I'm in the homestretch now, having finished all the baking and fudge-making. I put on the Christmas music and cooked away to those familiar carols and songs. Last night, I finished the Pumpkin Spice Walnut Bread and the Cranberry Orange Nut Bread. Family faves and the Pumpkin recipe is in the back of FLEECE NAVIDAD. I also delivered nut breads, cookies, and fudge to some dear friends and neighbors. Baked goods/candy make great holiay gifts. I haven't seen anyone yet turn down chocolate fudge. Even the ones who're always on diets.
I also finished wrapping all the Christmas presents, which meant I also had to pack shipping boxes to send to family and friends out of town. That meant a trip to the . . .gasp! Post Office! Aiyeeeee!! Lines so long, I used to bring the newspaper to read while trudging along. But. . . no more. What's changed? The automated postal centers. Those convenient booth thingees that let you weigh, measure, certify/prioritymail/expressmail whatever package you have, pay with credit card, and prints out your postage all nice and easy. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE those automated machines. The lines for them are SO much shorter. Practically nothing. I wonder why more people don't use them?
I also started decorating the house. Tree will be decorated Tuesday afternoon or night when the girls get here. I'm driving to the airport Tuesday morning, that's why I'm writing post late Monday night. Outdoor lights are up and shining. Old favorite Christmas decorations are up, some of the favorites are handmade. There's a creche set that I made with Serena and Maria's "help" when they were still toddlers. Christine and Melissa helped a lot since they were in elementary school. I made each figure out of clay, with kids help. Then let them dry, then I painted them w/Christine & Melissa with bright acrylic paints, showing their costumes whether shepherds or the Holy Family or Three Kings or Angel. Then, after they dried, I sprayed them to set colors. That simple, homemade, handmade little creche set of figures has become so very dear to all of us. And it's become pretty fragile over the years, too. It always has a place of honor on a table.
Another favorite homemade, handmade family decoration is the paper chain that takes a whole big box to store it in. I started it when Christine was three years old, because that was a simple thing she could help make---a paper chain made from colored construction paper. The next year, Melissa was two and half and she could help Christine and me. And we added it to the small chain from the year before. And so it went. Every year, we added more to the chain and placed it on the tree. When Serena and Maria were able to help, all five of us added to the chain. So, after the years, the paper chain became so long, it's the last decoration we put on the tree. And you know. . .it's still the prettiest. Even though the colors in the paper have faded in sections and others parts are so old and fragile we're always repairing the chain. "Surgery" the girls always said. But that paper chain is still the highlight of the tree for me. Even though, the entire tree is covered in other homemade, handmade decorations the kids and I made over the years. In schools and at home.
There are a LOT of memories on that tree. And that's what makes it so very special. It's always a special treat to decorate the tree with my family. We put the Christmas music on and start opening those old boxes filled with colorful balls and a lights and all sorts of ornaments and decorations. We always laugh at some of the strange looking things they each one of them made at school when they were little and the end result was barely recognizable. A blob of color--paper and glue. And love. At least, that's what I think is in all of those decorations.
What about you folks? What particular family holiday tradition or decoration or activity has become more and more meaningful to you over the years?