Christmas on the Homestead

Yes, I’m aware it’s still November. Thanksgiving has come and gone, and overall, it was pretty good.

Pros: Family, friends, safe travel, great food with no food allergic reactions, 4 of 4 chickens present and accounted for (and living) when we returned.

Cons: LONG trip, little sleep, fussy kiddos, a day of mucous induced vomiting of both me and my toddler…Ohio River Valley environmental allergens are the bane of my (and apparently my son’s) existence.

But, now we’re home and I’ve already begun decorating for Christmas.

Hey, my mother decorated the first part of November, so I’m not that bad.

I truly love the Christmas season and everything that goes with it. I love the lights, I love the greenery, the bows, the decorations, the food, the carols, my annual read through of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, the cheesey Christmas specials…

Decorations from the year my husband was deployed over Christmas

I love most of all the reason I celebrate Christmas- Jesus Christ.

That God loved me so much He would take on human form and suffer the indignity of a torturous, murderous death on my behalf to reconcile me to Himself is beyond my full comprehension. I could not be loved any more than that, and I cannot express my love for the Lord any more fully or meaningfully than in praise and worship of Him.

That said, the center of my family’s Christmas season is always Christ. Period.

Nativity Scene: Stable made by my father-in-law, figures carved by my grandmother-in-law (She adds a few new ones each year, this year’s additions were the shepherd and sheep)

We celebrate because God has richly blessed us, even in times when it’s meager. That is why I go all out with the decorating, the cooking, the festivities and traditions; It enables me to not only enjoy and share the blessings I have been given, but also to reflect on the mercy, grace, goodness and love of my Heavenly Father, and to celebrate that with my family.

Last Christmas, I had just given birth to my daughter a month before and she was still struggling with weight and feeding issues due to premature birth and my husband was working second and third shifts with overtime at a state-run juvenile justice center. We had also only been in our home for about 2 months, and boxes still lined many of the walls and remained unpacked. Needless to say, it was a naturally stressful time, and there are many things I don’t remember.

Postpartum hormones are pretty good at wiping my memory of the first few months post delivery.

This year however, we’ve settled in (mostly) to our place, the farm is in its period of rest before we begin planting in the spring, my husband has a schedule that has him home with us 4 days a week, and I’m not due for another 10 weeks and change with Baby #3. I intend to make the most of this holiday season and to build traditions with our kids. Here are a few of my favorites from last year:

  • Making sugar cookies with the kids
  • Operation Christmas Child shoebox gift
  • German Christmas cookies- Lebkuchen and Springerle (I have my own springerle rolling pin now! and my father-in-law usually has to be present for this one- he and my husband are the only ones with the muscle to mix the Lebkuchen dough.)
  • Decorating the house (We’ve never had an actual Christmas tree in the 7 years we’ve been married, so this year is the year!)
  • Watching Holiday Christmas specials in the evenings
  • Advent calendar (last year, we used a paper chain, I haven’t decided on a count-down method for this year)
  • Hot cocoa and Christmas movies (White Christmas, A Christmas Carol starring George C. Scott, and It’s a Wonderful Life are probably my favorites)
  • Christmas music (Carols and hymns)
  • Church festivities: Choir presentation, Christmas worship service, etc.
  • Snowman pancakes on Christmas Eve
  • Christmas Eve family 1 special gift exchange (usually jammies)
  • Traditional Cole Family Christmas morning breakfast consisting of scrambled eggs, sausage, oranges, cheese, (oranges and cheese were special and exclusive to Christmas) juice, milk

And here are a few I’d like to try this year:

  • Community holiday parade
  • Community Christmas concert
  • Cookie exchange
  • Find the hidden pickle ornament in the Christmas tree (German tradition from my side of the family)
  • Service Gifts- Making, donating, or sharing a gift, time, talent, or service for the holiday season. I want to teach the kids that Christmas is about giving (God giving us Christ Jesus) and not about commercial materialism.

I plan on making (or re-making) matching Christmas stockings for everyone this year. My youngest two kiddos don’t have stockings yet, so I figured I’d go ahead and do new ones for everyone in coordinating festive colors, and probably making small gifts for my parents and siblings (there’s a bunch of ’em).

I love hearing about the traditions and stories of how other people celebrate this season, and I hope to build some lasting memories and family traditions filled with warm sentimentality and thankfulness to God this season.

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