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!