Santa Claus is Coming to Town… and other VanLaanen Family Traditions.

It was a special advent this year with Lake. It was really his “first” Christmas where he was aware of the distinction that it was Christmas and that there are traditions and rituals therein. He definitely got into the spirit of the season more and more as the themes emerged and repeated. Gifts. Sweets. Presents. Cousins. We had many family parties, dinner parties and socializing throughout the month of December. It was a veritible whirlwind of hosting and events. We are creating the VanLaanen Family tradtions for Lake and it’s both weighty and joyful to be able to do that for and with him.

First we have the tradition of the tree. Nana has developed the beautiful tradition of picking out a tree in the field and bringing it to our home right after Thanksgiving (and then taking it down again after Christmas!). This year Nana and Baba cut down the tree from a Christmas Tree Farm in Bellingham, and it reached right up past 3 meters to brush the ceiling. A glorious sight to behold! Lake loves how the tree is dripping with toys and loves to visit them and show them off. I was also proud and happy to host with such a beautiful tree!

Our second tradition is compliments of Nana’s ingenuity and generosity as well. It’s the advent calendar. She found a wooden star advent calendar with 12 wooden drawers on each side and filled it up with 24 treats last year. She takes it with her at the end of Christmas to have it in her home to get it ready for the next year. So this year, it came all chock full of tiny gifts while we were in Ketchikan for Thanksgiving. The Advent Calendar Star was ready and waiting on Lake’s closet bookshelf. It was full of treats and how he grew to adore the “star,” as he simply called it, over the course of the month. Morning and night, he was often asking for the “star” and he’d climb up on his stool, and I’d help him pick the right drawer for the day. Here were a cluster of tiny baked cookies, there a few nuts and overall tiny animal toys and stickers. It was so exciting to have a near continuous flow of treats building up to Christmas.

One new tradtion this year was to celebrate Der Nikolaustag (December 6th/Saint Nicholas Day) in honor of having our German au pairs as part of the family. We put oranges and candy out for Luisa the night before.

Also, this year, Lake attended his first George Balanchine’s Nutcracker ballet at McCaw Hall.

Another new tradition built onto our tradition of celebrating Christmas Eve with a big family dinner and a few small gifts. This Chistmas Eve, we were blessed to be able to be on good enough terms as to be able to invite Santa Claus to pop in after dinner/before dessert. Even on such a busy night as Christmas Eve, his timing was impecable and Santa Claus arrived with his elf just as the milk and cookies were being set out on the table. He distributed the bulging Christmas stockings. It was a nice over-the-top gesture for our German visitors. Luisa’s brother and sister were here for the Christmas holidays and we wanted to show them a touch of American holiday flair. I’m not so sure about Magdelena, however, Lake was overjoyed of course.

Especially since Santa Claus bought play dough, and especially since Santa Claus was none other than Lake’s best friend Tom (of Tom Park fame).

Christmas morning brought Langley, and the rest of the week, there were Presents. Presents are wonderful things to be opened containing delightful surprises, usually Toys, but also sometimes Pants, Books, or Sweets, all glorious discoveries. Christmastime brought many Sweets, such as cake, cookies, pie, and ice cream. Lake honed his eye over the course of the month, to where if there was any trace of cake visible, he would spot it immediately and innocently ask, “what’s that? cake for Lake?” Here he is with his very own “it’s a baby Newfie!”

Our final developing tradition is to host my brother and family for their annual post-Christmas visit. This is a real treat and affords the cousins a nice opportunity to play. And, well, that’s a wrap!

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