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FAMILY Blog: Twinkling Lights & Holiday Traditions

A blanket of white settles over our homes with overcast skies and dustings of snow that catch the fading sun rays, making the snowflakes sparkle and shine in the moonlight. The usual chaos that surrounds the holiday season is softened and the calmness of the moment can be savored. It’s these moments that make December special — the moments of clarity, the moments of serenity, the moments of gratefulness, the moments of hope. And the sensation that magic is in the air.

Regardless of which holidays you celebrate, December’s spirit is captivating and all-consuming. Opportunity and excitement fill the air. The sweet scent of cinnamon and the vibrant reds, golds and greens of string lights brighten the atmosphere. The days are cut shorter as the nights grow longer, changing neighborhoods into North Poles lined with crystal lights and reindeer runways.

While December is a time for change – of season, of spirit, of heart – it is also a time that brings back the comfort of the familiar. Holiday traditions are a staple in families everywhere. Whether it’s through annual parties, delicious recipes passed down through generations, or movies you curl up on the couch to watch every year ­— traditions have a special and sacred place in our hearts.

As I’ve grown up, my family has held true to our holiday traditions. It all begins the Friday after Thanksgiving when we put up our Christmas decorations. It may seem a little early, but it’s a day we are guaranteed to be together. We’ve always had an artificial tree. Some people think it’s crazy that I’ve never had a real Christmas tree, but my parents swore them off after an unfortunate sap and bristles incident in their first apartment. A fake tree also allows us to set everything up early without any decoration expiration dates.

It’s amazing to me how much the house transforms that day. The garlands are wrapped around the staircase, interlaced with ribbons and icicle lights, illuminating the foyer with warmth, while homemade ornaments from childhood are hung on the tree. Christmas trinkets are strategically placed and it starts to feel like December.

Underneath the tree, we keep a stack of Christmas books we’ve had forever. There’s a book of short stories that has become a tradition in itself. On Christmas Eve, after driving through town looking at the holiday lights, we come home to a warm house. In the past, my brother and I would run upstairs to put on pajamas while my dad lit a fire and my mom settled into the couch with blankets and the book of short stories. My brother and I would curl up next to my mom as she read a few stories to us. My favorite is “The Candle in the Forest,” a story about a poor family and how they make the most of what they have. After the stories and placing food out for the reindeer, we would go to bed excited to see what the magic of the night would bring for us.

While gifts were a luxury we were lucky to have, my parents have taught us to focus on the fundamental values of the holidays and give back. We’ve participated in food drives and volunteered at holiday shopping coalitions, but my favorite way to give back was to stuff stockings or boxes with holiday presents for kids who were not as lucky as I was. My mom and I would fill a cart with stuffed animals, card games, notebooks and other small gifts to put in the packages. It was exciting and heartwarming to know that I could make that day a little more special for someone else.

We often lose focus of what’s truly important during the stresses of the every day. We get busy, we struggle, we forget, we lose touch of what and who is most important in our lives. December is a time to regroup and prepare for the New Year. It’s the season of giving and celebration, the season of change, but also a time to take comfort in our many blessings.

From our FAMILY to yours, happy holidays!

Colleen McGrew

About WF

Washington FAMILY Staff

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