Since December is generally a very busy month for everyone, this month’s theme will be similar to last month’s “Cornucopia” theme – short and sweet tidbits of this and that. Today, I want to talk about holiday traditions.
I have two sisters whose mom always buys them (and their children) a pair of Santa pajamas that they open and wear on Christmas Eve. I have another sister whose mom only wrapped Santa presents in Santa paper, and family presents went in different paper each year. And I have another sister whose mom always gives her, among other things, a used bar of soap and a pair of dirty socks. (It sounds weird, but it’s really sweet when you see it in person.) I also have a friend who always makes the powdered sugar “snow” footprints on the carpet and chocolate “reindeer poop” outside the front door for her little girls.
A couple of my favorite Christmas traditions are as follows:
First of all, as you know, I was a single mom to both my kids. Neither dad paid child support. Ever. So, being as I was always on a shoestring budget, Santa always brought my kids all their gifts, and I bought them each one large gift that was just “From Mommy.” Back then, we didn’t know about “Elf on the Shelf” or other such fun things as are popular now.
(I sometimes get a little jealous of parents today with all the cool ideas on social media.)
When Stefani was small, I allowed her to spend a Christmas morning at her dad’s house. When she came home, she opened Santa’s presents and then the one I gave her. And that’s when she got the serious face. She put her little hand on my shoulder and gave me the pity eyes and said, “Mommy, it’s okay that you only bought me one gift and Daddy bought me a whole bunch of stuff. I still love you anyway.”
I was furious! I found out then that Santa didn’t visit her dad’s house at all, but my ex signed everything from himself just to make me look bad. (Yes, he later admitted to it!)
So, the following year, I devised a way to get even make sure my kids appreciated my single gift more than anything. I allowed them to open all their Santa gifts first. Then, I handed them each an envelope that said “From Mommy.” Inside each envelope was a note telling them that their gift was hidden and they’d have to follow the clues to my scavenger hunt to find them.
Jeremy went first. Because he was younger, he had simple clues that first year, such as “Jump 3 big jumps forward” or “Take 2 baby steps to the left.” Each time he made it to the new location, there was another envelope with the next clue, and after ten clues, he got to find his gift.
Because Stefani was older, her clues were more difficult. Her clues corresponded with what she was studying in school, such as “Look under Alexander Graham Bell’s invention.” When she looked under the phone, she found her next clue.
Each year, the clues got a little harder, and we switched up who got to go first. Sometimes I tried to rhyme them as a poem. (That was NOT easy!) It generally took about thirty minutes for each of them to complete and they LOVED the scavenger hunt so much, we eventually started doing it for birthdays, Easter baskets, and other gift-giving occasions. Even now, my daughter is twenty-five years old, and she still loves the scavenger hunt. In fact, each time she brings home a boyfriend for the holidays, she calls ahead to request that I make one for him!
A second tradition I love is just between my daughter and I. The year she was ten, she kept bugging me incessantly asking what I got her for Christmas. I finally had enough and told her, “I got you some shoelaces and a box of rocks!” So that’s what I gave her Christmas morning before anything else. Of course she got other Santa gifts and the scavenger hunt gift from me, too, but that became our special “I love you” gift that she still looks forward to even now. In fact, sometimes when I don’t give her shoelaces and a box of rocks because I think she’s outgrown it, she gets disappointed. So, I have fun with it and try to find the most unusual shoelaces or the prettiest pebbles to include each time.
And my final holiday tradition is the breakfast. Let’s face it, kids want to open presents. And I’m not really a breakfast person. But for years, my grandma and birth mom showed up for Christmas morning and expected everything to stop while they had coffee and breakfast before anyone could get to the gifts. So, I developed a quick and easy recipe that takes about five minutes to prepare, and I usually only make it on Christmas or Thanksgiving morning when we want to keep the kitchen clean for lots of cooking later in the day.
Below is the recipe for my Christmas pinwheels. I make everyone else’s with ham, but since I don’t eat meat, I just omit it on mine.
1 Pillsbury Thin Pizza Crust Dough (Make sure it’s the THIN crust, or it won’t cook properly in the middle.)
1½ Cups Finely Shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese
½ Package of Very Thinly Sliced Ham
1 TBSP. sugar
Standard Sized Cookie Sheet
Turn on your oven to 400° F when you start the assembly.
Spray your cookie sheet with cooking spray.
Lay the long side of the cookie sheet parallel to the edge of your surface, and the short ends to the sides.
Open the pizza dough, and spread it on the cookie sheet. Just pull it out as far as it will stretch toward the edges, but do NOT force it all the way to the sides.
Spread a generous amount of spicy mustard over the dough, all the way to the side edges, and about an inch from the top and bottom edges. Then broadcast 1 TBSP. of sugar all over the mustard.
Add 1½ cups of cheese to the top of the mustard.
Lay a single layer of ham slices across the cheese all the way to the side edges. Don’t overlap too much.
Now for the fun part: Start with the long edge closest to you and roll the dough away from you as tightly as you can. When you get to the end, try to “seal” it shut as best as you can.
Using a sharp, non-seraded knife, slice the roll into 1½” slices. You need to do this right on the cookie sheet or else the cheese will fall out during the transfer. When you’re cutting the roll, try to just lay each slice on its side and slide it to the place on the pan where it will stay. If you have much cheese that’s fallen out, you’ll want to try to scoop that up now, or else it will burn and stick to your pan.
Bake the pinwheels at 400°F for approximately 13 minutes. Start eyeing them at 12 minutes, and when they are a golden brown but not burned, take them out and eat them up! YUM!
Talk to me: What are some of your favorite holiday traditions? Do you have any traditions you did as a child that you now do with your own children?