Christmas Traditions 2014

My laptop charging cord broke during the holidays and I was not able to blog or record anything for a number of days.  Now that February is upon us I am finally reflecting upon the photos and events that occurred that I have not recorded.

Our family has many traditions during the holidays, specifically Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  We have the children do a Secret Santa gift exchange with one another. At the beginning of December the children draw names and then they have to shop for the chosen name.  Keeping it a secret is part of the fun and the guessing that goes on during the holidays.  Even though Julia was not going to be with us, she still was able to participate.  (Alexis flew thru Salt Lake City on her way to France, so she picked up a suitcase full of gifts, one of those being a secret santa gift!)  When Christmas Eve approaches all the children are filled with anticipation about who got what from who!  It is so fun!


This is Austin receiving his Secret Santa gift from Julia.  Thank goodness for technology. She could still be with us, just not tangible!

So, on Christmas Eve another tradition we have, that I grew up with, is that the children get to open one gift from under the tree and their Secret Santa gift AFTER they share a talent with everyone.  This talent could be playing the piano, singing, displaying art work, etc.  The kids are encouraged to be creative.  Sometimes it is last minute preparations knowing they can only open a gift IF they share something!  This year the kids kind of cheated and combined forces and sang together!  It was funny for Aaron and I, but we loved it and it is memorable.

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After they shared their talents, they each got to choose a gift from under the tree to open and their Secret Santa gift.  Each child tries to guess who gave them their gift, etc.  It is fun!  I love watching my kids give thanks to one another!  It warms my heart!

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After the gifts are exchanged and opened, we relax, turn off the lights and watch “It’s a Wonderful Life”.  Some of us can stay awake, others are too excited to even think of sleep and some of us want to sleep but know that the night is still too young to sleep! 😉

Christmas morning greets us with bells ringing.  We have a tradition that I have carried on from my younger years, that the first person to wake up gets to ring our Christmas bell to wake everyone up and to ring in the Christmas morning.  It is awesome!  As a 41 year old, I still get excited when I hear that bell.  The children all try to compete with who will get to ring the bell.  Aaron and I always give the children a time when the bell can be rung, nothing earlier!  Usually it is 7 or 7:30am.  Once everyone is up, the kids line up and proceed to see if Santa visited!

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Our family room is upstairs here in France, so the children had to line up and go upstairs instead of their usual going downstairs!  Everyone was so happy with the gifts Santa left for them!  Of course, our most wonderful gift during Christmas is the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ!  How blessed we truly are to have the knowledge of His sacrifice and love for each one of us!

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This year for our traditional Christmas feast we invited a few of the single members from our church congregation to eat with us and spend the evening.  They were without family or a place to go for Christmas.  We did not want them to be alone!  It was wonderful to all be together and share the gift of friendship and love with one another!  Somehow I was able to pull off another successful Christmas, even with Julia thousands of miles away!

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Sugar Cookies!


Our family has a tradition of making sugar cookies during the Christmas season.  It is usually the cookie that is made for Santa Clause.  This year I wanted to continue the tradition.  I did not bring my regular sugar cookie recipe with me to France so I began searching online for a good recipe.  I came across thealisonshow!  Anyone know who she is?  Apparently she is a crazy and fun blogger who does motivational/real life videos and instagram feeds.  Check her website out for some over-the-top laughs.  I found her “cookie party” video and was interested in her version of sugar cookies.  I found myself intrigued by her crazy way of doing things and minutes later Tristan, Austin and I were watching her sugar cookie demo.  LOL!

Well, I am happy to report that the $20 I spent for the recipe and information was worth every penny!  The cookies turned out delicious!  Again, I only had to go to a few stores to find the supplies I was looking for, but we were all so grateful we attempted the sugar cookies in France.  It is not hard to make these cookies in France, just not convenient! (For example, the icing recipe calls for light corn syrup.  This does not exist in our grocery stores here in France, so Aaron and I searched a few stores until we came across some pure cane syrup that works pretty good!)  It is hard to explain the inconvenience, but it is real!  In the end, we enjoyed every last bite and crumb and I know Santa did too! :)


Christmas Decorations

In a previous post, I mentioned I only brought our Christmas advent calendar, our Christmas morning bell and our Christmas Eve “Story of the Birth of Christ” with us to France.  I knew I would have to be creative to have a few things that warmed up our home for the holidays.  First, I wanted a wreath but every time I would look I could only find small, expensive and tacky wreaths.  I was on the look out for one every time I would go out.  I checked the Christmas markets, the large hardware type store, the grocery store, etc. and I could not find anything.  I finally came across a bundle of Christmas tree branches being sold at a Christmas tree location.  BINGO!  It worked perfectly, because I was able to make three swags to decorate our home.  Two for the entrance to our house and one for the kitchen french doors that we use for our “front” door.

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After I found the extra tree branches I proceeded to find ribbon and things to decorate them up.  That was a challenge because I needed craft supplies and the craft store here is a little different.  It caters to artists/painters.  I actually ended up going to three or four different stores to find what would work.  I found a few things at a kitchen and home store, I found the “ribbon” at a party store and I had to find a glue gun, which I found at the hardware type store.  It took me hours to find everything for these cute swags.  I am so glad I searched for everything because it has been wonderful pulling up to our welcoming swags on our gates and front door!

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During my search for a wreath I came upon this beautiful poinsettia!  It only cost a small fortune but I couldn’t resist.  In America I always buy a lot of poinsettia’s to decorate our home and to add to the spirit of Christmas.  I love their beautiful bright colors and this mix of cream and red was breathtaking!

Another item or items we needed were Christmas stockings!  When Aaron and I were in Estonia I saw some hand knitted wool socks that would have been perfect.  At the time, I thought about buying some but decided against it.  After we came home, I regretted not getting 4 pair to hang up for Christmas.  Well, Aaron actually had to take a last minute weekend trip to Estonia the weekend Alexis was coming home.  It worked out perfectly! Aaron was able to find 4 pair of thick wool stockings and he met up with Alexis in Paris and they rode the train home to Nîmes!  The stockings worked great for Christmas!  Santa was able to fill them up and they might even get used as stockings when we venture to Switzerland in February!

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Noël à l’école!

Today Jack and Sophie came home from school with both hands full of gifts.  All the school children were gathered together to watch a movie, “Horton Hears a Who”, play games and receive gifts from the school.  They each received a new book, an eight inch tall hollow chocolate Santa and a clementine.  All the students received these gifts.  I was so touched that the school would give this much to each child!  I really love the small town atmosphere of our little village.  Everyone is very friendly and welcoming to our family. What a wonderful feeling it is this Christmas season!

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Marché de Noël

Europe is known for their Christmas Markets or Marché de Noël!  Aaron and I visited the beautiful one in Tallinn, Estonia and the kids and I went to a little one in Uzès on Saturday evening.  I really wanted to get to Germany for one of their Christmas Markets but the timing was not right!

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The Uzès market was unfortunately a disappointment!  The weekly Uzès outdoor market is wonderful so I was expecting that same type of ambiance.  The merchants did not have a good selection of items and nothing was “Christmas-sy”!  The streets of Uzès were pretty with lights and pretty decorated trees along the sidewalks, but the market was thumbs down.

There was one part of town that had a few fair type booths set up.  One was bumper cars for little and big kids!  Jack and Sophie tried the bumper cars and we all loved watching them.  They had a look of panic on their faces at times, but overall it was so funny and they loved that feeling of driving their own car!  LOL!

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Sophie had her face painted from earlier in the day when we went to their school Christmas party.  Also, during the market their were “circus” type performers in the streets. These women were dressed in enchanted forest/animal characters and a few were on stilts and a few were on the ground doing gymnastics, juggling, etc.  It was interesting. The kids that it was cool and different!

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She’s Home!!!

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My prelude to this post is that Julia is, sadly, not able to come home for Christmas!  She is an assistant manager at a new Dunkin Donuts coming to Logan in January and she is in the middle of training.  We all miss her so much and my heart breaks that she is not with us this holiday season!

Thankfully, Alexis is able to be home with us!  And she arrived yesterday afternoon!  It was a joyous reunion with lots of hugs, smiles and laughter!  Julia and Alexis got to see each other over the weekend because Alexis flew into Salt Lake on her way to France.  It makes me happy to know they got to see each other after Alexis’s first semester of college.  I would’ve loved to have been a fly on the wall with those conversations!!!  I love my girls so much and I am so blessed to have all three of them as daughters!  They are wonderful and I thank God everyday that they are apart of my life!  Poor Alexis is going to be jet lagged for awhile as Hawaii is 12 hours behind France.  But, we are so excited she is home and able to spend a month with us!  She has been spoiled with Hawaii weather as she is freezing here and the temperature is a sunny 59 degrees today!  We are all basking in the sunlight and she is curled up in blankets with jackets and scarves on!

Le Sapin de Noël

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This is our cute Christmas tree this year in France!  When we moved in July I did pack a few things from our Christmas collection.  Our advent calendar, our Christmas morning bell and our Christmas Eve “Birth of the Savior” story.  I have picked up a few ornaments from Italy and Estonia that hang so nicely on our little tree.  Also, I found a pretty little star to adorn the top of our tree.  I was shocked at how expensive the strand of lights were, about 12 Euros.

Our Christmas this year has already been so simple!  The children know they only will be getting a couple of presents, due to our lack of space and time here in France.  I am finding it interesting that my children’s Christmas Lists are not full of trendy unnecessary gifts this year.  They have not felt the pressure from their peers or classmates to have the “next best thing” or trendy article of clothing.  In fact, my kids have never been worried about that stuff but I do remember the constant “So-and-so has this or that!” They are happy with what they DO have and they are interested in gifts that will help them develop a talent or their area of interest!  I am a happy Mom!  Plus, it helps we really are limiting what we purchase while we are here in France and I realize how many things we have in the States that we do not need!  I hope I can remember this when we go back to the States!

We have Christmas markets and illumination shows to go see this Christmas!  It is all a new experience for all of us.  We are all missing the comfort of what we have been used to around the holidays in the States.  I am really grateful that no matter where we are, our family can celebrate the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ.  He is the reason we feel so much joy and love at this time of year.

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He is the Gift

Today is Black Friday!  I have only once ventured out on an early morning Black Friday shopping spree.  It was with my mother-in-law to a tiny smocking/fabric store.  The earlier we got there, the better the percentage off we received.  I came home tired and thinking, “Was it really worth it!”

I woke up this morning with a sweet text from Alexis.  Her and her roommate are going to venture into Honolulu for some Black Friday shopping.  I jokingly said, “Be careful and have fun!”  I then started reflecting upon Christmas and the responsibility parents have in filling stockings and making sure everyone is happy Christmas morning!  I started feeling the anxiety and quickly opened the laptop to search for potential gifts.  Then I was reminded of a short clip the LDS Church was going to be releasing over the holidays and quickly found this clip on youtube.  My anxiety vanished and I remembered, once again, why I even celebrate Christmas.

Please enjoy this sweet reminder of the real Gift of Christmas!