The Christmas season always seems to go so fast so I’ve found it helpful to write down my “must-dos” to ensure I don’t forget to make time for my favorite traditions. Here’s a list of personal favorites that fill me with Christmas cheer.
1. Cutting down our own Christmas tree – We love driving to a small family-owned farm in Wapole, NH to cut our tree each year. They have horse drawn carriages to take guests down the hill to the trees, then bring your cut tree back up tied to the side of the carriage. It’s wonderful! Afterwards we love stopping for lunch at Burdick’s restaurant in Wapole, which feels like a little piece of Europe. We grab gifts for friends and a spicy hot chocolate for the drive home and the Burdick’s cafe next door. It’s about 4 hours round trip but we love making a day of it and it sure beats picking a tree from a parking lot!
2. Handel’s Messiah – I started attending live performances of the Messiah every year when I lived in New York City, and it has come to be my absolute favorite Christmas Tradition. Our church in NYC used to perform Handel’s work and that was always my favorite way to take in the show, but you can almost always find the symphony orchestra in major cities will have a show or two. This year we went saw the Handel and Haydn Society performance in Boston, which is special since their society was the first to perform the full length work in the United States in the 1800s.
3. Ice Skating – There’s something so freeing about strapping on skates and gliding across the ice, bundled in a scarf and mittens. I cherish our memories skating in Central Park surrounded by skyscrapers as much as our recent date night skating on Puddle Duck Pond in Portsmouth surrounded by historic homes dressed up in garlands and lights. It’s a great time to get outside (however cold!), get a little exercise and take your mind off of your to-do list.
4. Decking the halls – I am religious about using fresh greenery around the house at Christmastime and a trip to Snug Harbor Farm has become an annual tradition to pick up sprigs of holly, berries and cedar to decorate our mantle, doorway and more.
5. Cookie Baking – From gingerbread men to shortbread cookies (dipped in dark chocolate!) I love taking the time to bake more during the holidays. I’ve been trying to tweak my favorite recipes to make them healthier and also bought this cookie ebook from one of my favorite healthy recipe developers and have been addicted to her peanut butter chocolate chip drops and “sugar” cookies. (Which don’t have any grains or refined sugars in them!)
6. Lessons and Carols – Our church (and many others) hold a special “Lessons and Carols” Christmas service that combines scripture and caroling to tell the story of Christ’s birth. We attend Park Street Church in Boston and can’t wait to go to the service tonight!
7. Christmas Parties – I love hosting and attending Christmas parties. When we lived in New York our tradition has been to host an annual “Whimsical Hymnsical” wherein guests are given a strict dress code such as “party animal” or “eccentric billionaire” and turned away at the door if they didn’t make an effort. We would have a huge festive spread of food and drinks then head outside to carol at neighboring apartment buildings, the corner bodega, and for the staff in the Subway kiosk. We haven’t hosted the Whimsical Hymnsical for several years but plan to pick up with the tradition again this year – relaxing the dress code a bit. We always made matchbooks with that year’s theme as party favors – such a great momento of parties past!
8. The Nutcracker – I love listening to songs from Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker throughout December, but nothing gives you that magical Christmas feeling like seeing the performance live.
9. Christmas Pajamas – Growing up we’d open one present on Christmas Eve and it was always a fresh pair of festive pajamas. (With the intention that we’d look presentable in photos on Christmas morning.) I’ve carried the tradition on as an adult and love getting a new pair every year for myself and for David.
10. Festive Fondue – We love making fondue this time of year with lots of alpine elements (fair isle sweaters, tartan tablecloths!) and inviting friends over for a cozy dinner with the fireplace roaring. The recipe is super simple but feels special – find my recipe here.
Do you have special holiday traditions? I’d love to hear them in the comments below!