When Michael recently told me his favorite part of Christmas, I thought he said “presents,” but he continued, explaining that he really likes the “presence” — the smell, sounds, sights, anticipation, tastes, and as he put it, “the feeling you get from all of that and all the love.” Out of the mouths of babes (OK, he’s 12 but you know what I mean!).
Sometimes traditions can feel stifling, but most of the time, I find them comforting and reassuring. They’re like blazes on a trail, marking the way, letting you know where you are. Even if you’re not sure where “here” is, even if you’re tired or grumpy, you pause and say “here I am. This is the place. Take note.”
Lights in the windows on the first Sunday of Advent, shining in the afternoon darkness. The next weekend, the “building” of the creche on the mantel. It’s become a bit of a hodge-podge with figures added over the years — a toy giraffe, a cartwheeling angel, a Caribbean drummer. Note the knitted stocking, made by my mom nearly 50 years ago — with my name knit into the edge even. She’s good!
My family has what my late cousin Sarah called “the food gene.” We like to cook, eat, think about cooking, gather for meals, read recipes, cookbooks, and cooking magazines. The Advent and Christmas seasons have lots of food traditions, of course.
Every December 6, the feast of St. Nicholas, my mom (also a wonderful baker and cook) would make St. Nicholas cookies. Delightfully spicy and cut into little “bookmarks,” they are perfect for dunking — or just munching. We’re not Dutch and don’t celebrate St. Nicholas Day in any other way (no candy & toys in boots at the foot of the bed).
I’m sure my mom found the recipe in a cookbook or magazine sometime in the 1950s or 60s and, knowing a good recipe when she sees one, she made a batch…every year! This year when I emailed my youngest brother to say that I’d made these yummy treats, he replied that his first batch wasn’t so great and that he planned to make a second batch that evening. It’s not just me. Try them yourself.
With my high schoolers having mid-term exams this week, I’m staying up late, being present, and knitting. The wrap is off the needles, blocked, and awaiting buttons. More on that later. I leave you with Hannah and her sister-friend Charlotte preparing the tree, another tradition.