The more things change: 10 ways my Christmas has long remained the same

Now that the nest has emptied, home, family, Christmas and more are far different than they were in the past. The more things change, the more it matters that some things remain the same, things such as the following.

10 ways my Christmas has long remained the same

Christmas treeThe Christmas tree — Regardless of all the ornaments my daughters accumulated through the years then took with them when they moved into their own places, our tree always — somehow — continues to look the same every single year. (And our cats continue to love sitting under it.)

The cookie swap goes on — Nearly 30 years ago (none of us can remember exactly the year), my mom and sisters started what we then called The Cookie Swap. We still call it The Cookie Swap, and we still do it — despite changes in family dynamics, changes in the names and faces in attendance.

My Spritz Cookies — The very first year of our Cookie Swap, I made Spritz Cookies. I've made the very same Spritz Cookies every year since (whether I want to venture into new Christmas cookie territory or not).

Christmas Eve service — For as long as I can remember, at least since Brianna (who is now 31) was 5 years old, we've gone to the candlelight Christmas Eve service at Holy Cross Lutheran Church... and we always, always sit up in the balcony even though that's not where we sit during the year. We sit in the balcony to better behold the candles being lit starting at the altar, from person to person through the congregation and on up to the balcony choir singers. We then bask in the warmth and joy as the packed church sings "Silent Night" by only the light of our candles. Oh my, how I tear up at that — even at simply writing that.

(We missed it once, when the girls weren't feeling well after celebrating Christmas Eve at my sister's house before service. Even then, as we drove past the church on our way home, Brianna pleaded in a very weak voice from the backseat, "Can't we just pop in for the candles?")

Christmas Eve gifts — We open one gift each on Christmas Eve, the rest of the gifts on Christmas morning. When our daughters were young, it was always pajamas (which prevented ratty jammies from appearing in Christmas morning pics). It remains pajamas for the two who still celebrate Christmas Eve with Jim and me at our house — at their request. Each year I consider wriggling my way out of jammie gifting but the giftees doth protest.

Our Christmas stockings — Before my youngest daughter was born — my daughter who is now 28 — my step-mother-in-law made Christmas stockings for Brianna and Megan plus one for Jim and me to share. The very next year when Andrea arrived, a stocking for her arrived, as well. We continue to use those stockings (though Megan's has been relocated to the desert where she lives).

Homemade Christmas stockings

Animal gifts — Stockings for the animals are hung by the, well, last step of the lower staircase of our current house, in a spot Mickey and Lyla (the dogs) and Isabel and Abby (the cats) can see them, smell them. Santa puts gifts for the animals in there, and on Christmas morning — after all the human gifts are opened — the animals get the goodies from their stockings, amidst the wrapping paper mess strewn about the living room.

The Russian Santa — Some families have pickles (which we do... or did, until Brianna rightfully took that ornament to her place), but my family has the Russian Santa. Only, we don't hang it on our tree. I hated the Russian Santa — a gift from someone or another, but I can't recall whom — for many years and refused to allow it on the tree. Jim started placing it in odd spots around the house. Then Megan did. Then it just became a traveling ornament o' groans and giggles. This year Russian Santa (which may or may not even be Russian) hangs in our dining room.

Russian Santa ornament

Christmas breakfast — We have eaten pizza and cake for Christmas morning breakfast for more years than I can count. This pizza and this cake. 

Happy Birthday... to Jesus — Every Christmas morning before we eat our cake, we sing "Happy Birthday" to Jesus. When my daughters became adults — and Megan became so adult that she married and moved to the desert — I suggested to Brianna and Andrea that we all may be too old for that. They protested. We continue to sing "Happy Birthday" to Jesus every Christmas morning.

Yes, the more things change, the more things that stay the same matter. It's all those things, though — those that expand my family, my world, my heart as well as those that define me and mine by their steadfastness — that I count as blessings at Christmas time.

No, I take that back. I count them as blessings any time.

Today's question:

What Christmas ways have most remained the same for you?