The holiday season can be a really beautiful, reflective time, but sometimes that gets lost as we charge full-steam ahead into the New Year. So I wanted to stop, take a breath, and devote a moment to think about some of the really lovely memories I made with my family at the end of last year. We don’t have any real traditions in our house, so we’re creating them for Bear. I grew up observing Hanukkah, and Christopher celebrated Christmas—plus his birthday is Christmas day—so there’s lots of festivities for us to do our own special way.
For Hanukkah, we went to services one night at Temple Israel, which was really sweet because I went to Hebrew School three times a week from the time I was 5 until I was 12! It was a neat feeling to sing all those songs again and share them with my family. Towards the end of the service, Bear asked if he could have some of the challah that the rabbi was holding. I told him he could go ask as soon as the service was over, and he did. The rabbi tore off a chunk and gave it to him—adorable. Another night of Hanukkah, we went to a party at a friend’s house and celebrated with vegan sushi and other treats like chili and stuffed dates that our friend’s sister Megan, a vegan chef, made. There were also donuts from Fonuts. It was festive and sweet to see the little ones lighting the candles. Then Bear and I visited my parents for a couple days, and my mom and dad said the prayer over the candles, which was really special for me to watch Bear experience.
On the Christmas front, over the years Christopher and I have wrestled over the concept of Santa Claus and whether or not we should pretend he was real. I was definitely more of A Scrooge and didn’t want to lie to Bear about this silly story glorifying someone who basically just stands for buying things. But ultimately, this year I decided that it’s magical and sweet to believe in something when you’re little. I started referring to Santa as “Santa Shaman,” and told Bear about all his helper fairies and elves, with no talk of being “good” or “bad.”
To celebrate the holiday, we went on a little adventure pinecone gathering in the back hills of our house. Bear darted right up, a pretty treacherous route he created!And when we got to the top, he declared, “This is my fort.” He and I snuggled in his fort under a huge tree at the top of the mountain, and then gathered as many pinecones as we could in a canvas tote.
We ended up using our pinecones three different ways: Christopher made our “tree” using some sumac weeds that I’d pulled on the way back to the house. When I was weeding the sumac, Bear said he didn’t want me to hurt the plants. I explained that what I was doing was actually helping the plant be healthy, and he insisted the weeds come home as flowers. We smeared some pinecones in almond butter and hung them from the trees as a snack for the squirrels and birds. The rest we left as decorations in a bowl.
The night before Christmas, we went to our friend Amy Neunsinger’s house (she’s who took all those amazing photographs in The Kind Mama!) for her annual Christmas spaghetti party. There was great music and delicious food—stay tuned for the spaghetti sauce recipe; it was roasted tomato madness!
Ben Shaw (Amy’s brother) and Bear playing some tunes!
After the party, when Bear was asleep, Christopher and I prepped for Christmas morning by leaving bites and a tiny trail of the carrots, celery, and a pancake Bear left for Santa Shaman and the fairies and reindeer. In the morning, Bear couldn’t believe Santa had been in his house! Santa left a note that said Bear could have as many pickles as he wanted that day. (Bear LOVES pickles, but I try to limit them because of the salt factor.) It also instructed him to go to the freezer, where he would find a vegan Amy’s pizza and vegan ice cream bar. (Christopher’s note was so deeply sweet. He talked about how Bear is a magical elf and how loving and kind he is.) Then he unwrapped some chocolate from Allison’s Gourmet, two little dinner bowls, and a kite from his Grandpa.
The sweetest thing about Christmas morning was that Bear could not get over how generous Santa was to him—even though he got some food and a kite! He couldn’t believe his good fortune and kept saying, “Why did Santa give me so much?” It made me so proud! It just goes to show that when you keep things simple, your kids will still think it’s special. After we opened gifts, and a nice long mommy and Bear wrestling match, we decided to go fly his kite. But once we got to Griffith Park, Bear decided he wanted to go hiking instead. We took another steep route up the side of the mountain, and when we were pretty high up, we took a break. Bear curled up on my chest and layed on me. Looking at the beautiful, enormous sky with him in my arms like a baby could not have been more sweet. Then we ate our lunch and Bear said, “Mommy can we come here everyday? This is so beautiful.” It was really precious.
Another festive thing we did was go to Lake Arrowhead with friends and their kids for two nights. It was beautiful—Bear and I went skiing and hiking and walked around the lake. On the way back, driving home with Bear and my friend Anne’s son, we came across a stray dog. Of course we had to stop the car and run after him! (Just like my mom and I used to do when I was little.) But he was really skittish and got away.
Over the holidays, there was also a drum circle in the Valley that Bear and I went to. It was pretty great! If you’re in the LA area and have kids, you should check out Remo RMC’s Kids Rhythm Club!
By the time New Year’s Eve rolled around, there wasn’t much I felt like I needed to do to mark this time of year. I went to two parties, but I found myself thinking that I’d rather be home before midnight to get some sleep and be fresh for Bear in the morning. I ended up getting home by 11:45, making a sandwich, and going to bed. On New Year’s Day I observed my tradition of writing in my journal and it felt so good.
The sandwich I made for myself on New Years Eve!
How did you spend the holidays? Did you and your loved ones go on any special adventures?