Traditions enrich our lives. Traditions bond us with family and friends, and fill us with warm memories of time spent together. This is especially true at Christmas, when traditions are the heart of every gathering and celebration.
Christmas at nanaellen.com has always been a time of traditions, treasured and comfortably timeless. A nostalgic time when we leave the present behind for awhile, turning our hearts and minds to the quiet, gentle celebrations at Auntie’s house. In that more simple—yet somehow more elegant—era, Christmas was a time to gather the whole family together and share the true joys of the season. Christmas was a time of Peace and Love. This Holiday Season, we want to share such joy with you.
So. . . I’m bringing a traditional celebration to
Christmas at Contentment Cottage
Many of the delightful things we remember are included.
Oh, not the fragrance and the flavors, of course.
We hope your Nana will supply those for you –
but much of the rest is here.
Come, join us, as we rekindle the holiday spirit of
Christmas at Contentment Cottage.
There’s nothing sadder in this world than to awake Christmas morning and not be a child._Erma Bombeck
Almost before the last of the Thanksgiving turkey was served joyous greetings of “Merry Christmas” rang through the halls at Auntie’s house. How delightful to grow up in a small town, with Auntie and Uncle Carl living close by so we could drop in several times a week. Those visits were specially exciting at Christmas time.
Traditionally, Auntie started her “Christmas Cooking” the first week in December by making candy. There was divinity and fudge, peanut brittle and sometimes even hard sugar drops, but I doubt if anything ever tasted better than her delectable hand dipped chocolates! We still make them early in December to share with family and friends throughout the season. Our version is somewhat simplified, with the availability of modern products, but the finished candy tastes nearly as amazing as her’s did. And, of course, these chocolates are completely quilt free since they are part of the family tradition at Christmas!
Uncle Carl chose the “perfect” tree to cut, then arranged it in the parlor for us to decorate on the second Saturday in December. We had our own tree at home, of course, but the tree at their house was “special”. Every ornament had a story, every garland, a memory. They had been collecting Christmas together for half a century! As we helped Auntie decorate her tree, she told us each story again, bringing Christmas from her youth to life in our imagination. “Christmas meant something much different when I was a girl!” she would say. “It was truly more blessed to give than to receive in those days.”
Occasionally, thinking back on those tree trimming parties, I recall how, we suspected Mom and Dad were in the city shopping that weekend. Auntie and Uncle assured us this was not the case, of course. Our thoughts were definitely not on what we would be giving, but rather on what we would receive. “How many days left ’till Christmas, Auntie”?
On Christmas Eve the whole family gathered together for an early supper, then attended Candlelight Services at church. Home again – everyone settled in the parlor, near the warmth of a crackling fire. We feasted on hot cocoa and Christmas cookies while we listened to Papa read aloud. . .
The story of Jesus’ birth from the Gospels
of St. Luke and St. Matthew
Clemet C. Moore’s famous poem –
The Night Before Christmas
At last, long past our normal bedtime, we hung our stockings by the fire, left a plate of cookies and a glass of milk under the tree for Santa, and toddled upstairs to bed. It was s.o.o.o hard to go to sleep. . . even though the hour was late. This was the most exciting night of the year. We promised we would stay awake and listen for Santa Claus.
“If I hear him coming, I’ll run downstairs and catch him unpacking our toys”.
Eventually, little eyes closed, and we drifted off to sleep, and dreams of Christmas Day.
Her preparations for Christmas Dinner had been underway for days, but on Christmas Morning Auntie was in the kitchen long before daylight. There were cinnamon rolls to bake for breakfast, and the turkey had to be in the oven before the family came downstairs.
Our excited anticipation of Santa’s visit woke us from our slumbers very, very early. We climbed from the big bed and tiptoed down to the front room. Looking back, I realize that no matter how early we arose, the tree was ablaze with dazzling lights, the fire in the grate glowed and sparkled and Santa Claus had visited as we slept!
To this very day, the aroma of freshly baked cinnamon rolls and strong brewed coffee transports me back to Auntie’s house and Christmas morning.
Often, over the ensuing years, as a mother and a grandmother myself—while watching my children explore the treasures of Christmas—Auntie’s words come back to me.
“It is truly more blessed to give than to receive .”
And perhaps, if we keep Christmas with the Love and Joy of old-fashioned traditions, the same can be true in our modern world, too.
Follower of Christ, writer & artist.