As the Andy Williams’ song would have it, Christmas can be the most “wonderful time of the year”. Shopping, gift-giving and of course, cooking tends to push the season from busy to hectic in one short month. But I would like to pause and reflect on the “wonderful” part that makes Christmas the apex of our calendar year. In our family, the season starts the day after Thanksgiving, when the boxes of ornaments get taken out of our storage space and the tree gets erected in the same prominent spot at our picture window. It is our way to light up our part of the street with a display to greet everyone in the early winter twilight.

Our celebration centers around The Reason for the Season with activities in church. Every year the boys and Ro-Ri San will get involved with the church choir or some special musical event. All that singing and playing makes for very hungry guys coming home for supper. :)

As it is said, “She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family…” (Proverbs 31.15a)

The musical calendar extends to the high school events, and at some point in time, I have to check with the boys on which practice piece goes with which concert. And don’t forget to have dinner before playing, or musical notes will clash in dissonance with stomach growls.

Another important part of Christmas is our family tradition of spending some time standing outside some local grocery store, taking turns to ring the bell or getting inside the store to warm up. We keep some hot chocolate in a thermos and it is amazing how that drink keeps “the fire burning” when the temperature gets way below freezing.

“When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet.” (Proverbs 31:21)

Back at the “ranch”, one of the cutest things that we had gotten over the years is this Advent calendar ornament tree. The boys count down the days to Christmas by removing a numbered ornament from its tiny drawer and hangs it on the wooden tree. Over the years, this has become a cherished ritual as Ro-Taro and Ro-Jiro take turns placing an ornament while keeping a sharp lookout for presents under the Christmas tree.

We also have a small collection of Nativities carefully stored away in boxes. Each Christmas only one or two sets are put on display. As promised in my previous post Gingerbread Nativity and the Reason for the Season, here is our cherished Native American Nativity by Sandy Whitefeather. Ro-Ri San found this unique set at a gift shop in Colorado some years back.

While waiting for all the cookies and cakes baking in the oven, winter does present some fun activities for us to help burn up extra calories. We have this gentle slope beside the house that we get to slide down. It is fast going down the hill but walking back up in the snow requires some work. It also works up an appetite which can be instantly cured by those freshly baked stuff just coming out of the oven. The aroma of baking is one of the most enduring scents of Christmas.

Living in Minnesota also has one other perk, and that is free outdoor skating on the city lakes and parks. Our favorite place to skate is at Centennial Lakes Park which turns into the longest outdoor skating rink in America from December to March. It is the venue for our church’s annual winter family event, with dinner in one of the restaurants ringing the park followed by skating or board games beside the fireplace.

All that skating does make for cold fingers and numbed noses, so warming up beside the fireplace is also a favorite winter family pastime. Ro-Ri San found that “chestnuts roasting on an open fire” is actually more trouble than its worth, but a hot cup of tea while warming your toes is worth its weight in gold!

Oh, and one last thing. All these family events are covered by the “local media”. I can safely attest that the chorus of camera beeps and twinkling of flash lights will rival any Hollywood event…so I always go PREPARED. 8)

Have A Merry and Blessed Christmas!