The Spirit of Christmas

Old and new traditions inspire hope.

Mr. Fixit and I recently did something we’ve never done. We took a December vacation. In addition to getting a little break, the primary purpose was to see the San Diego Bay Parade of Lights. My love of Christmas ships started nearly three decades ago when I first moved to Seattle and stumbled upon a spirited party in the bay with carolers, bonfires, and dozens of light laden boats of all sizes reflecting in the water as they passed. I was a young adult, and it was magical. Ever since, I’ve sought out various holiday traditions to layer into our family experiences and inspire the hope we all seek this time of year. As Santa says in the Christmas Chronicles, “People need Christmas to remember how good they can be.”

Our trip did not disappoint and as often happens, it ended up being more than expected. The San Diego Symphony was performing a lively holiday concert in the new Rady Shell at Jacobs Park adjacent to the waterfront. We learned of it too late to buy tickets but were able to enjoy the music while waiting for the boat parade on nearby benches with friendly locals. 

Another unexpected discovery was the Holiday Market at Petco Park, an outdoor winter wonderland featuring decorated trees, holiday music, shopping, food, and drink along with a large movie screen projecting holiday classics. But it wasn’t just these features that helped renew our holiday spirit. It was the faces of the youngsters. As empty nesters, we shamelessly borrow joy from the children of others and find that nothing fills us up quite like laughing, worry free kids. 

That said, even as adults, we readily find magic in our holiday traditions. From the renowned Bozeman Christmas Stroll to the Nutcracker, special concerts, Winter Art Walk, and winter farmer’s market, the Gallatin Valley is a wonderful place to be during the holidays. Belgrade started a charming new tradition during the pandemic that will hopefully endure, the Christmas Convoy – professionally captured on video by our son’s friend Ben Goertzen

In fact, the Bozeman area offers many quintessential holiday traditions. Horse drawn sleigh rides, excursions through the snowy banks of Yellowstone, cross country skiing, downhill skiing, snowshoeing, and even snowman making, bring on rosy cheeks, laughter, and the chance to imbibe in seasonal beverages.

For over thirty years, we have loaded our family into cars on Christmas Eve to drive around and scope out the holiday decorations. Our main destination is the Westridge subdivision which for 54 years has lined their streets and driveways with luminaries – each resident committed to outdoing their neighbor with impressive light displays. We, and hundreds of others, drive through the streets with our headlights dimmed, holiday music playing, and decades of memories flowing through our hearts. 

Like most families around the world, we have many longstanding holiday traditions that revolve around food. We keep it simple on Christmas Eve with fun finger foods since our priority is the previously mentioned light drive. Our daughter is masterful at assembling the charcuterie board, baking brie, and generally making the spread look like something from a magazine. Christmas morning begins with Eggs Benedict and cranberry mimosas or Bloody Mary’s. We learned a wonderful technique from Martha Stewart that allows us to cook and hold the poached eggs for our large group so we can plate and serve everyone at the same time. Last year we found a decadent recipe for Eggnog French Toast that has been added to our culinary list for the holiday weekend. Christmas night features a seafood spread including a highlight for the men in the family – oyster shooters. 

No holiday would be complete without sinful desserts, so we dedicate one day to baking lots of simple sweets that are displayed throughout the holiday on a special table, making sure there is at least one favorite for each family member. Keeping this stocked throughout the visit with a nearby crockpot of hot cider makes it easy for guests to serve themselves.

As indicated in previous blogs, we are a football family, and the 2021 Christmas game schedule is jam packed. Between games, we will indulge in as many holiday movies as we possibly can. I started to list our top picks but it would take the rest of the blog so instead, I’ll share this list of 40 classic holiday movies and hope that it inspires you to take a few minutes out of the holiday crush to enjoy your most-loved flicks.  Since they are too new to make the list, I will put in a plug for Jingle Jangle and The Nutcracker and the Four Realms which are worth a watch.

The Elf on the Shelf is always entertaining. If you haven’t added this to your holiday fun, I highly recommend you do. Even with just the two of us in the house our little guy, Hug, shows up in the most interesting places, including my husband’s shaving kit on our recent excursion. 

And then there are the decorations. Mr. Fixit started a tradition of giving me a Nutcracker on our very first Christmas together. We will soon celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary so my collection is now a colorful legion that lines bookshelves and brightens every nook and cranny. I’m also fortunate to have many wonderful Santa’s, most given by my parents, making it easy to transform our home into a bit of a holiday wonderland.

Our daughter is getting married next year so I’m sure it won’t be long until the pitter patter of little feet will shift our traditions in new ways, bringing more meaningful memories and new hope to our hearts. Whatever your holiday customs, our family sends wishes for much laughter, harmony, and peace as you enjoy the Spirit of Christmas.

The opportunities for your next Montana adventure are unlimited and Cherry Creek Guest House is ready to serve as your home away.

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