By now, we’re fairly set in our family Christmas traditions–though, we’re not opposed to adopting new ones! I start baking in early December and then continue until we have all of our favorite holiday treats–fudge (thanks to Jenn J. and mom for the ingredients!), peanut brittle, peppermint bark, gingerbread cookies, and decorated sugar cookies. We have various other Christmas traditions throughout the rest of the month (Christmas craft fairs, caroling, lights at the U.S. Embassy etc.), and then on Christmas Eve we usually have a small feast at home–imported meat from Dan’s Meat, homemade rolls, steamed veggies and a salad. This year, the kids had new Christmas PJ’s, sent from Nana and Opa, so that was a fun addition to our Christmas Eve tradition. After tucking them in bed, Nate and I tackled all of the preparations for the next day–candy cane pastry, wrapping gifts, tidying up the house (You can blame my parents for that one!), and everything else that parents do to make Christmas memorable for their little ones.
Christmas morning, we brought the kids into our room, where we opened stockings (my mom had sent stocking stuffers for me, which made me feel like a kid on Christmas again). We then headed downstairs for the “presentation of the tree”, where Ava saw her big gift–a dollhouse–thanks to the family members in the U.S. who contributed! After she and Paton played with the house a bit, we then had our traditional Christmas breakfast–candy cane pastry. We then headed back to the tree to open the rest of the presents, and we also Skyped with some of our family–the highlight being our first introduction to our new niece, Lindleigh. The remainder of the day was fairly lazy, though, I had to pack for our trip to Mondulkiri (we left the following morning).
Ava was definitely more aware of everything this year, including the nativity story, and she was fascinated with Baby Jesus–She started to name all of her dolls “Baby Jesus”–a bit sacrilegious, I suppose, but it was nice to know that she was comprehending the birth of Christ. We read various aspects of the Christmas story throughout December, with the emphasis placed on the Ultimate story–and the reason that Christ came as a baby–as the the great gift from God to reconcile us to Himself (Read more in the Gospel of John).
Our little three-year old was very enthusiastic about her stocking and gifts, and in her uncontrollable excitement, we had to stop her multiple times from tearing open gifts that didn’t have her name on them (In her defense, she tried to read the name tags and was a bit confused since we all have the telltale letter “a” in our names). Paton was more curious about everything, but he also enjoyed opening his gifts–especially searching for them in the stocking. We were so blessed this year by the gifts from family in the U.S. as well as those at our home church, West Hills Community Church, who generously fulfilled our “Christmas in July” gift requests.
Though it’s still hard to be away from our extended families and dear friends in the U.S. (and I’m fairly certain that I’ll always struggle with this), we definitely felt loved from afar, and our little family was so very blessed. And how grateful I am for my own precious little family and the wonderful traditions and memories that we create together!