed to find the most unique wrapping paper, and her ribbon tying techniques were impressive to say the least. Diagonal cascading ribbon tied at opposite corners of a perfectly wrapped box. Full bows with overflowing ribbon curls that DID appear to actually be six inches (Elf reference, lol). And different textures of ribbon layered on one another, not a single piece of tape used to hold them down. And although I didn’t quite inherit her kick ass ribbon tying skills, I have become somewhat obsessed with perfectly wrapped presents myself. My style doesn’t vary too much from year to year, but the wrapping paper does change. Well, mostly. I’m always a big supporter of the plain brown paper, the only difference is what kind of patterned paper it gets offset by. I love searching through craft stores and home decor stores in search of the perfect wrapping paper that will fit my current theme of the year. In past years I’ve done gold & glam, rustic & reindeer, and plaid & puppies. This year I’m sure my choice of wrapping paper won’t differ too much, and there will of course be plain brown paper. But I’m still so excited to do up some beautiful boxes in Christmas cheer.
This is something I’m extra passionate about. Because that sweet tooth of mine, although it exists all year round, it intensifies at Christmas time (big surprise, I know). I’d even go so far as to call myself an amateur dessert connoisseur. A wannabe expert in all things sweet, sugary and baked in butter. Every year while I’m home for the holidays my mom and I make shortbread cookies and hello dolly squares. Some of my earliest memories as a child include being enlisted to cut Christmas stars and circles out of freshly rolled shortbread cookie dough. Not only do I still help out with these treats, but in recent years I’ve introduced snickerdoodle cookies to christmas cookie roster and they have now become a tradition of my own. Between two different kinds of cookies, a tray of squares and some random recipes that always end up in the oven too, the house basically always smells like cinnamon and Christmas love. But in all honesty it doesn’t really matter what is being baked at Christmas, I’ll probably eat five of them anyways.