Another Christmas holiday has come and gone.
For many, this time of year is rich with tradition, and though my activities haven’t been a tradition for very long, I hope that some of them will be carried well into the future.
I love decorating gingerbread houses. When my son was little, we would get a kit and spend hours putting it together, waiting forever for it to dry, and decorating it with what came in the box and our own additions. They never come with enough candy.
For several years, Vincent took part in the B&J Printing gingerbread house contest. Thankfully, they allow the little ones to use kits because when I asked online for gingerbread recipes I got pictures of a slice of bread with ginger in a spice jar sitting next to it (clever, right?). We were always short on time to make the gingerbread, anyway.
He placed in the contest two (maybe three times) and was happy to receive a gift certificate to Downtown Washington, in which he promptly purchased a Webkinz stuffed animal each time.
This year, we were out shopping when I found a cute gingerbread cottage to decorate. I showed Vincent and he said “I don’t think we need to get a gingerbread house this year.” I’m pretty sure I gave him the sad puppy look because he came back with “because I don’t really like gingerbread.”
I bought the kit anyway and decided my niece would love to decorate it, even if my son didn’t feel like it. Right before Christmas, my niece was over and dying to decorate the house. And it turned out that it was already put together, so no drying time!
My son had a friend over, but I asked if they wanted to help decorate, and to my delight, they both did. All three made marshmallow snowmen, icicles and swirling lines decorating the adorable cottage. I’m pretty sure I’ll continue making a gingerbread house forever.
Another tradition that I have no doubt will continue is the Angel Tree delivery. This year marked my husband and son’s fourth year dressing in costume to deliver gifts and my third year. This year, we were joined by our very own St. Clair Editor Elizabeth Barmeier, dressed as an elf, to help deliver gifts. This year there were 12 Santas and more than two dozen elves to deliver presents to more than 150 children.
The experience is always humbling. Though I feel shy as we make our way up the stairs, my husband’s “Ho-Ho-Ho!” and stories about how our sleigh broke down so we had to get an Uber always put a smile on the children’s faces.
Angel Tree the an annual combined effort of United Bank of Union and the Union Kiwanis Club. This year marked the 29th year of delivering gifts.
The event itself is like watching an artist paint a masterpiece, with all of the pieces magically fitting into place. Of course, I know it’s not magic but really the incredible hard work of many, many hours of work by organizers and generous donations by the community.
I went Wednesday and watched the Union eighth-grade boys basketball team sort the gifts, giving their break time to help others. I saw Santas and elves congregate in the lobby of the bank, giving up a night of their own, just three days before Christmas, to put a smile on the faces of local children.
This year, my mom also requested that instead of gifts, we all purchase gifts for Angel Tree. So I had the opportunity to spread a few more smiles this year through her gift. And I had fun purchasing gifts for young girls since my own experience is usually 90 percent gifts for boys.
This year also marked — I think 13 — years of our annual family ornament exchange with my mom’s side of the family. We always bring flowers to create bouquets for our loved ones who have passed away, bringing them by the cemetery before most of the hustling of the season.
My mother-in-law held her second annual ornament exchange this year. I have an obsession with ornaments and love this tradition as well.
Oh! And for the first time, I cooked a Christmas dinner. Usually I’m working and everyone else is off, but this year, the opposite was true. I could write a whole column about the experience, but I’ll spare you except to say that it turned out delicious (admittedly, though, an easy crowd).
Christmas itself was amazing, surrounded with family (and with a light snow on the ground), just as it should be.
I hope you had a bright and will have wonderful Christmas and a happy new year!