14 things I love about Christmas – Day Fourteen

We made it! It’s finally Christmas Eve. Tomorrow all the food we have cooked will be eaten, all the presents unwrapped, the surprises revealed – and it will all be worth it!

The final thing I love about Christmas is…Christmas. And by that I mean the fact that we celebrate and remember that a small baby was born to an unwed teenager in a shed full of hay and animals.

At Christmas, we are very good at singing Away in a Manger with lyrics that romanticise the whole thing. The words ‘stable’ and ‘manger’ no longer have the meaning they did all those years ago. We have sanitised it and tidied it up, when in fact it was dirty and smelly.

For all the women out there: can you seriously imagine giving birth on some straw in a draughty hut with no one there to help but a guy not much older than you with zero experience in childbirth. And you know how whenever someone comes to visit you and the new baby in the hospital, you or the nurse make them wash their hands before holding your newborn baby? Well, think about being a new mum and putting your baby down to sleep  in a trough that animals had fed from leaving saliva trails and bits of chewed up hay.

A feeding trough (manger) back in the day.

A feeding trough (manger) back in the day.

Not so romantic when you think about it, is it?

And I think the fact that Jesus came as a baby can sometimes distract us from who He really was, and diminish the importance of the event.

We get fooled by the small beginning. We think about babies and how cute they are and forget that this was the most incredible event to ever occur on our small, dirty, tennis ball of a planet.

My challenge to you this Christmas time is, don’t be fooled.

Don’t just remember a small baby who was born thousands of years ago, contemplate a great God who is present now.

I dare you.

14 things I love about Christmas – Day Thirteen

I had thought – because I’m not that great at maths – that fourteen days from when I started would land me on Christmas Day. Well, it doesn’t and it means tomorrow is the last day, so, you are getting the one for Christmas Eve, today and will get the one for Christmas Day, tomorrow 🙂 Hope that’s okay with everyone!

I love, love, love Christmas Eve. It’s always full of cooking, last minute dashes to the shops, last minute wrapping, the atmosphere is rife with anticipation and excitement, and this year, there will be a late evening drive to the airport to pick up that boy of ours.

I have always loved Christmas Eve but it has held extra meaning for the last 20 years.

You see, 20 years ago on Christmas Eve night, a certain someone popped a certain question. Unfortunately, my response wasn’t a quick ‘yes’ as my beau had hoped, it was ‘where’s my ventolin? I’m having an asthma attack!’ as that’s what happens when someone asks you something you have been waiting to hear but are completely surprised by all at the same time.

Clearly, and eventually once I caught my breath, I did say yes and we whiled away the evening and small hours of Christmas morning sipping champagne and making all sorts of plans and dreams for our future together.

So every Christmas Eve since has been just a little bit special and we always share a glass of bubbly and toast all the nay-sayers who said we wouldn’t make it 🙂

I love that he chose Christmas time to ask one of the most important questions one human being can ask another. Marriage is all about love, commitment and unity, just like Christmas.

God sent Jesus because He loved us and was committed to seeking relationship with us through Him which brings unity with Him and others, in our spirits and our hearts.

So what better time to commit to loving another person for the rest of your life? It hasn’t always been easy but each Christmas time, I am reminded of the commitment we made, as well as the commitment God made to us through Jesus.

And that gives me hope for the days ahead, peace for the turmoil, joy for trials and love…for always.

Our wedding, 10 months after that special Christmas Eve.

Our wedding, 10 months after that special Christmas Eve.

14 things I love about Christmas – Day twelve

There will be about twice this on Christmas Eve!

There will be about twice this on Christmas Eve!

One of our family traditions is to have lots of Christmas fare on Christmas Eve. We have crackers, the Christmas table cloth, Christmas carols and a table laden with goodies. I think it started because on Christmas Day, lunch is so huge that we often don’t want much for tea, and then the kids would complain about not having all the goodies.

This year, due to my mother in law being with us, we are having a smaller version of that fare tonight, with crackers and a glass or two of champers. The kids are rapt as we will still have it on Christmas Eve too.

Food is one of the best things about Christmas, and nearly all of what I bake, we only have at Christmas time, which makes it special and something to look forward to.

One of the things I miss since we moved from cold Tassie to sunny Queensland all those years ago is the brandy snaps. Oh, how my mum tried when we moved up here to make them in the heat and humidity, only to have them go soft and floppy and never set crisp and crunchy at all. I think she gave up after a couple of years. I think, once, I bought some but it just wasn’t the same, of course.

Sharing food with friends and family around a table is wonderful at any time and sharing meals with those we love at Christmas brings it’s own sense of togetherness.

All the Christmas food and together round the table time is definitely one of my most favourite things at this end of the year. How about you?

14 things I love about Christmas – Day Eleven

A glass of bubbly to kick the holidays off, with a side order of pretzels. Let the good times roll, people!

A glass of bubbly to kick the holidays off, with a side order of pretzels. Let the good times roll, people!

Today I wrapped up the final loose ends at work and officially clocked off for the year. I breathed a big sigh of relief and then promptly felt so exhausted, I think I could have slept standing up against a wall.

Relaxing is the eleventh thing I love about the season. Yes, I’ve got more cooking to do tomorrow and a few presents still to wrap but it’s the relaxation in the brain that I love. The benefits of working extra hard over the last month or so means that I can relax knowing I have done what I need to do and am organised for the new year. This year it has been busier than usual as I have been trying to get a lot of prep done before our Thailand trip in mid January.

So I am looking forward to totally switching off from work (well, trying at least) and simply enjoying the next week or so. Some of the ways I relax are lazing by the pool (wine in hand, of course), reading books, playing games with the kids, cruising the internet and catching up on some blog reading, and just chillaxing in general.

How about you? What do you do to unwind at the end of the year?

14 things I love about Christmas – Day ten

So sorry if you have been waiting and waiting for today’s post 😉 but the reason is I have had a super busy day (an impending mother in law visit will do that) and we only just now have returned from fetching said mother in law and looking at the Christmas lights.

Which is our topic for today – I love Christmas lights!

Every year we find out the best places to go, new and old, and hop in the car, Christmas CD in the player and set off. This year, due to picking my mother in law up from her home which is about an hour away, we decided to look at the lights with her as they have a large display in the town where she lives.

Christmas lights have it all – bright colours, flashing lights, clever arrangements. I dare you to not feel Christmassy when wandering along a path dotted with lit up trees, dangling lights and the ever present carols on repeat. The lights display we saw tonight was in the town botanical gardens and was such an array of colour that it was hard to know where to look. The photos do not do them justice but you can get an idea. They are also slightly blurry on account of all the people and having to try and snap a pic when no one was in the way. See if you can spot one blurry photo-bombing child 🙂

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This was tricky as it kept flashing on and off in time to the music!

This was tricky as it kept flashing on and off in time to the music!

As it was in a garden, flowers made of lights were kind of obligatory, I guess :)

As it was in a garden, flowers made of lights were kind of obligatory, I guess 🙂

For me Christmas lights embody all the joy, excitement and wonder of the season. I love it that people go to so much effort with their lights, purely to give enjoyment to others, which is, after all kinda a main theme at this time of year 🙂

Do you have a tradition of looking at the Christmas lights each year?

14 things I love about Christmas – Day nine

The cooking! Today was the first day of the cooking of the Christmas fare. The girls always love to help, which baffles me a bit as, although I love it, I am usually only a shade or two below ‘super cranky’, due to tiredness, the heat etc etc and I’m sure I’m not too pleasant to be around most years. Ah, it’s good to have forgiving kids 🙂

So we whack on the Christmas music, and get stuck into it. Today, we made what I call, ‘cheese and bacon roll up savoury thingies’.  I can’t remember where the recipe came from or what they are supposed to be called but I first made them years ago and they have been a firm Christmas favourite ever since, to the point where apparently, “it’s just not Christmas without them”.

While I like the taste, they are a bit of a rigmarole to make, so now that the girls are a bit older (never, ever could coax that boy of mine into helping with the cooking!) we have a real production line going.

Doesn't really look appealing yet, does it?

Doesn’t really look appealing yet, does it?

When you are cutting the crusts off 35 slices of bread, it's handy to have an electric knife!

When you are cutting the crusts off 35 slices of bread, it’s handy to have an electric knife!

Flattening the slices - that's Chalky's job.

Flattening the slices – that’s Chalky’s job.

Spreading the mixture on. That's a two-girl job.

Spreading the mixture on. That’s a two-girl job.

Rolling them up and inserting two toothpicks - that's Mum job.

Rolling them up and inserting two toothpicks – that’s Mum’s job.

After then cutting in two, they are ready for the either the oven or the freezer. In this case, it was the freezer. No yummy golden brown ones to photograph, I'm afraid.

After then cutting in two, they are ready for either the oven or the freezer. In this case, it was the freezer. No yummy golden brown ones to photograph, I’m afraid.

And then the clean up. Note child sitting on other side of bench eating a Zooper Dooper after all her hard work. I think she did help a little with the clean up though :)

And then the clean up. Note child sitting on other side of bench eating a Zooper Dooper after all her hard work. I think she did help a little with the clean up eventually 🙂

Oh and if you want the recipe, sure, you can ask me. I just can’t guarantee that I won’t ‘forget’ to tell you an ingredient or two 😉

What special food do you make – or like to eat! – at Christmas?

14 things I love about Christmas – Day eight

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Games. I grew up playing all sorts of crazy English games, as well as a few of the normal ones.

There was one called ‘squeak piggy squeak’. Everyone sat on chairs in a circle and someone was blindfolded; that person then had to sit on each persons lap and say ‘squeak piggy squeak’ and see if they could guess whose lap they were sitting on. If they guess correctly, then that person has to be blindfolded and we go again. Sounds riveting, doesn’t it?

Or how about ‘newspaper’? This is when somebody thinks of an activity and then everyone else asks them questions, such as “Do you newspaper in the morning?” and so on, until someone guesses the activity and then it’s their turn. I used to love that game (and I stress used to!).

I’m sure some of you would know the game ‘How green you are’. It, too, is terribly exciting. Someone goes out of the room. Someone who is still in the room chooses an item in the room. Person then comes back into the room and everyone sings “how green you are” either loudly or softly, depending on how close the person is to the item as they wander the room.Once the item is guessed, another person exits the room, and repeat the whole thing over again. See? I told you it was exciting.

I can’t say I would enjoy these games now, but they typified a perfect Christmas to me as a kid. And usually, we would still be wearing our silly paper hats from the crackers, just to add some flair to the evenings events.

Nowadays, my family and I stick to the more traditional games like Articulate, Balderdash and various card games such as Billionaire and Quiddler. We still have just as much fun and it’s definitely a highlight of the Christmas season for me.

Did you, or do you still, play any crazy games or do you go for the more mainstream ones?

 

 

14 things I love about Christmas – Day Seven

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Christmas crackers, or bon bons, are a must on our table at Christmas time. They originated in 1847 and were the invention of an English confectioner and took off from there.

I love the pop of the cracker, the silly plastic toy or trinket, the lame joke and, of course, the colourful paper hat. When I was a kid, we always laughed at my dad, whose hat never fit and always tore significantly up one side. When we moved up to Queensland, in the heat the hat would stick to his bald head and deteriorate spectacularly during the course of the meal, causing him to be the butt of our jokes once again.

I love seeing what the toy inside is. One year, I decided to spend more than $5 on a pack of ten crackers and we had some half decent things inside. Like a mini calculator, a small pack of cards and a bottle opener that became known as ‘the lucky hippo’. He was named for the fact that he was in the shape of a hippo and proved to bring luck to the holder during family games for the whole season. He even ended up in the pool at one stage and went a bit rusty. I don’t think he was quite so lucky after that.

Some people call the whole of December, the silly season. And I agree, Christmas is silly sometimes, yet it’s one of the things I love about it. When else can you pull a cardboard tube until you hear the pop and then tell jokes that don’t even make sense whilst wearing ridiculous paper hats?

There doesn’t have to be a higher meaning to everything. Sometimes being silly is just simply fun and that’s all there is to it.

What silly thing do you enjoy about Christmas?

14 Things I love about Christmas – Day Six

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I love to give gifts, and at Christmas time, I especially love it because I can give gifts to all the people I love on the same day.

Today, I can’t think about giving those gifts without thinking of the families in Connecticut who have gifts, wrapped and ready, that will never be given.

Nothing I do here will bring those children and loved ones back. Nothing I do here will help make sense of it or ease their incomprehensible pain.

All I can do is give my gifts and understand that it is me who has been given the gift.  The gift of their presence at the Christmas table; the gift of another day, another Christmas full of memories; the gift of their lives, whole and safe.

I pray for those whose lives have been forever changed. I pray that, somehow, they will find a measure of peace over the coming days.

And I pray for all of us, that we will never take for granted the truly staggering gift that is our loved ones. May we treasure them this Christmas time and always.

14 things I love about Christmas – Day Five

One of my favouritest (yes, I know that’s not really a word) things that I love about Christmas is the socialising, made all the better because even my introvert husband can’t wiggle his way out of it during the festive season 😉

We are starting today by having some friends over who we have been meaning to invite for dinner all year. And so, for me, I’m taking this as the first ‘Christmassy’ meal, even though officially it’s still 10 days away.

Table all set. Can you see the black plastic in the background? The girls set up a bit of a water slippery slide which they intend to make good use of when their friends arrive :)

Table all set. Can you see the black plastic in the background? The girls set up a bit of a water slippery slide which they intend to make good use of when their friends arrive 🙂

Sharing food with friends and family is one of the sweetest things in life and I love it. There is nothing better than lazily watching the kids play, while chatting and sipping a good wine. And at Christmas time here in Australia, it’s hot. So it’s kids in the pool, bbq’s, salad, thongs and a general air of relaxation, and (if you are connected with me via facebook, you will already know this) a friendly table tennis tournament (and, if you are connected with me via facebook, you will also know that I never, ever win).

One of the reasons I think I enjoy having people over or going to theirs, is that it gives you a chance to take a break. With all the rushing to get work wrapped up, shopping done and Christmas cooking organised, it’s wonderful to just stop and….breathe.

What do you do to relax during the busy Christmas season? Are you a solitary recoup-er, like my husband, or more like me and are reenergised by being with others?