Christmas Around Our House

Deck the Halls

December is my favorite month of the year. It is filled with hope and promise and generosity in ways that far exceed commercial adaptations. It is when we express our love for one another in ways that range from simple and heartfelt to extraordinary and excessive. Our circumstances may have changed (lingering COViD and selling our home), but our attitudes are still the same. We are blessed beyond measure and cherish each day. Joy to the World, it’s Christmas!

Our preparations for the holiday typically begin the day after Thanksgiving as we bring out the decorations and start dressing up the house. Over a period of several days, our home comes alive with festive colors, lights, and fragrances. Christmas trees, tablescapes, and exterior decorations come first, followed by holiday baking and menu planning.

When we lived in the big house, I decorated three Christmas trees, 1) the living room tree with precious family ornaments 2) the dining room ‘peace, love, joy’ tree with all gold ornaments and 3) the loft ‘Beanie Baby’ tree. Now that we are sharing a much smaller space with my MIL, adjustments have been made.

This year we decorated the slim seven-foot fake tree, (that used to hold my daughter’s collection of Beanie Babies), with an assortment of ornaments from my MIL’s sixty + year old collection. Her ornaments were stored sixteen years ago when she changed her tradition from Christmas tree to Christmas Village. Watching her memories come alive as we carefully unpacked each piece was a welcome gift.

The Peace, Love, Joy tree that I used to set up in the dining room of the old house has always been considered ‘my tree’ and has been a part of our Christmas decorations for many years. Some of the ornaments were gifts from my daughter and a few came from friends, but mostly I have hand-picked each one of them for what they represent. That tree represents all that Christmas means to me and is filled with hearts, angels, flowers, and unique pieces that make me smile. The box they get packed away in each year somehow managed to not make it to the storage unit 🙂

On The Table

The dining table decorations are a combination of a few of my things and my MIL’s dishes. The table won’t be as elaborate as in the past, but it is still pretty. Notice the top right of the photo to get a little peek at the scaled-down version of Nana’s Christmas Village. There was no room at the inn (as they say) for all seventy-five + pieces this year, so she chose a few favorites and we made them a part of the dining room display. Once again, changing and adapting to our new living arrangement.

The china plates are from my 92-year-old MIL’s wedding set, as are the monogrammed champagne glasses. The gold water goblets are a recent purchase from Homegoods and the rest of the pieces came from another box that didn’t quite make it to storage. Fresh flowers and candles complete the setup.

Our Christmas plate is mostly the same year after year – Individual Beef Wellington with a side of something green and potatoes. We change out the side dishes, appetizers, salad, soup, and dessert from year to year, but the Wellington is a constant. When it works, don’t fix it. Click the link on the photo for the recipe we use. The traditional Wellington is made with liver pate, but the mushrooms used in this recipe suit our ‘picky’ kids.

Christmas dinner is usually served in six courses, starting with cocktails and a cheese plate, followed by an appetizer, soup, salad, main plate, and dessert. Prep happens at least a day and sometimes several days before Christmas. Our key to a stress-free meal is to create a timeline, divide responsibilities, and maintain a steady but comfortable pace.

Dinner begins around 6:00 on Christmas day and will last well into the evening. Just in case you haven’t already figured it out, FOOD is clearly our love language, not only at Christmas but at any time of year.

Desserts are a big part of our Christmas celebration but there are no particular favorites that get invited for a repeat performance. Malcolm will make sure there is something delicious for everyone. Panacotta, coconut cake, cranberry cheesecake, chocolate in many forms…it’s all good. Given that whatever he makes will taste great, my only requirement is that it also looks beautiful on display!

Of course, our glass is always full of something festive and delicious. We will serve a variety of drinks throughout the course of this month as we host friends and family in our home.

Another honored commanded tradition is to ‘get dressed’ for dinner. There are no sweat pants, jeans, or flip-flops permitted at the table. Dressed in Florida means comfortable, but casual. I also use this occasion to nab a few photos by the Christmas tree, so it is nice to have everyone looking like we’ve at last managed a shower in between cooking and binge-watching Christmas movies! Love Actually, Die Hard, A Christmas Story…what’s your favorite?

Around Town

Malcolm grew up in Philadelphia and has celebrated many white Christmases, but I have never known anything but a Florida Christmas. Temperatures in December range from 60 degrees to over 80 throughout the month, but the heat does not wilt our Christmas spirit. If it gets too hot to enjoy a steaming cup of cocoa, we just crank down the AC until all is well. Light displays, open-air concerts, golf car parades, tree lightings; we do it all in shorts and flip flops. Palm Trees wrapped in lights and pots of bromeliads or poinsettias stacked into Christmas tree shapes are normal sightings in our area.

Giving

Our family opted out of the commercial side of gift exchanges several years ago, but Malcolm and I still love sharing gifts from our kitchen with friends and neighbors. Past homemade gifts have included vanilla flavoring made with fresh vanilla beans and vodka, cranberry biscotti, apple sauce, Bailey’s Irish Creme Liquor, and of course, cookies.

We will continue that tradition this year, along with our annual donation to a local toy drive and our community food bank. In years past, I have participated in random acts of kindness throughout the month of December. Here are a few of my favorite ideas, just in case you are looking for ways to give a simple, but meaningful gift.

  • Buy a stranger a cup of coffee
  • Take cookies to a neighbor
  • Leave quarters at random in a laundromat (I taped them to Christmas cards)
  • Compliment a stranger
  • Hide cash in toy bins at the local thrift mart
  • Pay the toll for the person behind you at the toll booth
  • Drop off sweets at the local fire station
  • Tip your hair dresser, nail technician, etc. beyond the usual amount
  • Spend time with an elderly person
  • Make a festive floral arrangement for a friend or neighbor
  • If the climate where you live is cold at Christmas, donate warm clothing, coats, gloves and blankets to a shelter
  • Send Christmas cards with a personal handwritten message
  • Smile and offer a kind word – always

Being with our family and expressing the love in our hearts, in ways that are individual and enjoyable while reaching out to others is what Christmas means to us. December presents a slightly polished version of who we are and how we live our lives throughout the year but if you can’t put your best foot forward now, when should you?

Over the next few weeks, we will be listening to lots of beautiful Christmas music and we all have our favorite songs, but I will leave you with this one.

Many thanks to Donna, Deb, Sue, and Jo for supplying the questions that prompted this post. If you would like to participate in the Festive Bonbon challenge, please click the highlighted link.

52 thoughts on “Christmas Around Our House

  1. I think Mary Did You Know is one of my all time favourite Christmas carols – it’s just beautiful and Pentatonix sing it beautifully. I’m glad you’ve managed to create some new Christmas traditions while still hanging onto some of the old ones Suzanne. I’ve been slowly paring our Christmas back and my tree is getting smaller and simpler these days – I can’t even begin to imagine decorating three trees!

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  3. Seeing your beautiful decorations and reading about your traditions put me in the holiday mood this morning! I love your gold ornaments! I love the idea of dressing up for Christmas dinner but I could never convince anyone in our family to do that! Merry Christmas!

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  4. What a gorgeous, festive post! I enjoyed reading about all of your holiday traditions, and how you’ve adapted so gracefully to your new surroundings. Your Christmas dinner sounds fabulous. And your suggestions for giving are good reminders of the true spirit of the holidays.

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  5. Hi, Suzanne – Anyone feeling in a holiday rut or frustrated by the overly commercialized, frantic side of Christmas should read this post. I love how you immediately remind us of the hope, promise of generosity of the season. Many of us who have downsized take that as the reason not to celebrate the holidays. I love how you brilliantly demonstrated how we can continue traditions, and build new ones through thoughtfulness and ingenuity. I can imagine the smile on your MIL’s face when you brought out her Christmas bulbs that she hadn’t used in many years.
    Thank you for this uplifting and inspiring post!

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    1. Donna, thank you for your kind and generous comments. I am glad that our joy came across as intended. My MIL has never read any of my blog posts until today. Malcolm set this one up for her on his laptop and we watched her recognition unfold. It was priceless. Thank you so much for hosting and for Jo’s questions. I’ve been looking forward to participating and reading others’ posts. There have been some truly amazing ones so far. More ideas for next year!!

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  6. I love the vintage tree ornaments! I bet your sweet MIL was very happy to see those go up. We decorate our tree with a combination of ornaments from both our families. It’s a nice tradition. Everything else in your post looks lovey and very yummy too!

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    1. Tracey, my MIL was very happy to see her ornaments appear on the tree this year; Malcolm too. He has been reminiscing for days about the ones that are missing and presumed lost forever. Combining our decorations has been fun. I’m glad you enjoy that tradition too. Best wishes for a wonderful holiday.

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  7. Lovely post Suzanne
    We are adjusting to our Florida green Christmases after many snowy ones in New England. We celebrated a Chromatic in July with our kids and grandkids who we hadn’t seen for a year or more due to COVID, so there’s that. We also have abandoned gifts (except for granddaughters) and give charitable donations instead.
    Best wishes to you and Malcom for a joyous holiday season.
    Nancy

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    1. Nancy, until we have grandchildren, we see absolutely no need to jump on that bandwagon again. Christmas in Florida is different, but once you embrace having sunshine on Christmas day you’ll never wish for a white Christmas again! Besides, it’ll always be there…. our best to you this holiday season.

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  8. Love many things in your post: Pentatonix rendition of this song, your beautifully dressed dining table, your Christmas spirit. I, too, am full of cheer at this time of year and enjoy decorating for me, my family and friends. Merriest of Christmases to you!

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  9. Suzanne,
    There is no other way to describe this post except to say the entire thing was lovely. The food, the decorations, the family pictures, the drinks, and desserts all made for splendid reading. I loved your table setting and the white roses! We downsized, but, after reading the above, we need to “up our game” a bit. Here’s hoping you and your family have a season filled with joy! Joe

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    1. Joe, thank you for your kind comments. I have had fun finding ways to blend our decorations and create a pretty and comfortable environment for us all. Malcolm came home from the market with those white roses about a week ago. He’s thoughtful that way. We wish you and Helen a very Merry Christmas.

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  10. Thank you so much for linking up with us. I really enjoyed your Christmas traditions. Your feast sounds (and looks) amazing. My husband adores beef wellington, so he’d be there. I quite like mushroom duxelle instead of the pate too. And as for the table setting & your MILs wedding china… I have no words. Thanks so much for sharing some Christmas joy.

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    1. Thanks Jo, I love sharing our Christmas traditions each year and your questions were perfect for prompting this post. I’ll admit to being a tad nervous about setting the table with my MIL’s china, but she gave full permission. Now, we just have to get through dinner without incident! Thank you gals for sharing your Christmas cheer and inviting us all to come along! Merry Christmas!

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  11. I am considering the idea of a vegetarian beef wellington version this year to cater for some of the children’s friends. I like that you also have by and large moved away from the commercial aspect and the list you provided of suggestions to leave surprise presents or cards is wonderfully inspiring. I am going to enact quite a few of them! That 92 year old china setting is a special treasure. It is good to hear that people are using these old sets and not just having them for show! Well done, but I suppose you wash them up with a little extra care?

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    1. Amanda, I have admitted to being a bit intimidated by my MIL’s china, but we will indeed use it. Each piece will be hand washed afterward and carefully replaced in the china cabinet. All of my good dishes (which are regularly used) are packed away in storage, so she gave permission to use hers.

      ‘By and large’ is a good way to describe our relationship with the commercial side of Christmas. We still manage to spend (just not as much), and our enjoyment is more focused on ‘doing’ rather than buying useless gadgets. Let me know how the vegetarian wellington turns out.

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  12. Suzanne, Everything in your post is beautiful and joyful. I love how you’ve found ways to blend and treasure your MIL’s and your holiday traditions and decorations. Have a wonderful holiday season!

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  13. How I wish I could join that Christmas table! I’d happily dress up and trade my flip flops for euhm… hiking shoes? 🙂 Your menu and dishes sound mouth-watering and anything in this post screams joy and gratitude. I’m happy your family will be together this season, Suzanne. Happy holidays and making more memories!

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  14. Oh my goodness I felt like I just opened up some exquisite glossy magazine with a Christmas special! What a labor of love. The ornaments and the table are all so gorgeous. What a very special time for all of you and how brilliant to pace it out to reduce stress.

    Heartwarming to read your list of kind things to do for others. All of it is just beautiful and full of love! Happy holidays to all of you!

    Peta

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    1. Peta, thank you for your kind words. Decorating the house at Christmas brings me joy and the family seems to appreciate it, so why not? Today we will be baking cookies and assembling little packages for a few neighbors. I’m looking forward to making the deliveries tomorrow.

      I know you are enjoying your ‘HomeAway’ adventure and I look forward to each new chapter. Keep those videos coming!

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  15. Wow, as I read this post I feel the Christmas spirit oozing out of it – the traditional baubles, the beautiful table settings (did you set it up especially for this post or do you have it already laid for Christmas dinner? Surely not?!), the list of ‘acts of kindness’, the family photos … We dress up a bit for Christmas Day too, have done since we were kids. But although I like to make the house look festive I can’t imagine decorating three trees or creating so elaborate a table setting! As for six courses, we find our three enough of a challenge (canapes and bubbly, traditional roast turkey dinner, Christmas pudding and/or mince pies with brandy butter) – both to cook and serve AND to eat 😆

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    1. Hi Sarah, yep, both the breakfast table and the dinner table is set for the entire month. We usually serve friends at one table or the other at least once during the month, and we disturbed the breakfast table almost every day, so everything gets cleaned up and reset – even the centerpiece. The pretty white roses that I’ve had on the table for over a week finally made their way to the trash this morning. I’ll replace them with artificial flowers if I can’t get fresh white roses just before Christmas.

      What can I say…. sickness? obsession? or just my way of expressing joy. That’s the one I’m going with.

      You had me at canapes and bubbly, but I’ll leave the roast turkey to you and yours. Have a wonderful Christmas!

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  16. Your Christmas dinner table looks fantastic, and I LOVE the idea of dressing up for Christmas dinner. It’s a special occasion after all and should be treated as such! In my family, we sort of dressed up on Christmas Eve, for gift exchange and dinner. I like that.
    Delicious desserts and drinks… I’m coming over!

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    1. Hi Susanne, since we are all adults in our home, I figure it’s the least we can do to show respect for the day. I’m sure that will go out the window if we ever have grandchildren. Christmas Eve is very casual at our house. PJ’s, a bowl of chili or soup, Christmas movies, and board games. Thanks for stopping by. I hope you have a wonderful Christmas.

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  17. Hi Suzanne, I love everything about your post and thanks for linking up with us to the Festive Bon Bons Link Up. Your decorations are beautiful and like you I just love everything about this time of year. I’ve finally bought my dress for Christmas day. It is a White shift style, smart yet casual as our Christmas Days in Queensland are usually very hot and humid and definitely pool weather! Merry Christmas to you and your family xx

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    1. Sue, a warm Christmas is something we have in common so I can relate to hot and humid. Sometimes we get lucky and get a cool front from the north which makes everything better, but there are no guarantees. Thank you gals for a great idea and for hosting a link-up. I have enjoyed reading what others are posting about their holiday traditions. Take care and enjoy December to the max!

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  18. I love everything about this post! especially your meaningful gift-giving list. I might do a few of these in addition to what l do. I did away with the traditional gift-giving so many years ago. I find it much simpler to just buy for people when l see something they would like. I also like the idea of dressing up. It makes it extra special, after all, we can look like slobs any old day :-). Happy Holidays to you and the family.

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  19. You do Christmas up big! Your decorations and table setting are beautiful. I’ve experienced a few Florida Chrismases and liked them very much. No boots, no fingers crossed that there won’t be an ice storm on Christmas Day. Plus palm trees seem perfectly in keeping with the origins of Christmas.

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  20. Wow, Suzanne, you all know how to celebrate big! So much “festive” and fun in your images and traditions! All that glorious food, I’d have to set up the elliptical next to the table! Love those cocktails, too! Have a fabulous and warm Christmas with your loved ones!

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    1. Hi Terri, Christmas is why we all have ‘weight loss’ as our #1 Resolution for the new year! I’ll be the first to admit, I have been a tad indulgent these past few months and am actually looking forward to getting back to a healthy routine. Until then, I will continue to enjoy. All the best to you this Christmas.

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  21. You have some amazing traditions and food, I think I’d like an invitation!! I smiled at the dressing for dinner, my father went through a stage of wanting us all to be dressed for Sunday dinner and although we didn’t enjoy at the time I can understand it now. we also try to make an effort at Christmas but with beach play, grandchildren and the mess involved it can take a fair while to get things cleaned up sufficiently. I love your mothers china and the table decorations- so pretty. Thanks for joining us at our #festivebonbons link up, it’s great to have you join us Suzanne!

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    1. Debbie, consider the invitation extended! I’m sure our traditions will change should we ever have little ones around, but until then, the rule stands. Thanks for stopping by and for being a part of the linkup party. It was fun to participate and to read about the traditions of others.

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  22. Christie Hawkes

    Christmas at your house looks beautiful, tasty, and loving, Suzanne. Thank you for sharing your traditions with us. Your MIL’s ornaments brought memories flooding back, as they are the same style as the ornaments my mother used to hang on our tree when we were children. I also love your examples of spreading love this season. I am happy to report I have done a few of these recently and will choose a couple more to try. Happy holidays and merry Christmas to you and yours!

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  23. You certainly captured the holiday spirit at your home! Everything looks beautiful, and the food I know is as delicious as it looks. I have some ornaments from my mother, aunt, and grandmother. I have one just like or very similar to your MIL’s blue one in the middle. It made me smile to see it. I hope your holiday is even better than you anticipate. Merry Christmas to all three generations.

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  24. What a lovely post! The Christmas spirit in your photos and comments are stunning – from the decor to the food! Thanks for giving us a peek at your traditions and inviting us into your home. Love that you posted one of my favorite versions of “Mary Did You Know.” Merry Christmas!

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