My sister Lauren and I spent this afternoon in conversation and smiles (and chocolate peppermint fudge!) with Ruth. We got chatting a little about Christmas, our plans to go see the carols in the city together, and Ruth loaned us Andrew Peterson's Behold the Lamb of God to listen to and enjoy. On the way home, Lauren and I stopped off and did a little Christmas shopping, and the result of all this is that I'm now very much in the mood for Christmas.
I'm a dork about Christmas. I know that lots of people are sad about the commercialism and the craziness of the holiday, but it's always been such a special (yet low-key) time for our family that I can't help getting all excited. I don't mind the big crowds in the malls. I love planning a menu and opening the pantry to find extra snacks for "just in case" guests pop in. I like stumbling across nativitymovie re-runs on commercial television. I love hearing 'Jesus' and 'peace on earth' in the mouths of people everywhere, even if they don't always understand what it means. I like writing my cheesy yearly newsletter. I love opening cards from friends, many of whom we only get to catch up with once a year. I relish our family's corny Christmas traditions. I even like hearing Let it Snow on the radio when I'm melting in the humidity.
Last year my mother tried to suggest that maybe we're too old now for some of the Christmas traditions we've celebrated for ages. She thought we might have outgrown things like finding gifts in our individual pillowcases (mine is the blue Smurf one) on Christmas morning. Or getting tiny boxes of cereal (ones we were never allowed, like Fruit Loops and Coco Pops) for our breakfast. We shouted her down, and the traditions lived and thrived for another year.
One family tradition that I think will last for many years to come is the setting up of the nativity scene. When I was a little girl, my grandfather made a small wooden stable with a star above it, and my grandmother gave us a set of nativity characters. They're posh and formal and slightly medieval-looking, but every year on the first of December, we set them up in their little hay-lined manger (with my brother enacting various idyllic and not-so-idyllic barnyard scenes incorporating sheep and lambs and the occasional rampaging donkey). It's a tangible reminder of what it's really all about. Ah, Christmas!
Staish -- oh, you got it! The new photo is from the upstairs window, remastered with the Japanese photo tool thingy :).
Bethany -- yes, new hair! Well, a fringe really. You can see proper-ish pictures here and here. And when it's in a ponytail, it looks a little like a bob from the front.