Tag Archive | Advent calendar

Christmas Countdown

By Karen Hendricks

The mantra I keep hearing and repeating from all of my friends who are moms this holiday season is… “Let it go.” With Thanksgiving falling so late on the calendar this year, there just wasn’t as much time as usual to prepare for Christmas! Whether it’s holiday decorating, cookie baking, gift wrapping, or tree trimming, many of these holiday traditions are falling by the wayside this year. We are all in the same boat–flying by the seat of our pants this holiday season!

About a week ago, I decided to give in to the fact that I can’t and won’t be able to do it all this year… and I gave myself a gift: the gift of forgiveness and grace. After all, what is the true meaning of Christmas? The most important factors in the holiday season are family, friends and togetherness… not so much the number of decorations throughout my house or the number of cookies in my cookie jars (practically zero–and not because we ate them all!).

So for the first two weeks of December, the extent of my decorating included a wreath on the front door (thanks to my husband for hanging it up–although it was upside down for a few days at first, LOL), my beloved Santa painting over the mantle (shown in last December’s post Holiday Heart and Soul), candles in the windows (also thanks to my wonderful husband), and lights outside thanks to the dynamic light-hanging duo of my son & husband. And two additional time-honored traditions, the Advent calendar (check out my blog post Christmas Nostalgia here) and our December countdown calendar.

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I purchased the fabric for this wall-hanging nearly 20 years ago, back in the mid 1990s, when my oldest daughter was a baby. I remember what a chore it was, to carve out some time with the sewing machine and actually stitch it up one November or December, so that we could begin using it. Back then, it was hard enough to find five minutes to take a semi-shower! But from the time it was stitched and hung in our kitchen, it was a hit. It’s always hung close to our kitchen table, so that every December morning at breakfast time, someone had the honor of moving the red fabric frame, attaching it via velcro, on its march toward December 25. The first few years, daughter #1 was in charge. As daughter #2 and then our son entered the fray, there were often competitions over who could wake up the earliest, beating everyone else to the breakfast table, and therefore have the honor of moving the marker. Really. I think there were even tears shed over this honor.

Fast forward to December of 2014. The oldest sister was away at college until a few days ago. My son, now 14, as the youngest in our household, has had the complete honor of counting down this special month. His sisters have relinquished this highest of holiday honors to him, whether it’s because they are mature, or more likely because they don’t care to compete with his early-as-a-rooster habits. They are “letting it go.”

I can see a time coming when they are all away at college, and at least for the first half of December, it’ll be me moving the red fabric frame as it outlines those early, lazy days in December when Christmas still feels so far away. By mid-December, when they all arrive home from college and the pace of December increases to a frenzy, I’m sure they’ll all enjoy taking a turn, slipping back into their childhood tradition and moving the red frame once again. As we countdown to Christmas this year, I feel another countdown creeping into our lives… the countdown towards the close of their childhood.

Cherish all the joys of the 2014 holiday season with your families, cherish your children at whatever ages and stages they are in, and if  you are feeling stressed remember to “let it go.” Merry Christmas!

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Holiday Heart and Soul

Happy Holidays from “Off the Merry-Go-Round!”

As we countdown to Christmas, our writers took time to share their photos and reflections of their most treasured holiday keepsakes, decorations and more. We invite you into our homes this holiday season, to share our memories, tips and inspiration!

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This has always been my favorite ornament. It was my mother’s, and it was always the last ornament to be put on our tree when I was growing up. I was so happy when she gave it to me. And now I continue the tradition… it’s always the last ornament I place on my tree as well. -Jen Ashenfelter

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I feel very blessed to have a large collection of antique glass ornaments from my grandmother and mother-in-law. Since our living room is painted light blue, I struggle with holiday decorating. Traditional reds and greens look out of place. But placing a mixture of green and blue balls into several big, old brandy snifters brings holiday sparkle to the room. I especially enjoy the nostalgic 1950’s era aqua tones! -Karen Hendricks

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My oldest daughter, a dance major, is coming home from college this week! To welcome her home and add fun holiday decor to her room, my younger daughter and I made ballerina snowflakes and strung them on a garland atop her window. We used oragami paper for the snowflake skirts. -Karen Hendricks

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These are some of my favorite decorations–carved wood angels and trees. Simple! -Chris Little

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My mom, who passed away on December 6, 2006, started my collection of Possible Dream Santas many years ago. She would search for just the right Santa that might reflect “our” interests. We continue to cherish these Santas year after year. Interestingly enough, she even purchased one for me the year she passed away. -Mary Ann Filler

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This is the Santa that my mom chose for my Christmas gift, the year she passed away. It takes center stage on my mantle. It’s still emotional for me to think about how she picked this out despite how sick she was. -Mary Ann Filler

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Our family’s Christmas tradition focuses on three main concepts: One – Preparation for Jesus’ birth, marking the Advent season using an Advent Wreath and an Advent Calendar–which this year is in the form of a beautiful wooden house. Behind every window or door being a treat or small toy…

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Two – Anticipation of news of His coming, having the 3 Wise Men “travel” through our house, a little distance each day (my son loves to move them!), until they reach the Crèche (Nativity scene)…

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Three – Celebration of Jesus’ birth! Baby Jesus doesn’t appear in the manger until Christmas. In our home, Christmas tradition also revolves around the story of the life of Saint Nicholas. We are very deliberate in our teaching and celebration with our son. On the first Sunday in Advent our priest responded to the commercialism and secularism that has taken over Christmas by saying, “You never want your children to think that they don’t need God (because they received so many presents Christmas Day).” -Jennifer (Smith) Schuler

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The stockings were hung by the chimney with care… My grandmother started the tradition of knitting personalized stockings for everyone in our family, complete with our name at the top and birth year towards the middle. My mom continued this tradition by knitting my husband and children their own personalized stockings too. Atop our fireplace is a special painting–artist Dean Morrissey’s whimsical Santa, “Preparing for the Journey.” I splurged on this painting after working with the artist during several festivals. I admired it for several years before treating myself, including a gorgeous framing job by a local gallery & a special inscription and signature from the artist. (My cat Jingles even posed for this photo!) -Karen Hendricks

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Dean Morrissey – Preparing for the Journey

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New fireplace decor for 2013! I adore our two-sided fireplace, situated between our living and dining rooms but it’s not very efficient so we rarely use it. So this year, I stacked white birch logs saved from our beloved tree struck by an ice storm several years back, along with evergreen boughs trimmed from the bottom of our tree, and a string of Christmas lights. It gives the illusion of warmth and fire once again! (Jingles is looking quite annoyed at all these changes occurring in “his” house. HA!) -Karen Hendricks

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Does everyone have one of these handprint wall hangings left over from preschool? This one is from 1997. I saw one from 2010 in a friend’s house (with much younger kids of course) last week. Treasure! -Chris Little

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For our family, this crèche is a beautiful reminder of the true meaning of Christmas. -Mary Ann Filler

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While this ornament is also a reflection of the true meaning of Christmas, it has caused some strife in our household. For reasons I don’t totally understand as a mom, every year my 3 sons fight over who gets to place this ornament on the tree. Last year, we wised up and wrote down a schedule of who will get to put this ornament on the tree from now until the year 2020! Problem solved! -Mary Ann Filler

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This is a new Christmas treasure! A print of chalkboard art from local artist Valerie McKeehan. -Chris Little

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Our angel tree topper has witnessed all of our Christmases as a married couple, as it was purchased during our first year of marriage over 21 years ago! -Mary Ann Filler

Holiday Links:

To learn more about the chalkboard art of Valerie McKeehan, click here for her Lily&Val website.

To see more examples of Dean Morrissey’s gorgeous Santa paintings and other works, click here for his artist page on Greenwich Workshop.

To make snowflake ballerinas, click here for the pattern and instructions (also pinned to our Off the Merry-Go-Round Pinterest board, “Holidays.”)

Do our photos and stories stir up your memories as well? We welcome your holiday ideas, memories and thoughts!