I have resisted the urge to bring out the Christmas decorations early, even though we will be home for the holidays. At times, I thought about just digging out all of our favorite Christmas decor, but I kept the decorations tucked away as I anticipate a long January. I may need the season to hang around longer than normal, so I did not want to start too soon.
Thanksgiving is tomorrow, and I am so ready to eat all my favorite side dishes. This is the only time in the year that my mom makes a big turkey and all my favorite side dishes. I love my mom’s stuffing and sweet potatoes and eat far too much of both. I have much to be thankful for this year and am counting all the blessings that 2020 brought.
The day after Thanksgiving ushers in all things Christmas. Since we will be home for the holidays without extended family, we are making the most out of simple celebrations. This post is part two of simplifying our traditions and making meaningful moments with our family. I hope my girls look back on 2020 with an appreciation for the simple ways we made memories.
Finding The Perfect Christmas Tree
I grew up with the family tradition of cutting down our own Christmas tree each year. The weekend after Thanksgiving, we all trudged through the Wisconsin snow seeking out the perfect tree. I have many funny memories of this tradition, but one memory consistent across all the years is being cold to the bone.
Finding the perfect Christmas tree taught us all how to build a persuasive argument. Each one of us four kids had picked out the perfect tree, but only one would come home with us. Once we drug the tree back to the car, the adventure was only halfway over. Getting the tree tied to the roof in a way that the wind wouldn’t catch it was an art that took many years to perfect. It is fun to reminisce about tramping through feet of snow in the bitter cold, searching for our tree.
I knew that I wanted to make cutting down a Christmas tree part of my girls’ memories. This year was the first time we rethought this tradition since keeping the tree alive is a full-time job, the clean up is time-consuming, and we can only keep the tree up for five weeks. I see the benefit of owning a fake Christmas tree, but the girls weren’t ready to give up the annual Christmas tree hunt.
This is the perfect year with so many restrictions to go out and support a local tree farm and cut your own Christmas tree. We aim to get to the tree farm when it first opens the Friday after Thanksgiving. It is important to dress appropriately for the weather, remember a saw, and embrace the process. It usually takes us quite a bit of time to agree on the perfect tree. Last year, Adelynn was able to saw the tree down herself. We go to a no-frills tree farm, Ben’s Tree Farm. This adventure is about enjoying the outdoors, agreeing on the perfect tree, and eating homemade apple cider donuts on the drive home.
Christmas Candy & Cookies
Christmas baking is an essential part of our holiday traditions. Each of my girls loves to work in the kitchen and decide what treats we will make. This is the first year I can remember feeling like I have plenty of time to prepare for Christmas. Slowing down and making time to enjoy baking with the girls is one activity I am most looking forward to this year.
My mom and I have planned on two baking days. On the first day, we are focusing on Christmas candy. The girls are going to make:
- Oreo Truffles
- Marshmallow Fudge
The second baking day will spotlight our favorite Christmas cookies:
- Crinkle Cookies
- Sugar Cookies
- Ginger Molasses Cookies
I plan to mail some of the treats to family and tucked a few away in the freezer for later celebrations. When I put a baking day on the calendar, it becomes something the girls look forward to, and the excitement grows with the anticipation of the day.
After we bake the tasty treats, my mom, my girls, and I enjoy taking pictures of the food. It has become part of the baking process in my family. We plate the food, arrange the backdrop, find the best lighting, and take pictures from many angles to get the perfect picture. Presenting our homemade treats in an aesthetically pleasing way is how we pull together a day’s worth of work.
Chicago Christmas Lights
In the past, we have enjoyed walking through the many different Chicagoland Christmas Light Displays. Our favorites include:
- Lightscape at Chicago Botanic Garden
- Illumination at The Morton Arboretum
- Larsen Christmas Lights Show in Elburn, IL
- Zoo Lights at Lincoln Park Zoo
- Holiday Magic at Brookfield Zoo
So far, it looks like these outdoor experiences will be open. Just be sure to plan and purchase your timed-ticket in advance.
The first Christmas movie that we watched this year was Home Alone. This movie takes place in the Chicago area, and it has been on our list to drive by and check out the Home Alone house at Christmas time. We have plenty of time to enjoy this smaller scale light display and drive through neighborhoods we haven’t been to before to admire the lights.
I picked out a peppermint bark popcorn recipe to ensure that the hour-long drive will be a fun part of the adventure. Supplied with popcorn, hot chocolate, and Christmas music, I am hopeful that this evening will be a meaningful way to enjoy Christmas lights this year.
While this year will look different without the Chicago traditions + family in town, I will still be purposeful in making the most of family time. We will be savoring our home for the holidays with simple celebrations. It does not take much effort, on my part, for the girls to feel like the moment is special. Just adding festive holiday food to an activity brings the fun up a level.
My girls’ excitement and enthusiasm is contagious. Once I initiate a festive activity, their joy overflows and puts all of the family in the holiday spirit.
What meaningful ways are you changing your celebrations as most of us will be home for the holidays?
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