5 Things that make Christmas Christmas

A couple of years ago we completely broke from tradition and went on a Caribbean cruise for Christmas.  And I’m not just talking about cruising during the month of December; we were physically at sea on Christmas Day.  We spent Christmas Eve in Martinique that year, eating pizza and drinking wine in a sidewalk cafe whilst wishes of Joyeux Noël! went up all around us.  It was definitely memorable, if not entirely Christmas-y.

Here at home, we may not have snow, but we certainly have our little holiday knick-knacks and nuances that make Christmas Christmas.  Last year I shared four holiday traditions I keep.  This is different.  These aren’t traditions, per se, but rather five details that bring the holiday to life in our home.

1.  The smell of Christmas – Torri dubbed it that one year and it stuck.  The it in question is an aromatic concoction that simmers on the stovetop all Christmas morning.  There is a recipe somewhere–no doubt–but you really don’t need one.  You simply combine orange juice, a quartered (unpeeled) orange, whole cloves and cinnamon sticks in a saucepan and bring it to a simmer.  Your home will smell like Christmas in no time.  Let it go as long as you like, adding more liquid as the day goes on.

2. The toy shelf – Over the years, we’ve acquired quite a collection of Christmas goodies aimed at the kids.  Books, countdown clocks, singing Santas, dancing penguins…you name it.  At the push of the button these toys spring to life with the sounds of jingling bells and hearty Ho Ho Ho’s.  Rather than spread the toys throughout the house, I collect all of them in a single space.  Each year–as I unpack the decorations–the {little} kids get giddy with excitement over the gadgets and gizmos they’ve missed all year long.

3. Individual trees – We have a ginormous tree in our living room, on which we hang our massive collection of glass ornaments.  The kids, though, each have boxes of ornaments that they’ve both made and been given over the years.  To display those, we have separate, smaller, trees for each of the kids.  They each decorate their own and get to reminisce over each ornament as they hang it.

4.  EnchiladasWhat, you might ask, do enchiladas have to do with Christmas?  If you’re in my family, they have everything to do with it.  For as long as I can remember, my mom has served enchiladas on Christmas Day.  It may have something to do with having grown up in California, but whereas other families serve Christmas hams or turkeys, we do enchiladas.  And I wouldn’t dream of changing it – yum!  This year we’re adding cranberry margaritas to the mix in the name of festivity.

5.  CHRIST in the Christmas – The single thing I missed most about celebrating Christmas on that cruise ship?  Christmas Eve service at church.  When I was little, we’d attend a candlelight service, always ending by singing a couple of verses of Silent Night in German.  These days, our family still attends services on Christmas Eve, but for the last several years we’ve gone to services that are much more family friendly.  I miss the candles.  We might try one of those services again this year.

How about you?  What are some of the details that make your holiday?


  1. Funny the similarities…I use that same potporri, plus whole cranberries. We have many of those same toys. We have kids trees. And the cranberry margaritas are YUM. :)

    We always have an appetizer dinner on Christmas Eve, enjoyed after the candlelight service at church. And while a few new things have been added over the years, the menu remains much the same. It wouldn’t be Christmas Eve without Mom’s stuffed mushrooms!

    For the past several years the girls and I have taken yarn and woven together ‘stockings’ cut from card stock. We write Merry Christmas on the front, add a candy cane and an invitation to join us at our church on Christmas Eve, and hang one on each neighbor’s doorknob a week or so before the holiday. I really like this newish tradition and hope to continue (but the walk keeps getting longer and the project more time consuming as our neighborhood grows!)

  2. Here it is late evening and I discovered you had written about the Christmas Cruise, well guess what it has been on my mind all day as I was addressing Christmas cards and getting a few things in boxes for mailing, yep the cruise and the cold temps there in Orlando prior to the cruise. Hope to be with you for Christmas for some of those enchillildas.

  3. I have missed the traditions these last several years, maybe I will have to start a new one for myself, hmmm

  4. This is our first year away from “home” , or I guess in our new home and I am hoping we can actually be here for Christmas. I thought we’d want to go back to see our family but instead I’m ready to start something new. Christmas is always John Denver’s Christmas album for me, and Emmet Otter’s Jugband Christmas (those things remind me of my Dad) and baking lots of cookies, and knitting gifts, and making the perfect Christmas card to send!


  5. I like the enchiladas tradition. What recipe will you be using?

    P.S. I also like “skipping traditions” every once in awhile for an adventure (like your cruise). Adds a bit of spice to life. :)

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