It’s hard to believe Christmas is only three weeks away. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Kwanzaa or Hannukah, are you caught up in pre-holiday stress, or are you taking the time to savor the season? In these stress-filled times, making time for holiday traditions is more important than ever.

Holiday traditions are a way to mark the passage of the season. They give us the comfort of knowing that in this world of constant change, some things don’t have to change.

Most of my holiday traditions date back to my childhood, and I’m sure I’m not alone in this. And of course, a lot of my holiday traditions revolve around my cats. Here are some of my favorites:

Setting up the Christmas tree. I decorate my tree with ornaments I have collected over the years. Of course, many, if not most of them, are cat-themed! Getting the carefully wrapped ornaments out of their boxes always brings back lovely memories. I have a silver bell that was on the Christmas trees of my childhood as far back as I can remember. Since there’s so much sentimental value attached to this particular ornamnet, it’s staying in its box this year. Ruby and Allegra have been very good with the tree, but I don’t trust them enough to chance it. Other ornaments were gifts from friends, or items I picked up while traveling.

Special holiday foods. Even after more than 25 years in the US, I still crave German Christmas cookies and candies. Even though I have all of my mother’s recipes, I’m not much of a baker, so each year, I place my annual holiday order for German Lebkuchen, marzipan, Zimtsterne, and other goodies, from

Time to reflect. Quiet time is important to me all year long, but never more so than during the holidays. As a child in Germany, we had an Advent’s wreath, and each evening, we would light the appropriate number of candles and spend half an hour or so singing Christmas carols, or my parents would read out loud to me from Christmas books (favorite story: The Gift of the Magi). With two active cats, I don’t have lit candles in my house, but I carry on this tradition by sitting by my Christmas tree each evening meditating, usually with a cat in my lap. I save the singing for when I’m in the car – Allegra and Ruby have made it pretty clear what they think of my abilities in that area.

Spending time with family and friends. In my case, my friends are my family. I’m not much of a holiday party girl, but I enjoy quiet get togethers with friends over a nice meal. One special holiday treat this year will be afternoon tea at the elegant Willard Hotel in Washington, DC.

What are some of your favorite holiday traditions? Please share in a comment!

19 Comments on Sunday Purrs: Holiday Traditions

  1. Ingrid, I did not know you were German. Would you do a post on the Christmas markets. I went to the French Christmas markets a few years back on the German border and loved the influence of German baking. Tea with friends sounds just perfect.

  2. I loved hearing about your German Christmas traditions Ingrid. I love buying German cookies and goodies around Christmas time. I love Marzipan. Stollen and the famous Deutsche Schwarzwalkirschtorte (German Black Forest Cake). I have a bit of German heritage and started buying these items every year as I am fond of German culture, cuisine and baking. There is an excellent German restaurant near me that sells all of these items. We also have a Christkindl market in Denver every year.

    I collect nutcrackers and buy a new one every year. I also buy a new ornament every year, typically a cat one. I just bought a calico sitting on a red rug ornament.

    My husband and I give our two cats get new toy mice, catnip and tuna every Christmas.

    We also watch ‘A Christmas Story,’ ‘The Polar Express’ and all the other Christmas movie classics every year.

  3. I used the “I have three cats and they would destroy my Christmas tree” excuse to do away with a tradition that I actually like but feel it is too much work.

    I live in a small town and every year we have Christmas Stroll where the businesses hold an open house and put out food etc. It is fun, and they cap it off with fireworks, which are shot off across the street from my house.

  4. Ingrid, as a child of European parents, I especially enjoyed reading about your traditions. My mother always sends a “care package” of my favorite Finnish goodies. Tastes and smells bring back memories like none other. The smell of freshly cut pine is my favorite and to keep my heirloom ornaments safe from the paws of naughty you know who, I keep them displayed in a large glass bowl. Tradition and ritual whether old or new brings meaning and soulfulness in a world out of balance. I bake baskets of cookies to give to all the people who provide services who aren’t allowed to accept money like the garbage men and the postman (he’s retiring this year and going to miss him!) but also include our next door neighbor, mechanic, hairdresser, newspaper delivery guy and so on.

  5. Ingrid, I loved reading about your traditions. They sound so lovely. My traditions don’t reach back to my childhood but Ron and I have made our own over the years. For the last 3 years we kick off the holidays by hosting a “Food and Fun for Ferals” party to collect cat food for The Hundred Cat Foundation. It’s a lot of fun and we get upwards of 500 lbs of food donated. On Christmas Eve, we order Chinese from our favorite local restaurant. While we are waiting for it, we have a yummy exotic cocktail with our favorite bartender. Then we come home and put on “A Christmas Story” our favorite holiday movie. On Christmas morning, we give the cats their gifts first and enjoy watching them play. Then we make a yummy breakfast, exchange our gifts, and spend the rest of the day relaxing from all the busy days leading up to the holidays. We have a lovely dinner with my family the day after Christmas. I wasn’t a “holiday person” until a few years ago but now I find a lot of joy in how we spend this time.

  6. Thanks for sharing your Christmas traditions Ingrid. I spent a couple of Christmases back in the early 1950s in Weisbaden where my Dad was stationed and I still remember how special they were…..our housekeeper brought me and my brother some little tiny candies in a Christmas tin every year and she always baked lebkuchen and other delights for us! Sam was very excited yesterday as we got our tree up – with all the ornaments from our trips around the world and lots of CAT ornaments too! Holidays are warm and wonderful thanks to family, friends, memories old and new.

    Pam (and Sam)

  7. How lovely to hear about your traditions Ingrid. This will be an unusual Christmas for me. For the first time I am selling my cat art cards and prints in New York City’s Columbus Circle Holiday Market–a beautiful European style market that features hand made items. So there will be long days and lots of work until the market closes on Dec. 24th. But I am enjoying being there and making new friends. My husband and I plan to get together with friends after Christmas.

    Wishing everyone Happy Holidays!

    Deborah Julian

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