Christmas Traditions

Last week, after hanging our stockings by the fire, my husband and I stood back to admire the decorations. “I think it’s time for some new stockings,” he said. The plaid quilted stockings we’ve had for the past 15 years were looking a little dated, and one was covered in specks of red wax after last year’s exploding candle fiasco. I reluctantly agreed, knowing my sentimental heart would have to get used to the idea. I wasn’t the only one.

When I returned home from the store a few days later with new stockings, I proceeded to proudly hang them for my daughter to see. Let’s just say Katie is a lot like me – she is sentimental, and loves tradition. And she wasn’t afraid to let me know that she hated the new stockings and was not okay with the change. After sitting with her to understand her reaction, I suggested we search for replacements together. Thankfully, I’d waited long enough that Pottery Barn was discounting their seasonal merchandise and soon five lovely stockings were ordered and on their way to our house.

The stocking incident was a simple, yet powerful reminder to me of the importance of traditions; or rather, the significance and meaning those traditions represent. Growing up, my favorite holiday tradition was the annual hunt to find and cut down the perfect Christmas tree. After returning from the trek in the field, we would warm up with hot cocoa and decorate the tree all together. My mom was in charge of the most delicate glass ornaments – she decided when each of us was old enough to help hang them as well.

The first year Chris and I were married, we lived in a tiny apartment in married student housing at MSU, but we managed to begin our own tradition of cutting down the perfect tree, tucking it into a corner of our living room. The next year, we were living in California, and were shocked to discover their version of “real” Christmas trees were all sprayed with white flocking to imitate snow. We were undaunted, however, and returned with an odd looking, but real tree. That year was significant in many ways: it was the first time we were so far away from family, and would be on our own for the holidays. We’ve talked often of how significant it was in establishing ourselves as separate from our families.

We decided to add our own new tradition to the mix of those each of us had brought into our marriage; on Christmas morning we got up together and made homemade sticky buns. While they were rising, we opened stockings while listening to Christmas carols and smelling the yeasty goodness of the rising dough. Dough takes time to rise, so we had time to savor every little item in our stockings – in those days, my sweet husband even wrapped my stocking gifts and marked them with personalized tags – each with new names like “Santa’s tallest elf” and “The Sugarplum Fairy.” I loved every moment of it!

In the years since then, we’ve added a few new traditions, but have several favorites that are “sacred”: the great Christmas tree hunt, a new Christmas book on Christmas Eve, all the kids sitting at the top of the stairs on Christmas morning waiting to be called down, and the famous sticky buns. They are all reminders to me of the history my family shares, a history that speaks of love, faithfulness, commitment and gratitude. May you treasure the richness of your own history and traditions this Christmas season.
Christmas Morning Sticky Buns
1 package dry yeast
1 ¼ c. warm water (110˚ to 115˚)
3 Tbsp. butter, softened
3 Tbsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. nonfat dry milk powder
1 tsp. salt
3 to 3 ¼ c. flour
1/3 c. butter, softened
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
½ c. packed brown sugar
¼ c. butter
¼ c. corn syrup
½ c. chopped pecans

In large mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Add the butter, sugar, milk powder, salt and 2 c. of the flour; beat on low speed for 3 minutes. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough. Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.

Punch dough down. Turn onto a lightly floured surface, roll into a 16×10 in. rectangle. Spread with butter, sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon. Roll up jelly-roll style, starting from the long side, pinch edges together to seal. Cut into 12 slices, set aside. In a saucepan, combine brown sugar, butter and syrup, cook over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved. Pour into a greased 9×13 pan, sprinkle pecans over mixture. Place rolls cut side down over sauce. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour. Bake at 375˚ for 20-25 min. or until golden brown. Cool for 3 minutes, then invert on serving platter so pecans are on top. Enjoy!

Janet Stark is a woman learning to embrace her depth and sensitivity.  Inspired by Mary pondering things in her heart, Janet writes about her experiences here. She is grateful for the deep love she shares with her husband of 25 years, as well as her 4 children and 2 grandchildren. She is a life-long lover of words and looks forward to reading and sharing at Red Tent Living.