Family Christmas for the Peterson-Fouquet-Hokama family arrived at the end of Advent this year. Every year we celebrate Christmas together as a family some weekend prior to Christmas. We started this tradition when I was still in church ministry. Christmas Eve is THE biggest church event of the year and I was obviously not available. My sister is a nurse and often was scheduled to work Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. All of us with families had multiple commitments, so gathering at an off-time allowed all of us, for the most part, to be together.
Saint Sam and I hosted Family Christmas this year. I planned to continue writing and posting my Advent blog posts real-time, as opposed to writing and scheduling them to publish. After all, our faith and spiritual practices are lived out through regular life. Well, I was able to write and publish a post the first day everyone was here. Now they are all gone and here I am, alone with my computer and my thoughts. It is Christmas Eve.
It was truly an awesome blessing hosting Family Christmas. We have loved being closer geographically to my family this year. Since my youngest son Luke and his family were staying with us, my parents stayed with my sister. My parents have stayed with us so many times this past year, they now have their own chores. As I tell anyone who stays at Chateau Fouquet, you get treated as a newcomer the first time you come and stay. After that, nos casa y tu casa (Our house is your house. I need to learn the French version!)
It is impossible to capture all the precious moments so I will just share a few that I’m thinking about right now.
Details matter because they are part of the magical moments. When everyone was here for Thanksgiving, our three granddaughters left little surprises for us to be discovered after they left. We found they placed flowers where my brother died outside. They also hid flowers in the Christmas tree. Angels were placed at each of their favorite places throughout our house. Anticipating their arrival, I choose each of their favorite angels and placed them on special doilies in their room. That was the very first thing they noticed when they put their things in their room. Seeing the delight, surprise, and wonder in their eyes was priceless.
Sparkle magnifies everything. We don’t go overboard with gifts. The adults draw names for one other adult. Most of the gifts under the tree are for the kids, but we still don’t go overboard. My mission is to make each package I wrap a gift of anticipation itself. A beautifully wrapped gift, no matter what it’s price tag, means it is given with love and chosen carefully. Sparkly tulle and a hand-crafted bow are my secret.
Family traditions are treasured. My grandmother would always make cinnamon rolls, fudge, and divinity for Christmas. You can imagine what a treat that was for us when we were children! Since my son’s family and I are all gluten and lactose- free I tackle the gluten-free cinnamon rolls and my Mom makes the regular cinnamon rolls. After making them for Thanksgiving, I wasn’t sure I would be up to it for Christmas. My oldest granddaughter, age 8, must have intuited my thoughts because she asked if there would be lots of cinnamon rolls when they came for Family Christmas. That’s when you know it’s a tradition. Besides, cinnamon is good for your bones!
Trust your meat thermometer. Traditionally we have prime rib for our Family Christmas dinner. We are a family of carnivores, but not everyone likes their meat rare like me. My roasting pan barely fit in my vintage 1967 avocado green oven. Two MIT educated men help calculate the exact and necessary roasting time. But, when a thermometer check was performed an hour before the calculated completion time, it indicated the roast had reached its ideal internal temperature. A great discussion took place as I took it out as to whether we should trust the time or the thermometer. I made an executive chef decision to trust my tools. It was beyond perfect. Yum-yum!
It’s never too early to wake up in the morning. Especially when three precious little girls are climbing into bed with you. Their father told them they have to wait until 7:00 to come in. They listen for the clock chimes to strike 7:00, but what can it hurt to peek in a little earlier on their way back from the bathroom? They are so excited we are already awake because then it’s okay for them to come in before 7:00. Those moments being all snuggled together are some of the most important conversations of the day.
The Christmas story is our story. My son and his family may not attend church or follow any prescribed doctrinal tradition, but that doesn’t mean pieces of what he was introduced to in his upbringing are missing. They do not have a traditional nativity scene in their home, so our nativity set is a novelty. They love playing with it, weaving tidbits of the traditional Christmas story with their own stories. Isn’t that what God intended when God entered into the human experience? To become a part of our story and invite us becoming a part of God’s story?
The birth of a baby. From nowheresville Nazareth. A refugee in an occupied country. Born to a mother who was pregnant before she was married. A simple carpenter agreed to help raise him, later to become apprenticed as a carpenter himself. A family who struggled to understand him and his purpose. Loved and reviled because he didn’t meet people’s expectations. Friend to the oppressed and marginalized. God with us.