I'm all about traditions. I always remember special dates and the ways that we celebrate each year. We have traditions for the whole year, but there are some very special ones that I look forward to during December.
We stuff each other's stockings with lots of sweet, small gifts and open them on Christmas Eve.
We go to my grandmother's home on Christmas Eve for time with family.
We have my buttermilk pancakes with homemade blueberry syrup for breakfast on Christmas morning.
We get a new special ornament for our tree every year.
We spend time praying for the upcoming year on New Year's Eve at midnight.
However, some traditions during this month get to be very task-oriented and involve lots of prep time; i.e. cooking huge, elaborate meals for Christmas, baking tons of goodies for neighbors and friends, etc. Here are a few tips to help you make the most of your holiday traditions and time with family.
1. Cook a different meal, and by different, I mean simple. For the most part, the tradition of a holiday meal isn't the food (except collard greens and black eyed peas on New Year's Day here in the South!). The tradition of the holiday meal is normally to spend time with family and friends. This year, I hosted Christmas with Dan's family and my family. I had been very sick all week and didn't have the time or energy to prepare for my normal holiday meal. So, instead, we had a pot of turkey noodle soup and a pot of chili beans! The turkey was leftover from the traditional Christmas meal at my grandmother's the night before and my mom brought the chili beans. My mother-in-law and I made some cornbread and a loaf of homemade bread to go with it. It was perfect. While the bread was baking and the soups were simmering, we opened gifts, talked, drank hot tea, and just enjoyed each others company. It was one of the most relaxing get-togethers I've ever hosted. Other meal ideas: lasagna, a big pasta dish (I did this for a Christmas party this year and was a huge hit! Will share a recipe in the coming days), vegetable beef soup, pork tenderloin (it only takes about 25 minutes to cook) along with 2-3 vegetables, or a finger food party. If having a traditional holiday supper is a must, you can also make it a pot-luck. We do this with my grandmother, and it always turns out fantastic. Each family brings two to three dishes to share.
2. Do a Secret Santa gift exchange. I love giving gifts and one of my favorite things is to watch people open gifts that I buy them. However, as you get older, families get bigger, and more and more gifts have to be bought. I know, for myself, this year I had a really hard time telling people what I wanted for Christmas, simply because I have so much already. Sometimes when you have to buy for lots of people, it almost makes it impersonal if you're rushed to find gifts. This year, with Dan's family we did Secret Santa! I'm going to be honest, at first, I did not think that I would like it. BUT, I ended up loving it! We used Elfster to exchange names since we live far apart. It's a great website where you can make a wishlist, ask your Secret Santa anonymous questions, and communicate with the whole group. It was so nice being able to focus on shopping for that one person and get him/her that perfect gift. You can also do a gift exchange where every one who comes to the get-together brings a gift, and then draw numbers and play a game to see who gets which gift. It takes a lot of stress out of finding perfect gifts for everyone and makes it a lot more personal. If distance separates your family, you can open gifts on Skype!
3. Make fudge. Every year, I like to make goodies for friends. I normally include lots of beautiful cookies and treats. This year, I decided that I wasn't going to make all that. It was time consuming and people get enough of that kind of stuff from every where else. I decided to make fudge instead. It is super simple and when put in a pretty celephane bag with a ribbon, looks incredibly cute! The recipe is simple and took me about 20 minutes and I had lots of fudge cooling in my refrigerator.
4. Sponsor a family in need. Most of us are very, very blessed. I work with an organization called HopeMatch where we match people in need with people who want to give during the holidays. I read through many stories this year that got referred to us. Christmas isn't fun and lighthearted for everyone and this is a wonderful way to make a difference. If your family is a family that already has every thing, sponsor a family in lieu of buying gifts. We've made it our tradition to sponsor at least one family every year.
Traditions are very fun and make the holidays special. As our lives grow and change, sometimes a few of our traditions need to do the same. These tips can help you make your traditions fit your lifestyle better or inspire you to make new ones. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
PS: This Peanut Butter Fudge Recipe is delicious and SUPER easy!