There are plenty of things I love about celebrating Christmas: the songs that grace radio stations just once a year, the surprise of receiving season’s greetings in the mailbox from friends far and wide, and the streams of wrapping paper that litter the floor on the morning of December 25th, to name a few.
Everything from taking pictures with Santa to shopping for the perfect gifts holds a special place in my heart, but my absolute favorite moments of the holiday season are the ones that have become solidified traditions.
It starts with spending a weekend away in the mountains to cut down our Christmas tree. We spend a few hours trudging through fields of evergreens in the biting cold in search of the perfect Douglas fir to decorate in our living room. I couldn’t imagine starting the month of December any other way.
And then there’s the act of baking cookies. This is usually considered a marathon event, where the kitchen is splattered with dough and icing and sprinkles for an entire week. My mom and I make every variety from chocolate chip to gingerbread men, and I’ve been fortunate enough to pick up some of her secrets after years of watching her execute baking miracles. (Seriously, our family members fight over her cookies. They’re that good.)
But I’d have to say the best is Christmas Eve. We wake up and know that it’s the last day; everything we’ve anticipated is within reach. We take the daylight hours to tie up loose ends: slip extra bows on packages, bake a last batch of peanut butter cookies, and run to the grocery store to pick up the forgotten cranberry sauce. And then, as nightfall creeps in, we deck ourselves out in Christmas pajamas and clamor into the car to drive through neighborhoods of lights. We ooh and ah over illuminated reindeer and sleighs wrapped in holly before driving home and reading The Night Before Christmas. We leave a few treats out for Santa, along with a full glass of milk, and then arrange all the gifts under the tree, in hopes of little surprises the next morning.
And come December 26th, it doesn’t matter what high-tech gadget you may have received or that the sweater your grandma knit for you is intolerably itchy. It matters that you gathered around with loved ones and that you laughed together. It matters that you cherished every single moment spent in the company of those who are most important to you.
Those are the memories that will last you a lifetime. That’s where all the magic lies.