Hello my friends. I figured if I often write Sunday Afternoon Tea on Saturday, then it would be fine to write on a Monday, too. I had no access to the laptop yesterday. :) I know the Christmas Season is upon us as I was able to purchase Candy Cane Lane tea at the grocery store yesterday. So join me for this yummy tea and a slice of cake (as soon as it cools).
My schedule this week has suddenly changed with the call to work at the bookstore tomorrow (Tuesday) and Wednesday. Since I get called in when a student can't work, I should have expected the call. So... I have Christopher's birthday cake in the oven, the one he will take with him to work tomorrow. (He begins work at 9:00 and I start at 11:00 but I'm sending in the birthday cake with him.) It is the chocolate chip apple cake (aka: Sheila's cake, since she gave me her secret recipe) that is on my recipe blog, which should be made the day ahead of serving. Since I know of only a few people in my town who read my blog, I figure her secret is still safe. It is the BEST cake and an excellent Holiday recipe, since it is really needs to sit a day or two before serving (covered, of course). I also have to bake some cookies to take to the bookstore, something so people who can't eat chocolate have an option.
I mentioned before that I have long been interested in the subject of traditions (and daily rituals). I expect it has a lot to do with the early influence of Edith Schaeffer's books. Although my mother didn't have a lot of traditions, coming from the South what she did observe was important to her.
I also love reading the Old Testament and one can't read it without seeing the importance God holds to rituals and traditions. As people who are "made of dust", it is so easy for us to forget what we have learned in the past. God knows that so he had man not only set up altars, but have important days of Celebration to remember what He has done for them... Celebrations that surround important events in their social and spiritual lives. (I think He also knew if you include food... we'll remember!) Tradition, especially this time of year, helps us hold fast to that which has come before us.
So... I'll be writing a lot about it this Season. As I was pondering what to write about today, what kept coming back to me were the times in our lives we find our traditions changing. For instance, when we first move away from home, when we get married, when we have our first child, when there is a death of a loved one in the family, when there is tragedy surrounding us, when our children are now grown, when there are no little ones around the house, when we find our self all alone in a far away city, and so many more opportunities for changes and mid-course corrections.
One area there had to be compromise in our early years of marriage was the timing of opening presents. My husband's family opened out-of-town gifts on Christmas Eve but other presents were opened Christmas morning. My family always opened everything on Christmas Eve. Our eventual merging of the two family traditions included opening all presents on Christmas Eve but waiting until Christmas morning to "open" the stocking, which became much more important in our family than it did with either parent. I believe what-was-in-the-stocking was more anticipated than anything in a box. :)
Another tradition we still hold onto (and I think Stephanie does, too) is to serve hor'dourves for Christmas Eve dinner. It first came about by my wanting to try different recipes but our Christmas and Thanksgiving menus were "set in stone". It has been fun through the years to try different new recipes but also keep the "tried and true", like Uncle John's shrimp dip. Later, when I was on staff at a church and we had to be at the Christmas Eve services (and often my daughter was a soloist so we'd be there anyway), we went to our favorite local cafeteria before heading for the service. Otherwise, it has been hor'dourves since Christopher was a baby.
For the past few years, our Christmas traditions have been changing. I no longer have small children around at Thanksgiving or Christmas and many family members have passed on. So our Christmas season tends to be with just the three of us in our home. I've found myself decorating far less than I used to, which is still more than the average Christmas bear. :)
So, this year I'm taking the change one step further and actually changing how I decorate our tree for the first time in a very long time. As I mentioned a few days ago, I'm using many of the vintage Christmas bulbs I've found this past year (all of them really inexpensive). I'll incorporate them with some of my "old" ornaments but it will have much less a "Country" look and more "Vintage". I'm anxious to see how it turns out. With no young children around, it isn't quite as important to have the tree the same way every year (and Christopher doesn't have as many "special" ornaments as did Stephanie, which she took with her when she married). For me, getting out the collection of ornaments was a highlight of the season. I have collected ornaments from various places we lived and each one brings back a special place or person.
Changes... changes in circumstances and finding myself in a different phase of life... requires a change in tradition. If I still had a lot of family returning each Holiday, I wouldn't be changing as much. However, it is the very absence of people that causes me to get depressed these past few years (my daughter, my mother, a few siblings, friends). So for me, beginning new traditions would be very beneficial... as in a vintage tree. :)
A conversation my son had with a co-worker reminded me of the need to give our adult children "wings" to create their own traditions. One of the newly married students he works with is greatly stressed because her in-laws are demanding she and her husband be at their house for both Thanksgiving and Christmas. As you can imagine, it is causing her great difficulties with her own parents as well as causing financial stress for this young couple. The trip will require them to lose much needed income in December, not to mention the cost of travel.
Oh my friends, may we parents of adult children never cling to the old traditions so much that we cause them not to be able to form their own. Is it so worth them being at our house on a particular "day" that we are the cause of great stress in their life, that we are putting a wedge between us and those we love because of our own wishes and demands? I've been in the same place as that student until we had to "compromise"... Christmas in our own home so we did not have to travel far in bad weather, Thanksgiving and Easter at my in-laws, "whenever" we could get there for my mother (who, thankfully, was understanding).
My delightful grandchildren (oh, and their parents) may arrive here for the week after Christmas... God willing and the creek don't freeze over between New England and the Midwest. We do get a laugh since moving here, that they truly do have to go "over the river and through the woods" to get to Grammie, Granddad, and Uncle Christopher's house.
The aroma of chocolate, apple, and cinnamon is now throughout the house. This means the cake will soon be ready to take out of the oven and cool. I'll slice it in the morning before drizzling it with the melted white chocolate. I've promised my husband I'll leave a couple of pieces for him to have with his coffee here at home. I'd better return to the kitchen and pay attention to that which is before me today. See you soon!