Aliens in the Apple

Getting excited about Christmas

Franci 12 Dec 2011 Apartment living Being creative Christmas Family NYC

I love the month of December here in New York — I think it’s even my favourite time of the year, even better than beautiful spring-time April. It’s cold, but everyone seems to be in good spirits (as opposed to grumpy January!), there are beautiful decorations everywhere (I’ll have to get you some photographic evidence!), buskers sing “Feliz Navidad” on the subway, you get things like peppermint hot chocolates and hot apple cider, and random people on the street say “Merry Christmas”.

But maybe I feel especially fond of New York City in December because I love Christmas! I love everything about it: the music, the wonderful smells, the baking, the decorations, the festivities, the gifts…, and all these ‘little’ things undergirded with a robust and joyful deep thankfulness that God gave the most extravagant Christmas gift ever to set us free from our bondage to sin. If that is not reason to get excited and celebrate, then nothing is.

So we embrace the little traditions; we celebrate Advent, we decorate, we bake, we give gifts, we sing and make music.

I thought I’d share some little ways in which I’ve made our home more Christmassy — have I mentioned that we love Christmas around here?

We listen to Christmas music. And sometimes we even dance to them. Everything from traditional carols to Frank Sinatra crooning “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” (Marica is certainly dreaming of one. She can’t wait for the snow!). I’ve also been asked to be part of a Christmas Choir, and we’ll be giving a concert next weekend. I signed up because I thought, oh that will be easy — I’ve done Christmas music all my life! Uh… it turns out my Christmas music exposure has been pretty small. We’re singing all sorts of German and Latin and even American songs I’d never heard before. It turns out they’re actually quite difficult and I have to <gasp> practice at home! I think it’s going to be totally worth it though, the music is really beautiful.

I make the house smell nice. Sometimes that’s from baking, but I’ve also developed a love with scented candles (NEVER thought I’d say that!). At the moment I’ve got a Creme Brulee one that I wish I could eat. When that one’s gone I’m going to get a peppermint one!

I’ve also decorated an orange with cloves (such a fun and easy and cheap craft! Though I recommend using a thimble if you are going to make one) and it smells really good. I might throw it into some gluhwein at the end of the season.

We bake! This year is pretty busy, but I’m definitely still baking! Grandma Tschetter’s peppernut dough is already ripening in the fridge. Also on the menu are gingerbread men, Christmas biscotti (with pistachios and dried strawberries), Jo Seagar’s Port and Prune truffles, apricot truffles and ‘Christmas snow’ which is like rice crispy candy with extra bits and pieces thrown in to make it look Christmassy.

We read Christmas-themed books. I got a whole bunch of nice ones from the library, and we also own Duck & Goose — It’s Time for Christmas, The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey, Room for a Little One, Hettie’s Christmas Gift, an Advent Storybook, The Nutcracker (in Afrikaans), A Christmas Carol (not really for the kids) and the kids are getting The Carpenter’s Gift and How the Grinch Stole Christmas for Advent gifts. I buy a couple every year and slowly the collection grows.

The kids have a special plate and cup. They got these for Advent gifts last year, and they want to eat out of them all the time. We make meal-times an extra bit fun with Christmas cookie cutter sandwiches, and we’ve even had Christmas shaped poached eggs!

(Mum gets the crusts.)

We decorate. We’ve made some decorations, and bought some. I’ve been amazed at how dirt cheap some decorations are here, and they’re nice, not tacky! A little bit of inspiration goes a long way.

Add a little something to your usual shelf, and suddenly it looks like Christmas!

Some pine cones I picked up some months back in a red bowl.

We don’t have a Christmas tree, so I decorate in other ways. Hey, guess what my friend Jennifer turned up with last night?! The kids can’t stop staring at it, turning out the lights of the room so just the Christmas tree lights are giving light. They’re over the moon, thanks, Jen!

We made these cool Christmas decorations recently at Jen’s house. I’ll show you some pictures of that soon!

A pretty metal star I picked up from Target for $2.50.

Marica painted this angel (with a little bit of help) at the same craft afternoon I made the ball decoration I showed you earlier. The kiwi on the left was a gift from my friend Miriam, and the apple decoration I bought as a souvenir to take home.

Even the chairs get a bit of sprucing up.

You don’t have to spend a lot of money to make Christmas a bit more special, and all these little things add up to make the whole month more festive. I’d also like to think we’re making some happy memories.

Comments (2)

Hannah 12 Dec 2011 at 10:43am

The Christmas concert sounds good; anything we’d recognize if it were in English? Any familiar melodies? What American songs?

Just mixed up our peppernuts yesterday, too! We sample all the Christmas goodies for the first time the night we decorate the tree—which might be next weekend—so we had to get the peppernut dough going with at least a week to “ripen.”

Christmastime in big cities is great; I have fond memories of a couple brief trips to Chicago in early December. Knoxville’s downtown and Old City will never be quite that exciting, though we do have an outdoor ice skating rink that goes up in Market Square for several weeks, decorations up and a parade (Eva got stuck in traffic trying to get home that night), and a holiday market on Saturdays near the ice skating (just a few vendors added on to the twice a week farmers’ market that runs spring-summer-fall). I’m setting up a booth there again this year.

I like what you’ve done with the kids’ food during Advent.

Who is Jennifer? Sounds like a good friend. :)

Did you take the photo of Santa on the bridge?

Laurel 12 Dec 2011 at 8:17pm

Well, we’ve got as far as Grandma’s Peppernuts and Lebkuchen, and Veronica’s Truffles. Note that these are all do-ahead baking items! Since we’ve plans to leave on holiday the day after Christmas - and have a lot of chores between now and then - I don’t plan a lot more in the way of special decorating, meals, or even presents this year. But we enjoyed looking at and reading about yours!