Today we went with my Mom and Dad to cut down a Christmas tree. It's one of our traditions. Every year, we go to a tree farm and pick out two trees (one for their house and one for ours). We cut them down and bring them home to decorate. After the holidays, we store the old tree out by the fire, and then we use it to help start the next year's Yule fire.
That got me thinking about our family's winter holiday traditions. Some of our preparations include making sugar cookies with my Mom, spending time creating gifts for people in our community, and donating gifts to a family in need.
On Yule, which happens on the date of the Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year, we host a big gathering of friends and family. At sunset we light the fire and begin our Yule ritual. After that we have a big feast, exchange gifts (usually homemade ones), and alternate between the fire and the house. A few of us keep vigil all night, staying up until the dawn, when we greet the newborn Sun. The days begin to get longer from that day forward, which we celebrate with a delicious breakfast. Then we head to bed and get some sleep. That evening is usually spent watching holiday movies and nibbling on some of the leftover Yule goodies.
For Christmas Eve, we usually gather with my parents and brother to watch a movie and share a meal. Our big Christmas celebration is on Christmas Day, though. Mom, Dad and my brother come over first thing in the morning. We get up early to unpack our stockings, drink hot cocoa and eat bagels, and then we open gifts. At lunchtime, some other family members join us for a big Christmas dinner. Like Thanksgiving, we have two entrees (one meat and one vegetarian) and a bunch of yummy side dishes. My Aunt usually makes one of her fabulous chocolate desserts.
The evening is spent relaxing and playing with our new toys and games. Sometimes friends will join us to exchange more gifts and share a light evening meal.
On New Year's Eve, we attend our homeschool group's annual celebration for kids and adults. It's a lot of fun! I think this is the fifth year. We have a scavenger hunt which culminates in a skit performed by each team, a potluck feast, and a Scat tournament (Scat is a card game, also known as 31). We do a gift exchange where each person is a Secret Santa for another member of the group. We stay up late to greet the New Year, playing karaoke, dancing and generally having a lot of fun. I love this time of year!