This time of year is difficult for me. I tend to get a little homesick. I miss my family and friends back in Wisconsin terribly. I miss the family traditions that have been celebrated since I was very young.
Coming from such a large and close-knit family I miss a lot. It was important to me that when we moved to Arizona we took those old family traditions and added some new ones of our own to make the holiday season extra magical for Hunter; while selfishly making them therapeutic for myself.
I’d like to say that first Christmas was easy but that couldn’t be further from the truth. We decided to drive back to Wisconsin to celebrate with our family. Sounds great right? Not so much. Justin being the stubborn man he is decided to drive straight through, both there and back! You want to test your marriage folks? Simply take a road trip with a pickup loaded to the max (inside and out) across the country in the middle of winter with the dog and Hunter who was not quite two years old. To add more fuel to the fire, Justin was getting calls from work the ENTIRE time. We were also extremely limited on our time once we actually arrived in Wisconsin due to the continued demand at Justin’s work. Don’t get me wrong, we enjoyed every minute we had with our family and friends but that first Christmas was HELL! So much so Justin swore off ever going back to Wisconsin for the holidays ever again! We compromised and made the decision that going forward we would travel back to Wisconsin every other year for the holidays.
Year two was a little easier logistically but much much harder for me emotionally. We stayed in Arizona that year and I was a wreck! I was so incredibly lucky that Justin’s Dad decided to come to us for the holidays. It also didn’t hurt that he happens to resemble the one and only Santa Claus! I am forever grateful that he made that decision. It really helped me focus on the positives and focus on creating some brand new and exciting traditions for our own little family that I always dreamed about being able to create. I’m not sure he knows just how much his visit meant to me that year. But Dad, if you’re reading this, I cannot thank you enough! Your love and support during that difficult time meant so very much to me and I am so very lucky to have you as a Father-in-Law.
So what did those “new” traditions include you ask? Well to put it very simply, we were able to put Hunter to bed that year on Christmas Eve and experience him waking the next morning and finding that Santa had snuck in overnight. Santa ate the cookies, he drank the milk, and he left gifts under the tree! Sounds pretty common to most but to me, but to him, this was a first. You see, I come from a divorced family, as does Justin. so our own parents had to be extra creative in making the holidays special while faced with the common knowledge traditions of most other families. I do not recall a time in my childhood when I went to bed on Christmas Eve and awoke Christmas morning to all of that. I by no means missed out on the “magic” of Christmas. My parents all be it divorced, did an AWESOME job at making the holidays special for my sister(s) and I! I just experienced Christmas in a much different way than my peers. So to be able to not only create this experience for Hunter but to also experience it with him was a moment I will NEVER forget! Christmas magic is silent but boy can you see it when you look through your child’s eye’s!
Now here we are year three. I have never been more excited with the upcoming holidays. And I know most of you are thinking, “well duh, you’re going back to Wisconsin this year.” But this year is exciting for so many more reasons than just that. To say that I am in a much better place mentally and physically than that first year would be putting things lightly. So much has happened. There has been so much! So many experiences, so many struggles, so many mistakes, so many lessons, so much learning, so much love, so much friendship, so much growth. And I am thankful for it all! I wouldn’t be here today without it all. But I digress…
Our current family holiday traditions are a solid blend of old and new. They contain a lot of holiday “magic”. The memories that we create from this moment on are endless and will last a lifetime! I am so excited to celebrate this routine as our own and new family tradition and hope they last throughout Hunter’s lifetime. I cannot wait for him to pass all or some of these traditions down through his own little family some day.
December first marks the start of the holiday season for us. Christmas carols are on full blast, eggnog is on tap, and the decorations get pulled out of storage. The must-have Christmas albums include some favorites from my childhood: “The Gift” by Kenny Rogers, “Once Upon a Christmas” by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton, “A Jolly Christmas” by Frank Sinatra (specifically “Jingle Bells”), and something new, “Christmas” by Michael Buble. Blast those tunes and sing along while eating junk food and sweets until the entire house is decorated inside and out. Hunter decorated his own little mini tree and tree display this year. He’s been re-arranging that display since the first and hasn’t slowed down! He likes to mix things up.
Then we get to the rest of the house which includes lots of cardinals because they remind me of my Grandma Tucholka and of back home in Wisconsin.
And of course there is the good old Midwestern tradition of St. Nick deeply routed in the German culture and heritage that Justin and I and most of the Midwest grew up on.
And then we have the traditional “Advent Calendar” that I grew up with. A cute cardboard photo with punch outs for every day of December leading up to Christmas Day and each day is filled with a piece of milk chocolate and a part of the traditional non-biblical westernized story of Christmas.
This year we added reading the Bible to this nightly routine. Specifically the book of Luke. The instructions are to read a chapter per day up to Christmas and that the entire book of Luke gives the account of the life of Jesus. Hunter being a big fan of bedtime stories is really enjoying this year’s addition to family traditions.
Then we wait impatiently each year for the mail to arrive in hopes that our annual WE Energies Christmas Cookie Cookbook has arrived from Grandma Pedersen.
And last but not least we try to attend as many local holiday events and displays as we can.
“The magic of Christmas never ends and it’s greatest of gifts are family and friends.” Happy Holidays from the Stommel Family!
What are some holiday traditions you celebrate with your family? Let me know in the comments below.