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Think Write Thursday: A Favorite Holiday Tradition

The Think Write Thursday prompt for this week is to write about a favorite holiday tradition. Why I love it, how it started, why it’s important to me.

You know, I came up with the prompt for this week. And it seemed like a great idea at the time. Kat said so, too. But now that I’m sitting down to write this post I’m wondering what the hell I was thinking. ONE single favorite holiday tradition? Only one?? I thought about making decorating the house as my favorite holiday tradition. Or perhaps watching Christmas movies. Or maybe even decorating the tree. And then I realized it really does all come down to one favorite tradition.


Our Christmas Eve Open House.

I love that our house is full of friends and family. I love that they are eating delicious food and laughing and telling stories and making merry. I love that we sing together. And I love that this is something I have done for my whole life, first as a child, then as a young wife and mother, and now as a, hmmmmm, well-seasoned woman who loves to entertain.

As a small child we went to my grandparents on Christmas Eve and my Swedish grandmother served a traditional smorgasbord. We had Swedish meatballs and baked ham, korv and pickled herring, medwurst sandwiches, pickled beets, baked beans, rice pudding and glögg. Later, my mother took this over, but the menu remained pretty similar. Our house was packed with family and friends, we had a piano and I always played carols and everyone gathered around and sang. I remember loving it because everyone sang so loud that it didn’t matter if I made mistakes. Those memories are some of my favorites from my childhood.

And what we do now is very similar. The menu has changed slightly – I don’t make korv and rice pudding – and I’ve added things like finger sandwiches and baked macaroni and cheese – but I still serve many of those Swedish specialties. Meatballs and baked beans and glögg, medwurst sandwiches and pickled herring and baked ham. I’m sure many of our guests just think of it as party food but for Dale and I it’s a special way of honoring our Swedish heritage. I love serving those foods to my father-in-law, big Swedish elf that he is, and seeing him enjoy them, too.

It’s not all about the food, though. It’s about being together and celebrating – celebrating the birth of Jesus, celebrating the return of the light, celebrating another year on this earth. It’s about blending our voices (often not very harmoniously) in song, it’s about setting time apart to be human and feel loved, it’s about remembering all the other Christmas gatherings, thinking that our children and grandchildren will carry on these traditions, and recognizing that caring for people in our home, with hospitality and grace is one of the greatest blessings we have. It is, quite simply, one of the best things Dale and I do as a couple.

Speaking of Dale, I can picture him reading this and thinking to himself, whaaaaa? For a tradition she loves so much, Carole sure does complain about this party. And it’s true, I have been known to complain about the work associated with hosting Christmas Eve. But, work or not, I love it. And I’m trying, really trying, to focus on the joy of Christmas and the graciousness of opening my home to the people I love.

Our Christmas Eve Open House is my favorite Christmas tradition. What’s yours?

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This Post Has 11 Comments

  1. Oh Carole, that’s a wonderful tradition! It seems like a true extension of you – a warm and inviting gathering of friends and family, with delicious food and a nod to your heritage. Perfect!

  2. My beloved gets overwhelmed by the flash & business that our culture tends to dress the holiday in. For us, the moment the lights slowly dim at the end of the Christmas Eve service and we sing Silent Night is one of the holiest moments of the year. There is a small glimpse of the awe & peace our relationship with Christ is meant to bring. It’s a fleeting moment, as I think it is supposed to be here on Earth, but a sweet one to inspire us to draw closer to Him and each other.

  3. This is so beautiful, except – Carole complain? I do not believe it!

    However, I am with you – sometimes the amount of work increases the reward. Thank you for sharing such a wonderful and rich tradition!

  4. It’s really hard work to be a good hostess! I’ll bet your friends and family also consider your Christmas Eve celebration one of THEIR favorite holiday traditions. Your hard work – at already very busy time of year – pays off in wonderful memories, excellent company, and the true spirit of the holiday. Party on!

  5. Your open house really sounds like the opening of your house and heart (not that it isn’t always open), and the delicious food a wonderful gift to all your friends and family. It sounds like a tradition that involves a Herculean effort but one you are glad you did all that work for when everyone is celebrating. Underbar!

  6. Carole, I think you are all about JOY! We all need to,carp a little sweating away in the kitchen but we always know it’s,worth It!

  7. You are the very best host and everyone must be so thrilled to be part of your welcome celebration. You, dear friend, embody the Christmas spirit.

  8. It’s so cool that this is an event that’s happened your whole life!! I know the stress & work involved with a big party/gathering and I am not surprised at all that you complain! I also know that once it’s “show time” that all falls away and you relax into it… My mother would always remind me that “it’s” going to happen whether you’re ready or not (and if anything isn’t quite right or left undone, no one is going to even notice!).

  9. This is a beautiful post! We’re entering our second year of hosting the family Christmas Eve, taking it over from my mother-in-law. It’s work but it’s such a fun evening. I’ll be thinking of you as I roll those Swedish meatballs myself!

  10. I’ve been to a couple holiday open houses, and they really seem to make the holiday special. The special attention to details and of course the food-always the food! So nice that you have this tradition. I’ll live vicariously through yours!

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