Friday, December 24, 2010

Spirit of Christmas: Day 30

Christmas with the Raymonds

Just like I talked with my mom and Dar, I talked with my Dad about his favorite family traditions.  My dad mentioned first off how much he just loved having the whole family together for the holidays.  He loved as a kid going over to his aunt and uncle's house to celebrate on Christmas Eve with a giant family feast.  We reminisced about having the feast at my grandma and grandpa's house in St. Claire Shores.  It was so nice to remember those times.  He laughed as he remembered me and my sisters and cousins putting on a play of the nativity story in the basement for all of the parents.  Grandma always had the very best chip dip.  We then talked about the way those traditions have shifted into some of our little Raymond family traditions.
Me and Dad at The Henry Ford before Christmas
Jon, Mom, and Me at The Henry Ford
Now, we don't have a giant feast, and in the last few years, we haven't all been together, but we do have Turkey Casserole and Jello Salad as Christmas dinner.  It's an important Christmas tradition at the Raymond house.  My mom also makes the VERY BEST dinner rolls on earth.  She makes 3 dozen, and sometimes even 6 dozen so that we can have them with Christmas Eve and Christmas dinner.
Another thing my dad remembered as a child was always reading the Christmas story from Luke 2.  We have carried this on in a fun way.  My mom puts the pieces of the creche into paper bags and we take turns opening our "gift" of the story of Jesus' birth and reading the verses that go with that person.  I am so grateful that my dad was able to open up and share with me his memories even if they do make us miss our family members who are not here.

And just to share, this is a video from the new MormonMessages DVD.  The Spirit of Christmas, exactly what we have been discussing over the last 30 days.  This DVD is so awesome and almost all of the videos make me teary eyed.  The 20 most viewed are on the DVD and the rest of these awesome messages are available on the Mormon Channel.  Check them out.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Spirit of Christmas: Day 29

Christmas with the Morris Family

My mom grew up a Morris, not a Raymond.  Just like I grew up a Raymond, not a Hamilton.  When we were talking about her favorite memories from Christmas she got a little sparkle in her eye as she talked about my grandpa's workshop.  I never got to meet my Grandpa Morris, but my whole family tells me what an amazing carpenter he was.  He built scale models of forests and camps.  He ties lots of fishing ties.  He also made lots of awesome homemade Christmas gifts.

My mom remembers that from Thanksgiving to Christmas none of the kids were allowed in the workshop.  She said that it was always so exciting to come down on Christmas morning and see what her dad had made for them.  At their house it was a rule that Santa and Dad left the presents unwrapped.  They were opened and ready to be played with as soon as the kids came down for Christmas morning.  My mom remembers one specific Christmas where they were visiting a family member quite a ways from home and she hadn't seen any presents loaded into the trunk or packed.  On Christmas morning she still came down the stairs to find an amazing wooden baby cradle and doll set.

Another important part of Morris family Christmas morning was breakfast.  Every year they had ruby red grapefruit with sugar on top.  It was extra special though because my grandparents would slice the grapefruit the night before and let the sugar completely crystallize on top.  My mom still thinks this is an special treat, but she usually adds the sugar in the morning now.

For our final day of Christmas, let's visit the Raymond family one more time.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Spirit of Christmas: Day 28

Christmas with the Hamlins

Dar is a very important person in the Raymond family and I thought it would be a treat to learn about some of her family's Christmas traditions.  When I asked Dar about her favorite memories from Christmas as a child, she said that her most memorable Christmases were the years when they were charitable.  Dar said that there were some years when they could not afford gifts and on Christmas morning they would be surprised with gifts and donations from friends, neighbors, and community members.

I've read many stories about people being blessed with Christmas surprises like this before, but it was really special to hear it from Dar.  Dar has to be one of the most charitable people I know and I think she was just raised in a family that was that way.  Whenever I needed a ride to flute lessons, or someone to get me from school, or someone just to listen as I complained (as I often did as a teenager) Dar was there for me.  At church when there are crying babies, she is the first one to hop up and offer to rock the baby so a frazzled mom can enjoy the message.  She and my mom got involved with making fun pillowcases for the local Children's hospital and they buy the fabrics, wash, iron, cut, iron, sew, iron, and package them.  Dar is just always helping people out.  So, the charitable Hamlin Christmases turned into a whole family of charitable Hamlins who never cease to amaze me.

Here's an example of their pillowcases. This is the set they made for Beth and Mike.  Jon and I got University of Utah ones.
This is just a little update, after reading our blog post about kid friendly Christmas, Dar got us this awesome kid friendly nativity.
Make sure to check out tomorrow's post on Morris family Christmas Mornings.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Spirit of Christmas: Day 27

Christmas with the Masons

Jon's sister Erin married into the Mason family and with that marriage came a whole set of really fun traditions.  As we celebrated Erin's birthday with them on Monday we even got to participate in one of these awesome traditions.
Erin, Jon, Sam, and Ben in Utah for Christmas 2010
Every night in the month of December the Mason family gathers together around the Christmas tree and sings Christmas songs.  They start out the evening with fun ones, like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and gradually the songs turn to our favorite Christmas hymns.  It's so nice to be all gathered together in the evening as a family, but it was even more special to have our thoughts turned to the birth of our Savior at the end of the day as we all hug and head back home.  I think this Mason home tradition is one that I would like to copy some day.

Another tradition that Jon Mason mentioned as a favorite of his from childhood was a white elephant gift exchange with a couple of other families that they were friends with.  Everyone would bring a silly gift and the opening and trading would begin.  Rather than continuing this at Christmas in the Mason home, they have started a family reunion white elephant gift exchange.  During the 2010 reunion Erin and Jon won best gift with the amazing deer hoof gun rack that Jon and I got at a yard sale.  The Jon and Erin Mason family have shared the white elephant exchange with the rest of us Hamiltons during our summer travels as well.  It is always a challenge to see who can find this most ridiculous gift.  Jon and I have come home with a framed scorpion from Thailand and on occasion our house smells like Bob Marley incense from the gift exchange in Jamaica.  Here are some pictures of the event.
My first white elephant that was stolen, a broken elephant.

Jon's first white elephant, a bobble lobster.  Sam traded him for it.

And just because these boys are adorable, here are the Mason boys right after James was born this November.
Clockwise from the top, Ben, Sam, James.

 Make sure to check back tomorrow for Christmas at Dar's house growing up.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Spirit of Christmas: Day 26

Using Your Gifts

I don't know if anyone else feels this way, but the privilege of using any item for the first time is always to exciting and fresh to me.  I love getting new clothes and wearing them for the first time, or taking the first bite of a sandwich.  The first of everything is always the best.  So, on Christmas I am a devout believer in the use of a first immediately.  When I got the Barbie Minivan with the carseat for the Kelly doll, it was assembled and had its stickers stuck to it as soon as we were all done opening gifts.  My Bitty Baby doll didn't even stay in her box through gift opening the year I got her.  I do not know if my siblings or anyone else feels this way, but I still love trying out all of my new gifts on Christmas day.

So... for your viewing pleasure, here are some of my Christmas firsts.

December 25, 1989, Maggie and I got awesome snowsuits to go sledding on the hill behind our house on Hillview.
December 25, 1990, Beth got me those awesome U of M boxer shorts, I got the knitted hat, see and say, Cabbage Patch Kid, shirt, and Mickey Mouse slipper socks for Christmas that year.

December 25, 1994, My Grandma Raymond bought me a soft (not itchy) sweater for Christmas and my parents got me cool new dark jeans. 

December 31, 2008, Christmas at the Hamilton house I wore my brand new shirt and awesome sock monkey slippers and helped Jon Mason set up some of Sam's new toys so he could enjoy his first.

P.S.  Happy 31st Birthday to Erin Mason!  We are so excited to celebrate with you tonight!

Watch out tomorrow for a few Mason family traditions.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Spirit of Christmas: Day 25

Hamilton Family Pictures

Let's begin with Happy Birthday to Miranda Rose Barrie! My niece is turning 15 today and I am so happy for her!

I am not sure if this is really a Christmas tradition of theirs, but the last two years while I have been with them for holiday festivities, the Hamilton family has taken their annual photo during the Christmas break.  Generally we pick a color theme and go with it.  In years past the kids have worn matching outfits.  So... here are the family photos from "Christmas" since I have known Jon.  I have older photos... but I think Jon might be mad if I post the ones where he has braces.

Family photo 2008, David was on his mission this year.

 Family photo 2009, all of the kids are married and have their other half with them.

Family photo 2010, four grandkids and David and Aimee have one on the way

In a few years we might need to take a panoramic photo because the family just keeps getting bigger.

Tomorrow we'll look at Using your Christmas Gifts as fast as possible.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Spirit of Christmas: Day 24

Christmas Eve Clothes

Just like the Greens, Raymonds, and Hamiltons, the Neeley family has a Christmas Eve tradition of opening one gift.  The one gift that they regularly open is not a book, a pair of pajamas, or an ornament.  Every year on Christmas Eve they open up a nice Christmas outfit.  This outfit would be perfect to wear to church on the Sunday after Christmas and for the rest of the winter season.  I think that this is such a great idea.  It would be so fun to be able to utilize your Christmas Eve gift further into the year than the couple weeks around Christmas.

If I were to pick a Christmas outfit to get this year, it would have to be this adorable dress

It's so festive and would last all winter long!

Tomorrow we'll take a look at the Hamilton family photo.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Spirit of Christmas: Day 23

Kids Gifts

This is a Hamilton family tradition, one that I think is pretty fun and that we tweaked a little bit this year.  In the Christmas frenzy of gift opening, it would be difficult to say, "I got that for you," every single time a person opened gifts from one another, so, to reduce the confusion on Christmas morning, and to really appreciate the gifts that the kids give to one another, the Hamiltons open kid gifts on Christmas Eve.  We gather around the tree and take turns opening the gifts.  In my experiences with the Hamiltons we have all opened the gifts from Erin's family, then all opened from Jon's family, then David, then Alyssa.  It's so a fun thing to see what the kids have all selected for one another and to really have the time to appreciate them and offer thanks for them.  That way Santa can't take the credit for a gift from one of the siblings.

This year we did tweak things a little bit because Jon and I brought our gifts down to California at Thanksgiving.  We had everyone open their gifts, but they still are not allowed to say what they are because my siblings haven't opened theirs yet.  The rest of the sibling gifts will be exchanged on New Years Eve when the Hamilton clan gets together to celebrate again.  Jon and I will be celebrating in Utah this year, but it was fun to be able to see our gifts opened in advance.

Here I am with Sam and his Christmas present from me and Jon the year before we got engaged.  I am wearing my matching jammies from the Hamiltons too.

How does your family exchange gifts from sibling to sibling?  Do you have any rules for it?

Aimee's family tradition of Christmas Eve clothes will be our tradition for tomorrow.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Spirit of Christmas: Day 22

Christmas Trees

I absolutely love sitting at home on December evenings with the tree all lit and Christmas songs playing, snow falling outside the windows.  It's just the best scene ever.  The one thing lacking in my Christmas scene is the smell of a natural pine tree.  In all of my life, I do not have a memory of a real tree in our home.  I am sure that as a little, little girl we had one, but I do not remember that.  What I do remember is putting together the artificial tree with my sister Maggie and getting stuck in the corner.  I am not sure if this is a true thing, or if I just remember it this way, but from what I know, my sister Sarah is allergic to pine trees.  After visiting with friends who have real trees though, I feel blessed that we did not have a real one, because those needles are super sharp and annoyingly sticky.

I mentioned yesterday that this tradition has an emphasis on my sister Sarah, but it is not because of an alleged allergy, it is because every year, no matter where she celebrates Christmas, she has a tree.  Three Christmases ago when my family got together in Las Vegas, Sarah even brought a cute little tree with her from California to put at the rental house.  That way both houses where the family was staying had a tree.

So, just for fun, here are some pictures of trees from years past.

Christmas Tree 1982 (I wasn't even alive yet)

Tree 2006 in Michigan, the presents were color coded that year

Tree 2008 in Vegas at the rental house

Hamilton tree 2008 in San Diego (Theirs is artificial too.)

Tree 2009 in Utah, it looks nicer this year, but I am too lazy to take a new picture today

Want to read about another awesome tree tradition?  Check out Kurt and Helena's blog.  This makes me wish I had a real tree.  P.S.  Helena's posts are hilarious and both she and Kurt are from Michigan so they are good people.

Kids gifts will be our topic for tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Spirit of Christmas: Day 21

Who Beast Feast

My dear sister Maggie has a love for someone special at Christmas time.  Now, I know you might be thinking that he's a heavy set guy with a white beard, suspenders, and a large sack full of toys.  If that's what you were thinking, you probably did not read the title of this post.  Maggie absolutely LOVES the Grinch.   Every year she sits down with her family to read the story of the Grinch before they have their Who Beast Feast on Christmas Eve for dinner.  

Aaron gets in on the celebration by cooking and carving the roast beast.  Anything that can have green food coloring added, does, especially the mashed potatoes, also known as who hash.  For desert they enjoy worms and dirt or more commonly known as Who pudding.  I am pretty sure that during their dinner their hearts and tummies grow three times in size.  Just kidding.  The fun part at the end of their holiday Whoobilation is that they snuggle up together on the couch and watch the cartoon version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas.  No creepy Jim Carey as the Grinch at their house.

Here's a cool picture from last year when the Gaylord Texan had their ice exhibit completely devoted to How the Grinch Stole Christmas.  Maggie, Aaron, and Hunter all enjoyed it so much that they are going to go back this year for the Charlie Brown Christmas display.

Maggie, if you read this, I found something you might need. 

Tomorrow we'll look at Christmas trees with a special emphasis on my sister Sarah.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Spirit of Christmas: Day 20

Santa Baby

I am pretty sure that a lot of families do this, but I had a set of really cute pictures for this post. Each year my siblings talk to their friends and get the scoop from the other parents in the area to find out which location has the best Santa of the year. Whether the line is two hours long or the Santa is located in a mall an hour away, it is totally worth it to them to get an"in" with the very best Santa. So, without further ado, here are the best Santa's of 2010.

Katie and Jack Green with Santa in North Carolina

Matthew Barrie with Santa at Ethel M's Cactus Christmas Display in Las Vegas

Hunter Anderson with Santa in a town a fair distance from Dallas, Texas

Tomorrow we'll delve into Maggie's magnificent Who Beast Feast!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Spirit of Christmas: Day 19

A Green Christmas Eve

While talking to my sister Sarah this weekend, I was able to learn about a few of her families fun traditions. Her favorite tradition for Christmas Eve is not only Christmas jammies, but matching Christmas jammies. Sarah has two adorable kiddos, Katie, 8, and Jack, 2. When the kids were younger finding matching jammies was possible because you could get matching ones from Gymboree, Children's Place, etc.

This year, however, it was a challenge to find a set that would keep the kids matching. It was so fun to get a call from my sister during Thanksgiving weekend telling me about her shopping escapades. Going to Old Navy first and not finding anything cute that matched for the two age groups and almost resigning herself to the fact that the kids would just have to be happy with not matching this year. Just in case, she purchased a pair of unrelated jammies for each child at Old Navy.

She did not give up though. She headed to Kohl's, just down the street, and by chance stopped by the toddler boy pajama area. Guess what she found? The perfect matching jammies for Jack. Katie's from Old Navy had striped pants and a reindeer head top, well, Jack's also have striped pants and a reindeer head top. So perfect!

Sarah is not sure how much longer the kids will want to match, but if I know my niece Katie and her love for family traditions, she might not object for a few more years. I'm so glad Sarah could find the perfect Christmas Eve jammies.

Take a look at matching jammies since Jack was born. I love these kiddos.

2008 Gingerbread Jammies

2009 Monkey Jammies

2010 Reindeer Striped Jammies

P.S. As I was perusing blogs today, I found this amazing post about Santa Claus. It brought a tear to my eye. Since Sarah's husband Gabe is a Marine I thought it would be appropriate to share it on this post.

Tomorrow we'll take a look at pictures with Santa from the years.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Spirit of Christmas: Day 18

Christmas Evening Cinema Experience

This tradition is one that I experienced with the Hamiltons last Christmas. On Christmas Eve in the afternoon we headed on down to Edwards Cinema to catch a family movie. This seems like a pretty standard tradition, but the part that is fun for us is the feeling when we get to the movie and the feeling when we walk out.

Having grown up in Michigan I kind of expect there to be snow on Christmas. If there is not snow, I at least expect it to be cold and gloomy. A California Christmas is very different from a Michigan Christmas. Its sunny all day and although the temperatures are cooler than usual, they are warm for us Utah snowbirds.

On Christmas Eve afternoon as we head to the theater to check out a movie, we go in while it is sunny and warm. By the time our movie has ended though, we walk out into a dark winter's night, with crisp cool air. It just feels like Christmas as we pile into cars and head home to enjoy the last few hours before bed on Christmas Eve. As Alyssa says it, "We have always gone when the sun is up and leave the theater when it's dark, so it makes it feel like Christmas morning is coming faster."

Last year we enjoyed The Princess and the Frog and this year we hope to catch Tangled at some point in the season.

Look forward to a Green Christmas Eve tomorrow, coming from the traditions of my sister Sarah.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Spirit of Christmas: Day 17

Christmas Morning Coffee Cake


At my parents house there are four times a year that we eat coffee cake. Spring and fall general conference Sunday mornings, Thanksgiving morning, and Christmas morning. All four mornings we have the most delicious breakfast ever. The great thing about this coffee cake? It's pretty easy to make, but the Raymond family has tweaked the recipe a bit.

For pancake mix and biscuits, my family has always gone to Bisquick mix to make life a little easier. On the back of the Bisquick box there was a coffee cake recipe printed for the majority of my life. This is what the recipe says.

" First, preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Get your round, 9 x 1 ½ inch pan ready by greasing it. Next, make your Streusel topping and set it aside:
  • 1/3 cup Bisquick
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon (I like to add a bit more since I love cinnamon!)
  • 2 tablespoons of margarine or butter

Mix the first three ingredients together. Then cut in the margarine with a fork or pastry blender until the mixture is crumbly.

For the batter you’ll need:

  • 2 cups of Bisquick
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar
  • 2/3 cup of milk
  • 1 egg

Mix all the batter ingredients together and spread in your prepared pan. Now sprinkle that with the Streusel topping. If you’d like, you can take a butter knife and zig-zag it through the topping for a marbled effect.

Pop it in the oven and bake it for 18 to 22 minutes. It should look golden brown on top when it’s done. Let it cool for just a few minutes so it will come out of the pan nicely, but to experience this coffee cake at it’s best, it should really be served warm." source

Here's how the Raymonds have changed things though. We triple the streusel topping recipe and double the batter. Rather than putting it in a round pan, we use a 9" x 9" pan so the cake is thick warm and super sugary. It tastes best with a short glass of cold milk.

Jon's family also enjoys this coffee cake, but add some Cream of Wheat on the side so that it is more filling.

Tomorrow we'll look at the Hamilton family Christmas Evening Cinema Experience

Friday, December 10, 2010

Spirit of Christmas: Day 16

Christmas Morning with the Andersons

Christmas morning at my sister's in-laws is very, very different from the Christmas morning celebrations that we remember from growing up. I mentioned before that Maggie likes to get up as early as she can to spend the wee hours of Christmas morning talking with Dar and waiting for the rest of us to wake up. At the Anderson's house, there is no such thing as getting up early for presents on Christmas.

Aaron, my awesome brother-in-law, grew up with the tradition that you get up on Christmas morning, take a shower, put on a nice festive outfit, have a good hearty Christmas breakfast, and make your way over to the tree sometime before noon. I don't know if we were just impatient little kids, but I cannot imagine having to get ready on Christmas morning. I have a hard time getting ready for the day before noon on the days that I don't work, and those aren't even holidays.

Maggie and Aaron do enjoy the tradition though because it gives everyone the chance to look nice for family pictures and no one can get cranky half way through present opening because they have had a good hearty meal. I do enjoy getting up early, but it would be fun to gather around the table and guess what Santa brought before just diving into the gift opening.

The other really valid part of this tradition, is the blessing on the food. If the goal and spirit of the season is to think of Christ and what a beautiful gift he was to the world, shouldn't we pray and thank our Heavenly Father for him before we get lost in the gift wrap? I'm not sure what Jon and I will do with our kids on Christmas mornings, breakfast first or stockings first, but I hope that somewhere in there we can incorporate a prayer of thanks and a prayer for blessings to all of our friends and family.

Here is baby Hunter. He gets to enjoy waking up early every other year and having breakfast the opposite. What a lucky little guy.

Hunter's First Christmas

Hunter's Second Christmas

Hunter's Third Christmas - This year

Christmas Morning Coffee Cake will be our tradition for tomorrow.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Spirit of Christmas: Day 15

Christmas Eve Birthday Bash

Earlier this month I mentioned how my family celebrated Jesus' birthday on Christmas Eve. Nate, Alyssa's husband also celebrates birthdays on Christmas Eve. He has an uncle who was lucky enough to be born on December 24th and every year they have a huge family celebration for their uncle's birthday. They make the whole evening about having fun and focus on Christmas the very next day. They sing Happy Birthday and eat cake and in general just have a great time together.

With birthdays in January, Jon and I both know how often a birthday gets forgotten in the season. The Christmas spirit is so wonderful and uplifting and it is so fun to remember Christ's birth, but it is refreshing to know that the birth of another person into your family can be celebrated as well. With my niece Miranda, and Jon's sister Erin's birthdays coming up, we'll definitely pause from the jingle bell ringing, and egg nog drinking to say Happy Birthday to all and to all a... great year? I'm not as good at the rhyming/ poetry as Jon.

In celebration of Christmas/winter time birthdays, here are a few pictures from Christmases close to both of our 2nd birthdays.

This is Jon and his sister Erin, close to both of their birthdays back in the day.

That's me, my mom and Dar right before my second birthday. Yes, I do still own that rocking chair and the Little Foot stuffed animal. Also, notice the amazing advent calendar tree in the background. Aunt Ida made it and my mom still uses it every year.

Tomorrow we'll celebrate Christmas Morning with the Anderson family.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Spirit of Christmas: Day 14

Kid Friendly Christmas Decor

This tradition is one that my sister Maggie has just begun in her home, but my sister Beth also follows it. With little kids around, baby Jesus has a tendency to disappear. (There's a book about a "missing" baby Jesus. It's a really touching read.) That, or there are only two wise men and no sheep for the shepherd. So, my sisters both thought, why not decorate with items that kids cannot break? Enter Fisher Price and Lego Nativity decor!

This is the whole scene (Little Town of Bethlehem, Three Wise Men, Nativity) on display in Maggie's living room.

This year Hunter has the Little Drummer Boy set in a spot where he can access them more easily. Notice that there were trains in Bethlehem back in the day.

See how much fun Christmas decor can be?

When a cute kiddo gets interested in pulling all of the decorations off of the bottom of the tree, these are an easy diversion.

Beth's kids are branching out from Little People this year to include Lego Christmas in their home. I hope they keep making fun sets like this for when I have kiddos of my own. Although I might need to learn to share the building experience. Do you decorate with items your kids can play with?

Look out tomorrow for a Christmas Eve Birthday Bash.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Spirit of Christmas: Day 13

The Elf on the Shelf

Coming home from Las Vegas this weekend, Jon and I were both suffering from colds. We were tired and it was foggy, then snowy here in Utah. It was the perfect time for some holiday cheer. Going out to get the mail on Monday afternoon we were both surprised to find this guy, waiting ever so patiently for us.

We haven't yet picked out his name, we're trying to decide between Gunther and any other name really. If you have any suggestions, leave them in the comments please.

If you've never heard of this tradition, it comes from a book that a mother and daughter wrote together in honor of a tradition they created in their home growing up. The elf comes to your home during the month or so before Christmas. Each day he watches what you do and at night he travels back to Santa to tell him if you have been naughty or nice. There is one major condition, you cannot touch the elf, or he might not make it back to Santa to tell him how you have behaved. The next day he finds a new hiding spot to watch how you are treating your friends and family.

This is the book that our elf came with, it explains the tradition and also tells you how to name your elf. So.. help us out guys, will it be Gunther? Or can you come up with a better name?

Look out tomorrow for a Kid Friendly Christmas Decor.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Spirit of Christmas: Day 12

Felt Nativity Story Board

This tradition is one that I borrowed from my brother-in-law Nate, although each family had some tradition that was very similar in its origins.

Every year on Christmas Eve Nate said that his family gathered around and told the story of Christmas using a felt nativity board. Each part of the story was told with verses from Luke 2 and each character (I know that's not the right word but I can't think of the right one) was represented.

This is the advent calendar that I bought at Deseret Book this year. It has all of the pieces, including the star and the stable animals, so that we can tell the story of the nativity with all matching pieces.

In years past my mom has even gone as far as wrapping each of the pieces of the nativity and having us open a "present" to read a set of scriptures on that nativity piece and then sing a song related to their part of the story.

Jon's family also has the fun tradition of acting out the story and somehow always joking that the baby Jesus falls out of the manger. It comes from a family video when the kids were tiny where none of them can stop laughing to tell the story.

Tomorrow we will have fun with The Elf on the Shelf.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Spirit of Christmas: Day 11

Cookie Baking Extravaganza

I've mentioned Mama Dar in previous posts, she is my mom's best friend and basically my second mom. Growing up I did lots of things with Dar's amazing family. When I was in elementary school Dar's niece, Denise, invited me to come to her house for a cookie baking sleepover in preparation for the Christmas season. It became a yearly tradition.

Usually the second weekend in December Dar would take me over to Denise's to meet up with her and Bethany, Dar's other amazing niece. We would pick out 6 or so cookie recipes and begin with making the dough. We always made sugar cookies, gingerbread cookies, homemade thin mints, no-bake Christmas wreaths, candy cane cookies, and then a few varieties that we would sample from year to year.

After making all of the different doughs and letting the ones settle that needed to, we rolled and cut out angels, Santas, candy canes, and stars galore. We made homemade frosting and whipped up 5 or 6 colors and just had a blast. Without a doubt, every year we ended up covered in flour, not because of food fights, but because we were so focused on having fun we could not notice the mess. Since it was back in the late 90s we also rocked out to N*SYNC Christmas and Hanson's Snowed In Christmas album. All in all, we had a really festive time.

Come Saturday afternoon, when the cookies were all finished and put in tins, Denise would drive us over to Hallmark to pick out a Christmas ornament for the tree for that year. I remember the first two years I picked out Snowbabies ornaments and I think that might be where my collection began.

I have my jingle bell and stocking stuffed Snowbabies hanging on the curtain rods in the living room to remember those fun times this year.

Tomorrow we'll celebrate the Felt Nativity Story Board.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Spirit of Christmas: Day 10

An Ornament a Year

To put together these daily traditions, I knew that my family alone would not have enough traditions, so I reached out to my in-laws at Thanksgiving and asked them to help me compile a list of traditions. My sisters have each mentioned a few traditions that I added to the list as well.

Today's tradition comes from my sister-in-law Alyssa. It was fun to find out right after she told me about this tradition that my sister Beth does it as well. Great minds must think alike!

So, here is how the tradition works at the Quigley home. This is a quote from Alyssa's message, "Every year on Christmas Eve we also opened up a new ornament for each of us. Nate and i have carried that on as well. We do a family ornament (you probably remember the "Quigley Familey" ornament mishap in Park City) and we get Charlotte her own ornament each year (and we'll do that for each of our kids)."

The Quigley Familey ornament was purchased at the Rocky Mountain Christmas store in Park City when the family visited for Memorial Day. Alyssa looked through each of the three character moose ornaments looking for the perfect one. Once she found it, she took it up to be personalized. I think the lady that was working must have been tired because this is how it turned out.

In case you were wondering where the error is, spell check familey.

Jon and I attempted to carry on this tradition last year as well, when we purchased this ornament.

And his parents shared with all of the kids when we received our very own Christmas pickles.

Can you spot it in this picture?

I mentioned before that my sister Beth also follows this tradition. In her family they get a new family ornament every year also, but for the kids, their ornament follows a theme. Miranda gets an angel/fairy every year, Maddie gets bears, and Matthew has a collection of snowmen. When the kids are all grown up, they will be able to decorate an entire themed Christmas tree.

Look forward to Cookie Baking Extravaganza tomorrow.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Spirit of Christmas: Day 9

Stockings First

Have you ever watched a Christmas movie where everyone tears into their gifts simultaneously and paper is flying everywhere? Christmas at our house is nothing at all like that. At our house, Christmas morning is very organized and begins in a really funny way.

For as long as she's been able to persuade people, my sister Maggie has convinced our Mama Dar to come over on Christmas morning before the sun is anywhere near rising. Dar usually gets to our house around 5:30 and for the next hour and a half to two hours, the two of them hang out in the living room chatting while the rest of us sleep. The rest of us girls would slowly get up and make our way down the stairs to join them, waiting only for my dad to wake up, shower, and finally come downstairs for Christmas morning.

The next thing that would happen was the only bit of chaos we have on Christmas. Rather than opening our Santa presents, or exchanging gifts, we begin by opening our Christmas stockings. They are usually filled with sweets, practical items like socks, hand sanitizer, and an orange. After the mayhem of stocking has been completed and all of the gift wrap is in a garbage sack with the stock stuffers stuffed carefully back into our name embroidered stockings, then the gift giving begins.

Each year we designate someone (usually me) to be the Christmas elf and pass out the gifts. We take turns opening one gift at a time. The other fun part, is that this process always proceeds in age order.

Some years we have deviated from our stocking first rule, allowing the little kids to enjoy Santa gifts first, but traditionally, this is how we open gifts Raymond Christmas celebrations.

Look forward to An Ornament a Year tomorrow.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Spirit of Christmas: Day 8

Christmas Eve Mass

As most of you know, I was raised in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. My parents decided to join this church when they were living in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. My grandparents were supportive of my parents' choice and they continued going to their own churches.

As a little girl, I remember every Christmas Eve we would go to my Grandma and Grandpa Raymond's house in St. Claire Shores, Michigan, to celebrate with the whole Raymond side of the family. After making dinner and enjoying dinner, my grandparents always invited us to their church's Christmas Eve Mass. Rather than attending midnight mass, I believe we went to the 9'o'clock service. I remember somewhat listening to the story of Jesus birth, but mostly I remember staring in awe at the beautiful stained glass windows that depicted the life of Christ all around the chapel. I loved sitting there and imagining those parts of His life as the sermon was shared of His entrance into the world.

The church that my grandparents went to also had a couple of traditions that I think fit well into this month of memories. The first, that the children were all invited to the front of the congregation to receive a gift. The gift was always a cute metal Christmas ornament with the nativity scene, similar to the one below.

I think my parents have a collection of those from our childhood. The second tradition was the lighting of the candles. At the end of the service each person held a candle and we passed the flame, until every candle was lit and sang Silent Night.

Since we are going back to Michigan for Christmas this year, I'd love to attend another Christmas Mass to bring back this beautiful tradition.

Tomorrow look forward to Stockings First.