christmas eve morn

I’m the first one up this morning. It’s three degrees outside, though it sounds better in celsius: -16. My husband got up during the night to put more wood on the fire so the house isn’t too cold. I love cold weather. The hunkered down feeling is so satisfying. 

We didn’t do our normal Christmas tree this year. I’m a little weary of spending so much money just to cut down a live tree — it almost feels sad. So instead I picked up a holly bush at a local nursery. It’s the size of a small tree and it’s kinda shaped like one, though the branches poke out at weird angles in places. We strung it with white lights. I was thinking strands of popcorn would be nice, and my daughter wanted to add slices of dried citrus, but then we didn’t get any further. My son was in an uproar that we didn’t cut a real tree, but then he pronounced it good so I guess it’s okay.

Our traditions are changing. We spent the first few years establishing them, and then the next few years maintaining them, and now we’re shifting. Paring down. Reevaluating. Since the kids are older, they can take on some of the responsibility. Example: I don’t feel like making iced butter cookies and they’re bummed about that so I say, Why don’t you make them? And then when they don’t, it tells me they don’t actually care about the butter cookies enough to go to the trouble of making them so why should I? (Of course, that’s not completely true — they do have an emotional attachment to the butter cookies. But that doesn’t mean they’re necessary.)

Part of me misses carrying the full weight of making the Christmas magic, but another part of me is quite happy to let go. I know if I kept pushing myself at this stage in the parenting game, I’d probably end up resenting everyone. So tonight we’ll go to church for the Christmas eve service and I’ll wear the extremely warm dress I wore for last year’s winter wedding, and then we’ll come home and have our cheese feast. I scaled back on the cheese part of it since I’m (temporarily) a little cheese fatigued. But yesterday I realized that one of my Bries is ready to eat, and then my daughter-in-law agreed to bring her killer sticky rice squares with shrimp and seaweed and I made meatballs and a double batch of eggnog and my mom is bringing cut veggies, so I guess it’s not really scaled back after all.

We still don’t know what we’re having for Christmas dinner, though. My younger son wants a ham. My husband says hamburgers. I’d like something basic yet fancyish like a caramelized onion galette and a salad. What are you having?

Merry Christmas to all. xo


photos from last week’s ice storm

This same time, years previous: wedding weekend: the officiation, chocolate bourbon pie, or something like that, 2018 book list, ludicrous mashed potatoes, sex for all creation, 2015 book list, 2014 book list, fa-la-la-la-la, toasty oatmeal muffins.


  • Thrift at Home

    I want to see your holly bush! I have the a similar attitude about Christmas magic this year – although I fight against the apathy sometimes, also, and try to get them (and me) to engage in merrymaking. I don’t know. . . it’s a fine line between resenting all the effort I personally put in for others AND being apathetic and the days all blurring together. . .

    As for Christmas dinner, I proposed to my extended fam that we do a champagne brunch at 4pm for giggles and that is what we’re doing! All the delicious brunch food. I made sticky buns and cinnamon rolls with caramel icing.

  • Elva

    Here in Upstate New York, it is very, very cold, although we are not in a blizzard. However, it is cold enough that I can’t seem to get the house warmer than 50 degrees, even though my wood stove is cranking! I am concentrating on keeping the cattle, sheep, and chickens watered and fed, but plan to make my farm -raised tenderloin steaks for Christmas dinner, along with roast sweet and red potatoes and squash. I have a few friends invited, but I will have to see who will be brave enough to enter my chilly house! I hope everyone has a safe, healthy, and happy Christmas!!

  • Kimberly

    I’d love to see your decorated holly bush. We’re having cabbage rolls, sauerbraten with horseradish sour cream sauce, and roasted carrots. Merry Christmas!

  • Lynn D.

    Karren, your dinner sounds wonderful. It’s just the two of us also and we’ve been having freezing rain, but fortunately the power has not gone out. We’re having kedgeree made with smoked trout, cranberry chutney and brussel sprouts. Not as fancy as you, but it will be delicious. Christmas day is vegetable soup and homemade bread.

  • Mama Pea

    I think Becky R. above wrote the exact comment I was going to! (I still need a little help regarding the guilt in the scaling back of all I used to do but no longer feel the joy of doing.) Your pictures are lovely. We’re having Burgundy Meat Balls in Gravy for Christmas dinner. That’s one tradition I still want to hold on to. :o) Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and yours!


    Beautiful pictures! Christmas eve dinner is salmon roe and ahi tuna sashimi. Can’t wait. Christmas dinner is steak and potatoes.
    Would your DIL share the sticky rice squares recipe? It sounds yummy.
    Merry Christmas

  • Jen

    Thanks Jennifer for such a warm and thought provoking post. I’m your age and we’re empty nesters already. I feel those same shifts you do in the traditions and the same mixture of feelings about bearing the brunt of the holiday labor. The work is a pain, but somehow allows one wave a martyr flag a bit. Our family loves the traditions, but I worry that we’ll let that slip now that it’s harder to get together. Wishing you a warm and relaxing weekend with your family!

  • Becky

    I meant to scale back – I got a late start on the merry making what with traveling and being sick, but then our girl came home from college and somehow Christmas exploded all over the house. Although my husband definitely helped with the shopping as did the girl, so the magic is sort of shared between the three of us, except I still do all the cooking.

    • Kat

      Merry Christmas from Norway! (Where we are currently drowning in snow but don’t have nearly the freezing temperatures you do! Brrrr!) Our situation is the exact opposite of yours – our daughter has just grown enough to enjoy Christmas so we really try to make an effort with the tree, the food and the singing. I love it although the polar night makes it all a bit harder (albeit more magical as well!). As for the food – German traditional food on Christmas Eve and Norwegian on the other days.
      Keep warm and happy holidays!

  • Allison R

    We will have lasagna for Christmas dinner – I prepped it last night and will take along to my SIL’s house to bake. At some point she will make their traditional beef rouladen with spaetzle, but she is working Xmas day

  • Becky R.

    Thanks for this post, Jennifer. I always appreciate your honesty about reevaluating and scaling back when it seems reasonable. I have been feeling guilty about not going all out the past couple of years for Christmas, and you have made me feel less so. At my age, traditions can be burdens, and if they are burdens, where is the joy? I hope you and your family have a joyous holiday, embracing all the things that are valuable, like one another!

  • Karren

    We’re in the middle of a blizzard here in Northern Indiana, and the kids are elsewhere, so we’ll be alone for Christmas. That day is also my husband’s 86th birthday, so we have to plan ahead for a special meal, even when it’s just the two of us. Our Christmas dinner will be in front of the wood stove for atmosphere and warmth. We’ll start with champagne and caviar with all the extras, then move slowly and leisurely through a big salad, scallops, tiny red potatoes with butter and end with creme brulee, and more wine, of course. It should take us about 2 hours to work through all that, but we’ll enjoy it thoroughly. Merry Christmas to your family.

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