A Down Home Christmas

One of the things I love about Christmas is traditions. I’m a farm girl, and I have a lot of “country” based traditions that I remember fondly. Some of them have gone by the wayside as I bring up my own family, but I remember them with a special sense of nostalgia, and one of the things I love about writing Christmas stories – in particular westerns – is that I can bring those traditions back to life.

Sometimes I think those traditions are part of what’s missing these days, too. Our lives get so busy that it’s a challenge to take the time to put in extra effort-  it’s easier to go into a store and buy it. But there really is nothing like a down home holiday and I think readers like them too – it provides a connection that they might not experience, or it may bring back fond memories too.

So what makes a down home Christmas?

Do you all know the scene in Christmas Vacation where they go out looking for the Griswold Family Christmas Tree? It’s a little extreme, but there’s nothing like going out in the back 40, finding the perfect – or not so perfect – tree and cutting it down for Christmas. Then freezing your feet off when you haul it back on a toboggan, and then put it in a Christmas tree stand and turn it to hide the “bad” side.

For our family, it’s also Christmas carols and movies. We have our favourites and make a point of watching them curled up on the sofa, or playing the carols as we work around the house. When I was a girl, I adored The Sound of Music. And I lived for Christmas specials on television. DVDs have kind of made that a little more “unspecial” because you can watch it when you want, however many times you want.

How about a candlelight Christmas Eve service at church?

When I was a girl we also used to gather at my brother’s house after church on Christmas Eve and have a potluck. My fond memory of that time is my sister in law’s chocolate bundt cake with peanut butter frosting. MMMM!

And speaking of food – how many traditions revolve around food? I’m guessing more than any other. There’s the Christmas dinner, of course, complete with turkey and stuffing and potatoes and vegetables and any number of desserts. My mom used to make a steamed pudding with sauce, and she always had pie for anyone who wasn’t into pudding. But beyond the meal there’s so much more to enjoy. For me, it’s the making of it that is as special as the eating. I have carried a lot of traditions forward to my girls. Some we’ve changed to suit our tastes – making shortbread is a big one, and fancy iced cookies, and my daughter makes a gumdrop cake each year and her younger sister is the master of Chocolate Peanut Butter Clusters. I remember being in the kitchen and making mocha cakes with my mom – what a mess! My mom did so much Christmas baking she could feed an army – and often did. We had a lot of drop in company in December, or she’d go to a church or community function with a big tray of goodies. Peanut Butter Balls, Scotch Cakes, Mocha Cakes, Doughnut Holes, Squares of every variety….

And there was always time to put on a kettle.

When the baking was done and the mess cleaned up, it was pretty normal to find my mom sitting with her latest knitting project in her hands, too. That’s how you’ll find me a good portion of the winter – especially Sunday afternoons, curled up with my girls and a movie.

It’s those sorts of things that make me really happy to be writing a holiday story right now. Not just drawing on the experiences but the warm, happy feelings that the memories bring. I can’t wait to bring this story to readers next November!


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10 thoughts on “A Down Home Christmas”

  1. Looking forward to your next book.

    And I want a picture of the gumdrop cake!

    I have had to tweak my recipes since they discovered I am allergic to corn and wheat. My next big project is a totally homemade fruit cake. Should be an interesting memory in the making.

    Happy Holidays!

    Peace, Julie

  2. Thanks for the great post,we just went an got our tree this weekend an put it up yesterday,its over 8 ft tall an way wide,my little 3yr old grandson came over an said,wow,thats the biggest tree I never ,ever saw!,too funny an cute,his eyes were so big,,now thats Christmas to me,seeing it thru the eyes of a child

  3. Donna,

    Just reading this post brought back so many wonderful memories. Like you, we’ve had to modify some of our traditions but the really special ones still remain.

    Merry Christmas!

  4. Julie – I’m getting the gumdrops for my daughter today, so I’ll take a picture when we make that first cut. 🙂 Corn and wheat? My, you have some challenges – more with the corn than anything. There’s corn in EVERYTHING! I eat very little gluten these days.

    Hi to Margaret, Vickie and Kirsten! Last night we did another tradition. We missed it last year and the girls wouldn’t let me away with it again. After a crazy weekend, we put White Christmas on the dvd player and made our gingerbread house. It’s the prettiest one I’ve ever done I think – I’ll try to post a pic on my facebook author page.

  5. Loved your post about Christmas traditions. I can never get enough Christmas music and begin listening to my CDs in November.

  6. Great post Donna. I love remembering all the things we did as a family. Lots of shared memories. Traditions for us have changed over the last few years and will change again this year, but the one this is that we all try to be together either Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.

    I have had an annual Christmas Tree trimming party for my nieces and nephews since the oldest one was about 11yrs old and she is 28 in January and now the great-nieces and nephews have joined in the fun… Hope it last for a few years more.

  7. I love Christmas traditions. One of my favourites is, of course, about food: the steamed cranberry pudding my mother makes and serves with a rich sause made of butter, sugar and cream. Alone, the pudding is too tart to eat and the sauce way too sweet, but together they are perfection. Another favourite is Creme Sucree, the Quebecois brown sugar fudge I only make at Christmas – otherwise I’m afraid the damage to my waistline would be irreparable. But it’s such sweet sin!

  8. It really is too bad that we seem to be too spread out and too busy to keep many of the traditions we grew up with. We would go to midnight mass then meet at my grandparents’ house for brunch. No gifts were exchanged except those for my grandparents – my mom had eight brothers and sisters and there were literally dozens of cousins. We would get home about 2 AM, open our gifts from Santa (who had come while we were gone, then go to bed. Christmas day we would spend with my other set of grandparents. My Dad had 4 living siblings and there were only 10 grandchildren (6 from my family). It was a wonderful way to spend the holiday.

    Unfortunately for our children, all their grandparents are gone and we live hundreds of miles from relatives. Our children come over with their families but not always on Christmas day. Our oldest daughter lives 65 miles away and her husband is an only child. His family always has a big Christmas get together. I am not going to make them have to choose whose house to go to. Whichever day they can make it down is the day the other kids come over and we have our Christmas celebration. We were a military family for 24 years and learned to celebrate when we could. It isn’t the day on the calender that counts, but what you celebrate and who you celebrate with.

  9. I love Christmas traditions, which over the years have changed as our family grew, or sadly as family member went home to spend Christ’s birthday with Him in heaven. It has always been about family, a large family. The food, the stories, church, games, sledding and gifts have all been an important part. Last year we helped a church feed those who had nowhere else to go for Christmas and I think it was my favorite Christmas day of all.

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