In my opinion, Christmas begins the day after Thanksgiving. I've never really bought into the commercialised concept of Black Friday, and instead prefer to spend the day decorating for the Christmas season. (Growing up, Black Friday was always dedicated to the CU-Nebraska game, but CU now plays Utah the Saturday after Thanksgiving instead.) We definitely wait to get a tree until around the 1st of December—especially this year with Thanksgiving being so early—but it’s still nice to deck the halls and start watching all those Christmas films. (Okay, fine, I’ve been watching Hallmark Christmas films since Election Day!)
Anyway, I'm once again excited to fully embrace the Christmas season. So once again, I made a "bucket list" of sorts of all the things I want to do this holiday season. This year is exciting because I kind of get the best of both worlds. We'll be back in Colorado for two weeks this month, so we can do some of the Colorado things (like skiing), but we also get some of the England things (like the Christmas market).
SEE THE DECORATIONS IN LONDON
There’s just something magical about the city during the holiday season. The decorations, the energy, the shops. Everything! One of my favourite things about my first Christmas in England was going down to London with Luke to see all the decorations. We had a bunch of free train tickets we had to use before the end of the year, so it was a good excuse. Luke said he’s not interested this year, but I guess that’s his loss!
VISIT THE CHRISTMAS MARKET
I absolutely loved visiting the Christmas Market in the city centre last year. They set it up in November, if I remember correctly, and every weekend it just got more and more crowded. If Luke and I were in town for any reason, we would stop by to share a foot-long sausage, and enjoy some hot cocoa (probably spiked with Amaretto), or a litre of beer. Some of my favourite evenings from last Christmastime were at the market and I'm sure that will be the case again this year.
GET DRESSED UP FOR THE NUTCRACKER
It's a tradition now since we've been both years we've been together. The first year, we dressed to the nines and went out in Denver for the evening. I booked a room at the historic Brown Palace hotel, we shared a prime rib dinner from room service on the edge of our bed since we couldn't get a table at either restaurant, and went out for champagne, oysters, and truffle fries after the show. It's hands down one of my favourite evenings we've ever spent together. Last year, we got slightly less dressed up and went out in Birmingham, getting sushi before the show. After, we both agreed that the Birmingham performance was better than the Denver performance.
This year, we’ve got tickets in Denver again while we’re back in Colorado. We won’t be staying downtown again, but I booked a table at Corridor 44, the same champagne bar we went to two years ago. Hey, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. And those truffle fries and oysters definitely ain’t broke. As for our outfits this year, you’ll just have to stay tuned to see how fancy we get!
MAKE CREAM CHEESE BREADS (WITH MY MOM)
My mom always makes cream cheese breads as part of our Christmas morning brunch. (She also makes mushroom pie, grits pie, and fruit salad.) They're my favourite part of Christmas and I could easily scarf one--or two--down myself. Last year I managed to carry on her tradition in England, starting on Christmas Eve and finishing early on Christmas morning. Like her, I made extra to give to friends and family, too. This year, since I'll be back in the States, I want to make them with her. I go full-kid when I'm at her house and leave her to the kitchen, but I want this year to be different. I want to learn from the best so I'm able to take her recipes and traditions and bring them to my own family the best I can.
Funny story, one year my sister Rachel and I were both working at a local cheese shop at Christmastime. Rachel was helping a customer do her holiday shopping and mentioned my mom’s Christmas brunch to her. The woman thought it sounded so good that she ended up paying my mom to make her pies (and I think the breads as well, IIRC). They ended up meeting on Christmas Eve in the parking lot of the same shop to make the exchange!
GO CROSS-COUNTRY SKIING & ICE SKATING
When people find out I'm from Colorado, they almost always ask me if I ski. No, I don't downhill ski. Last time I went I was almost too afraid to get off the lift. I've outgrown my last pair of snow pants and I'm simply not interested in spending the kind of money it takes to downhill ski these days. So although there are a lot of great childhood memories around downhill skiing, I'm more interested these days in the childhood memories around cross-country skiing, which is an activity my whole family has been able to continue to do in our old age. We usually only go about once a year, but it's always a blast. This year, we're doing my ULTIMATE Christmas dream and staying in a cabin near where we ski on Christmas Eve Eve. I seriously cannot wait. And while we're at it, I really want to ice skate on an actual pond. I think I've done it once, but I can't be sure. Last Christmas, Luke and I went to the rink that was part of the Christmas Market, but I think doing it outside on a pond this year will be even better.
MAKE HOLIDAY TREATS FOR THE NEIGHBOURS
If you haven't already figured out, I love baking. I just don't always love having cookies and cakes on hand. In the last few years, I've put together boxes with some of my favourite things to make: gingerbread people, sugar cookies, candy-coated pretzels, toffee, gingerbread cake, and more. Last year we picked up some tins at Tiger and packed them full of Christmas goodies for our friends and neighbours and that is absolutely a tradition I want to hold on to. Did you know baking for other people is shown to improve your mood?
SET UP A HOT COCOA STATION
I've been doing this for a while now. I think it started in 2011 when I had a bad day at work in early December. I just decided to pick up some things from Michael's, head home, and put it all together. Even though we weren’t big hot cocoa drinkers, I kept doing it every year. Last year, Luke and I definitely got good use out of it. And this year, I'll definitely be setting it up with some Amaretto. Have you ever tried it?! It's better than Peppermint Schnapps, I promise.
My hot cocoa station has looked more or less the same for the last four years, but this year I’m taking some inspiration from another blogger and setting it up a little differently. Stay tuned to see!
BUY NEW CHRISTMAS PJs
Luke and I started this tradition at our first Christmas together. The last two years, I've gotten us a new pair of PJs and a new pair of socks, put them out under the tree on Christmas Eve, wrapped in a red ribbon. The first year it was tops, bottoms, and socks, but the second year it was just bottoms and socks, which I think is the way to go. We both wear our Christmas PJs and socks all year round, so it's truly the gift that keeps on giving. The best part is, we can very easily continue this tradition with our kids in the future. I mean like right away, we don't have to wait a few years for them to be able to actively participate, like with our annual Nutcracker outing. This year, because we’re both lacking in the loungewear department, we’ll actually get something different (but still jammies-adjacent). Next year, it’ll probably be back to PJ bottoms and socks!
MAKE HOMEMADE EGGNOG
I might be making a mistake here, but I want to give it a shot. We never found any in the grocery stores last year, but we didn't try making any either. I remember finding a recipe and then thinking that's what's in this?! It nearly put me off it altogether, but I'll try it this year and see what happens. Honestly, heating up milk and other dairy-based products is one of my biggest kitchen fears, so this should be fun. Worst case scenario, at least I’ll be back in the States where I can buy some if it doesn’t go well. (And yes, this is a photo of hot cocoa, but I couldn’t find a good eggnog photo from my Christmas archives!)
HOST A CRAFT NIGHT
I'm pretty sure I've been talking about hosting a craft night--Christmas aside--for the entire time I've lived in England. But I'm determined to make it happen this year. I've done it a few times with friends and it's always been so fun. We bring the supplies for our own projects and make whatever we want, which is definitely the best way to do craft night.
What’s on your to-do list this holiday season?
Like I did in the fall, I’m hosting another fun bingo game, this time with one of my blogger BFFs, Blythe from The Honey Print! In the fall, I ended up only counting things I did after deciding it was the best way to play. So for the holiday season, we decided to play by the same rules, this time combining forces to come up with 24 new Christmas-themed squares.
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Updated May 2019 for formatting.