Mon. Dec. 9, 2019: The Joy of Mixing Holiday Traditions & Creating Your Own #upbeatauthors

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Monday, December 9, 2019
Waxing Moon
Uranus Retrograde

One of the things I loved about living in NYC and working in theatre was that we had an international community and all shared our holiday traditions.

I often joke that, for me, the holiday season starts on October 31 (Samhain/Halloween) and lasts until January 6 (Twelfth Night).

Only it’s not really a joke.

Today is December 9. Sunday, December 1 was the First of Advent. We have a table with an advent wreath, and one candle for each of the Four Advents, plus the bayberry candle at the center that is lit on Christmas Eve. We burn the candle, adding one each Advent, until we burn down all five on Christmas Eve.

We have red ribbons hanging down the sides of our doors and windows, topped with pinecones and other decorations. We fasten the cards we receive to those ribbons, so we can enjoy them all month, and have fond memories of our friends.

On the night of December 5 going into December 6, we celebrated St. Nicholas Day. We put out a shoe (a clean one, or one with a little bowl tucked in it) and in the morning, it’s filled with candy, and maybe a funny little toy. This is a tradition both my parents celebrated as children in Germany.

This upcoming Friday the 13th, we will celebrate Santa Lucia, with white candles and spicy cookies. There’s a lovely Scandinavian festival at a nearby Lutheran church, and we often attend. Sometimes, during this time, one of the Episcopalian churches in the area has a concert of Celtic harp music, which we also enjoy.

When possible, we pop into Boston to see THE NUTCRACKER. (In NYC, I saw it at NYC Ballet, where one of my friends is a dresser). If we don’t get to go and see it, at the very least, we play the music.

Over the weeks, we watch favorite holiday movies like WHITE CHRISTMAS, CHRISTMAS IN CONNECTICUT, IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE, MIRACLE ON 34TH ST., ELF — and often try some new ones.

On the 21st, is my biggest celebration of the season, the Winter Solstice. At sunset, we let the entire house go dark. Then, we light the fire in the fireplace. From there, we light the candles. Then, we turn on lamps and the outside lights, to welcome the turn of the wheel and the return of the Sun. It’s on a weekend, so I’ll be able to stay up through the dark night and get some sleep the next day! The following night, at sundown, Hanukkah begins. I miss celebrating it with my NYC friends.

We celebrate, German-style, more on Christmas Eve than on Christmas Day — and open our gifts on the night of Christmas Eve. Then, we settle in, Icelandic-style, and read one of our new books that night. We also burn a bayberry candle for good luck.

Christmas Day is about food and music and reading. And the stockings. We open our stockings Christmas morning — and eat panettone for breakfast.

Then comes Boxing Day. We generally rest and read and work on leftovers. And the beginning of Kwanzaa. When I lived in NYC, I joined my neighbors in their nightly Kwanzaa celebration.

I do a meditation retreat on New Year’s Eve, to start the New Year mindfully. It also means a good meal, another bayberry candle that straddles midnight, and prosecco. At a minute before midnight, we open the back door to let the old year out. At a minute after midnight, we open the front door to let the New Year in!

They don’t do First Footing out here on Cape Cod, which is a shame, because I love that tradition — right after midnight, you let in a dark-haired neighbor in the front door first, and offer a dram of whisky for luck.

New Year’s Day is about pork before noon (usually Eggs Benedict) and then a big meal later in the day. Relaxing.

I usually keep my decorations up until Twelfth Night (January 6). Most years, I have a party on Twelfth Night, no matter what day of the week that is, and then take down the decorations on the 7th. The last few years, we’ve been snowed out. I have a feeling I will take my decorations down this year on the 4th & 5th, because it’s the weekend, and I’ll have the time.

As new friends come into the mix and share their traditions, I add them in, too.

What are your favorite traditions of the season?


  1. I loved reading about your traditions! I love the idea of mixing holidays! We watch many of the same holiday movies that you do and baking is also a part of our holiday season. We try to hold an open house cocktail party during the season so we can meet up with all our friends and family at one time. Sometimes we miss, but this year we are holding it next weekend. On the Solstice, we usually go for a hike in the woods, but this year, I will be attending a writing’s workshop downtown and my hubby and I are taking a staycation… Corporeal Writing, (who is presenting the writer’s workshop) is having a party on the 20th, so we may go to that. Like you, we are holding our main celebration on Christmas even with an Old English feast and then unwrapping gifts with the grandchildren. Christmas morning is brunch with Panettone french toast, reading and napping. New Years even is usually spent with a dear friend of ours and New Years day is ham sandwiches and football:)) Happy holidays to you and yours!

  2. I loved hearing about your holiday tradition/events. Thank you.

    Every St. Nicholas Eve when I was young, I would put out my longest stocking for St. Nicholas to fill it with candy, fruit, and peanuts. We wore over the knee stockings back then. We did the same when our kids were at home still. I still have their St. Nicholas stocking that I made which are different from their Christmas stockings.

    We used to have big Christmas parties with friends and neighbors where we live now. My husband would still prefer that, but in recent years I have been having different sets of friends over. I had a holiday coffee yesterday, a holiday brunch today, Saturday evening we have a progressive party with the main meal at our home. Next week my brother and SIL are coming for dinner. After that it will be just our family.

    Our big celebration is on Christmas Eve. We go to church, have dinner, open up gifts and visit. When I was a kid we would have our Christmas Eve dinner, Santa would come while we were eating, open gifts, go to midnight mass and my mother would have a complete meal for us after church. We’d have blessed bread. Then we’d sleep in late Christmas morning. My mom was up though getting Christmas dinner ready. Both sets of grandparents would be at dinner. We had a big family and relation. Christmas night our cousins would come over. We loved to play Sheepshead with them, a German card game. Every evening of the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve we would go to visit relatives and see their trees and visit or they would come to our home. New Year’s Eve was always at home. I loved my childhood Christmases.

    I made a list of Christmas movies before Thanksgiving. We watch Christmas movies throughout the holidays.

    My mother always took down our Christmas tree on the Feast of the Three Kings, January 6th. I keep ours up longer.

    I love Christmas. I love everything about it. I love watching shoppers scurrying around for Christmas gifts. At least they did in the old days.

    I have many more memories. This is already long enough.

    Merry Christmas, Devon!!

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