Christmas Traditions—Decking the Halls

Holiday traditions are as wonderfully diverse as the families who practice them. In conjunction with my new release Bear Creek Christmas, allow me to share some of mine!


The following excerpt is taken from my new release, Bear Creek Christmas.

Levi opened the box from home and took out some strange looking do-dads and funky homemade ornaments—all bearing the marks of time and frequent handling. Knox pointed to a particularly homely configuration of popsicle sticks, glued together in the approximate shape of a star. It had been spray-painted gold and then covered with glitter, topped with a bright red loop of yarn.

Levi couldn’t quite reach the top, so Knox picked him up to hang the gold star where it belonged. He received a kiss for his trouble, and they began placing the other items from the box. Afterward came the new decorations: balls, bows, ice crystals, candy canes, sleds, and several tiny teddy bears. Lastly, Levi spread the bright red tree skirt around the stand and snapped a photo.

Knox hung the stockings on the mantle and the pinecone wreath on the front door, while Levi found places for the knick-knacks, scented candles, and the centerpiece for the dining table. The holiday hand towels went up in the bathroom and kitchen, leaving only the garland, twinkle lights, and mistletoe.

The mistletoe came last since Levi knew Knox would be distracted by the kissing part of the project. By the time they finished, Levi wouldn’t be able to move more than ten feet before passing underneath a bunch of mistletoe—exactly what Knox wanted. It took a lot of snogging to complete the job, though neither of them minded.


My parents spent more on gifts than decorating, which we certainly appreciated as kids. Mom still made an effort to dress up the house for the season, and it all started with the tree. Dad always bought a real one and brought it home on the top of the car. No one ever went with him for this important purchase, probably so he could get in and out without delay.

My sister Lynn was their first child, born on December 17th. I’m not sure why, but mom decided that all things Christmas would begin on that day every year. Lynn even got a tree-shaped birthday cake, which she thought was so cool!

Once dad got the tree in the house and set up in a stand, he disappeared and let mom direct the decorating. She did the lights first, which for many years were the large (and hot) old-style bulbs. I still like them better than the tiny lights we use now, but they were a fire hazard and often left large sections of the tree without lights if one of the bulbs burnt out.

After that, we put up the glass ornaments; fragile and easily broken but oh so pretty.

There were other decorations, such as the ones we made in school or store-bought baubles of various kinds. The tree-topper changed over the years from gold glass to fabric angels.

Tinsel came last and it was the REAL THING, made of thin strips of aluminum foil. Mom tried to make us slow down and do it right, but we were always in a hurry to get it done. The foil easily creased and tore, and sometimes showed up as big blobs here and there.

The final touch was the red tree skirt which mom wrapped around the base and then placed the Nativity set front and center.

Afterward, we sang some carols around the finished tree and checked every day for the appearance of wrapped gifts.

The rest of the house wasn’t entirely ignored. Stockings were taped to the living room bookcase and garland wrapped around the staircase railing. Mom hung up a few sprigs of plastic mistletoe and there was always a festive wreath on the front door.

Two round glass jars filled with red silk balls and holly made an appearance too. On Christmas day, mom brought out a poinsettia tablecloth for the meal, but I don’t recall any centerpieces or other bric-a-brac.

Even the second floor got a bit of cheer with holiday coloring book pages taped to bedroom doors.

I’m sure I’ve forgotten some things, but too many years have gone by. Thanks to my parents, Christmas was always a special time and the good memories live on.

Your turn to share. Please tell me what you and yours do for the holidays!



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4 responses to “Christmas Traditions—Decking the Halls”

  1. Michael Corrigan Lavallee Avatar
    Michael Corrigan Lavallee

    Hi Alexander–I just finished reading Bear Creek Christmas, and enjoyed it immensely! I thought I’d share some of the “traditions” my partner and husband and I have developed in the 39 years we’ve shared Christmas with each other. We’ve picked up little things from here and there that set this time of year apart from all other times–from starting our final preparations and beginning our decorating on 13 December–St. Lucia’s Day, which we’ve borrowed as our own from our love of Swedish Jul celebrations. Having lived in the southwest (first New Mexico and now Denver) for almost 30 years, we’ve also adopted some local traditions, like baking our favourite Christmas cookies, called “biscochitos” (they’re basically sugar cookies with anise seed and a splash of brandy in them) to give away, and to eat…way too many of them, usually. I bake some kind of festive bread for Christmas Eve morning (this year it’s a cranberry-apple-cinnamon loaf) that we eat while listening to the Service of Lessons and Carols broadcast live from King’s College Chapel, in Cambridge, England, early on Christmas Eve morning. On Christmas morning we unwrap the stollen (for his German heritage) we buy at our local German Christmas market every year and eat slices of it with Swedish rice cereal we make only on Christmas morning. In years past, before COVID (sigh…), we had a custom of inviting a guest who had never eaten at our table to dinner either on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day–our last “guest” turned out to be the entire family of a young man who lived down the hall from us! Christmas Day is just the beginning of our proper Christmas celebrations–we do something every day for the entire 12 Days of Christmas, even if it’s just a movie marathon or a special piece of candy or a museum visit or a walk in the Botanic Gardens near where we live. After almost 40 years together, our Christmas decorations are a lovely jumble of “his, mine, and ours,” with German glass ornaments that are family heirlooms, Swedish Jul things like tomten and a Julbok, and things we’ve bought in the various places we’ve lived and visited. And it can’t be Christmas without candles–the four Advent wreath candles are replaced with fresh Christmas candles, and pillar candles fill lanterns and our hurricane glass lantern…. Music is also a “decoration” we love at Christmas time, and we look for carols and Christmas music in many languages, from many cultures, and try to add a “favourite” carol each year…. This year we added a complete oratorio by a composer we had never heard of before we went to a Christmas concert by one of Denver’s best choral groups last week! Anyway, that’s a sketch–maybe more detailed than you were expecting–of our Christmas traditions. With that, I’ll wish you a very Merry Christmas, and much inspiration for your stories and writing in the year to come. Thanks for Bear Creek Christmas, too, by the way. The setting you chose is somewhat familiar to me, having gone to college in eastern Pennsylvania, not very far from Bear Creek! Cheers, Michael Corrigan Lavallee

    1. Alexander Elliott Avatar
      Alexander Elliott

      Wonderful! Thank you for sharing all the interesting things you do to make the season special. I wouldn’t mind being your special guest sometime! Congratulations on almost forty years together – certainly something worth celebrating every day. I’m so glad you enjoyed Bear Creek Christmas, and I think it’s so cool that you actually know the area (I try to base my stories in real places when possible). Best wishes to you and your husband for a warm and happy holiday.

      1. Michael Corrigan Lavallee Avatar
        Michael Corrigan Lavallee

        Hey Alexander–if you ever happen to be in Denver around Christmas, let me know! You’ll be our “special guest.”

  2. Alexander Elliott Avatar
    Alexander Elliott

    Sounds like fun! Meanwhile, stay safe and have a terrific New Year.

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