Monday, December 1, 2014

Christmas Countdown to an Organized Christmas - Day 37 - Simplify Holiday Traditions

Article and Photo Courtesy of Organized Christmas

Last night, good Dr. Steve and I participated in one of our favorite holiday traditions: watching the wonderful Christmas movie, A Christmas Story.

As we laughed along with Ralphie and his friends, we made the same comments we make every year. "That kid looks just like my Dad, when he was little!" said Dr. Steve. In singsong, I chanted "Mommy's little piggy!" right along with Ralphie's mom.

Just as we have for the last 18 years, we turned to one another at the end and said, "That is the best Christmas movie ever made!"

Earlier in our marriage? Meshing two sets of holiday traditions wasn't as simple as watching movies together. His way, her way needed to become our way.

How did we simplify and harmonize two sets of holiday traditions?

From the start, it wasn't a simple--or quick--process to come up with a set of traditions that were truly ours. Working around our respective expectations, and the viewpoints of our children and parents, the celebration careened back and forth between traditions during our early years.

For me? Having children had softened my "No Early Christmas!" stance, but I'd held firm to "No Christmas until after my birthday, December 7th!" Until I married Dr. Steve, that is, and was converted to "Decorate the house on Thanksgiving weekend!"

In turn, Dr. Steve gave up certain of his own family traditions, involving multiple cocktail parties at multiple country clubs, all requiring neckties and pantyhose (ugh). Two teenaged step-children brought that one to a screeching real-world halt after a single, dressed-up year.

Now, twenty-five years into marriage, we've passed through the fire and into a nice, comfortable frying pan. Like the linens and the cooking pans, our traditions are finally ours.

Jumbled and homely, they're products of negotiation, transition, and just plain getting older.

We've mixed old favorites, like opening a gift of something warm to wear on Christmas Eve, with new creations, like the "Travel Tree" displaying ornaments and souvenirs from our trips around the world.

Our traditions are simpler. They're less stilted and more fun.

And not one of them has come from a women's magazine. How? Check out today's essay and Simplify Holiday Traditions!

Then use our printable Holiday Tradition Tracker to record the meaningful and the fun activities you share with family this year. They're traditions in the making!

To Do Today

Complete all gift shopping and craft gifts. Wrap and mail send-away gifts by December 6.

To Read Today

Simplifying holiday traditions? You'll do less and enjoy it more!

Simplify Holiday Traditions

"Tradition" is a powerful force that sometimes pulls an unsuspecting family along in its wake. Do your holiday traditions serve your family, your values and your spiritual beliefs--or are you running a tired and joyless circle each holiday season in the name of tradition?

To cut stress during the season, don't wait to give your family's holiday traditions a stiff scrutiny.

Give some thought to your family's holiday traditions well before the season is full upon you. Try these ideas to simplify your family's traditions--and deepen the season's joys!

Be objective! Re-run last December through your mental computer, and try to discern which activities were most enjoyed, most meaningful--and which might be scheduled for revision or elimination.

The goal: to simplify the season by doing less and enjoying it more.

Cut back
You may find that some traditions have been outgrown and should get the old heave-ho.

Sure, young married couples can manage to visit both sets of parents on Christmas Day, but that tradition becomes a burden once the second child enters the family. Time to end it when little ones are frazzled and cross at too many long dinners in scratchy dress-up clothing.

Scale down
Simplify those traditions that make the cut. Take the gingerbread house. You always make an elaborate gingerbread house the Saturday after Thanksgiving--but last year, the teenagers were bored with the whole thing, and you're working full-time now, and it's just so much work and half the time the house falls apart and the icing drips off . . . .

Why not trade that gingerbread house for a quick session of icing dairy case sugar cookies with those very teenagers? You've kept the fun, but freed yourself from the chore.

Refresh the list

Best of all, promote some pleasurable family activities to the status of tradition. How do you create a tradition? Simple: you do it every year, you do it all together, and you all enjoy it.

Beware, though! Don't fall into the Women's Magazine Tradition Trap!

You know what I mean, right? You pick up a women's magazine, and it tells about the aw-gee tradition that some other family has, and you get tear-in-eye and want to inflict same on your own little brood--whether its right for your family or not.

No, think back to what your family enjoyed last December. Did you all giggle at the wonderful movie, A Christmas Story? Create a new tradition by scheduling a Video Night, loading up on the Orville Redenbacher's, and cuddling down together to watch.

Keep things simple--and there's no need to spend money to create a cherished tradition. Drive out to see the lights in the most decorated neighborhood in town. Volunteer as a family at the Food Bank. Invite neighbors for punch and cookies.

If you do it every year, you do it all together, and you all enjoy it, its a tradition!

Today's Recipe

candy cane cookies recipe

Bursting with the tastes of the season, Candy Cane Cookies are my eldest child's all-time favorite recipe!

Melting, tender cookies shaped and colored like candy canes, Candy Cane Cookies are flavored with sparkles of crushed peppermint candy.

This is a wonderful cookie, but I find it a bore to make. Each and every year I drop this one from my list, and each and every year my daughter asks, hopefully, "Are you going to make those candy cane cookies this year?"

Each and every year I reply, "Well, all right, but ONLY if you'll help me!"

The reason for this devotion is obvious from the first taste. These cookies are distinctive and wonderfully flavored--and they look, smell and taste like Christmas!

1 cuppowdered sugar
1⁄2 cupbutter, unsalted
1⁄2 cupshortening
1 egg
1 1⁄2 teaspoonalmond or peppermint extract
1 teaspoonvanilla extract
2 1⁄2 cupsflour, all-purpose
1 teaspoonsalt
1⁄2 teaspoonred food coloring
1⁄2 cupcandy canes or peppermint candy, crushed
1⁄2 cupsugar, granulated

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Mix powdered sugar, margarine, shortening, egg, almond extract and vanilla. Stir in flour and salt.

Divide dough into halves. Tint one half with food color.

For each candy cane, shape 1 teaspoon dough from each color into a 4-inch rope. For smooth, even strips, roll back and forth on lightly floured board. Place 1 red and 1 white strip side-by-side; press together lightly, and twist. Place on ungreased cookie sheet; curve cookie top down to form a candy cane shape.

Bake until set and very light brown, about 9 minutes. Mix crushed candy and granulated sugar; immediately sprinkle over hot cookies. Remove from cookie sheet and cool on wire rack.


One final note: this cookie gives you a great way to get rid of last year's old candy canes! As long as they're not sticky, they'll work fine!

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