I’m nestled under a blanket on our couch, writing by the light of the Christmas tree. The shiny gifts underneath have been replaced with a blanket of spruce needles that keep dropping from this poor tree, but it still looks beautiful to me.
For as long as I can remember we’ve plugged our tree lights into a Clapper. I still remember the ridiculous commercials growing up: “Clap on, Clap off, the Clapper!” I love walking up to our tree every morning, clapping twice, and waving my hands like a magician as the lights pop on. For me, Christmas officially starts when the tree claps on for the first time.
Of course we need to trek through the Chugach National Forest on a quest for the perfect Christmas tree before The Clapper can make an appearance. For once the roads weren’t treacherous, but several stretches of the Seward Highway were littered with rock slides due to the earthquake. We originally planned to harvest our tree on December 1st, but the aftershocks were still pretty frequent and strong. We delayed our plans for one more day, but even then it felt like driving through a ghost town. Thankfully we had a safe and successful journey, and the kids cut down the tree and hauled it out all by themselves for the first time. Cheers to great traditions!
For years we’ve hosted Christmas Eve with friends, but something about this year felt especially festive and special. For starters, it was a postcard perfect day, and everyone arrived at sunset. Thanks to Steve for capturing this gorgeous picture from our living room window:
The snow arrived late this year, but luckily in time to give us a white Christmas!
Our tradition is soup and appetizers. This year’s menu included Clark’s award-winning spicy pulled pork chili (seriously – it won his office contest!), minestrone, and homemade chicken noodle. Keri always puts together sugar cookie kits, so everyone leaves with plenty of homemade cookies for Santa. All of my holiday Pinterest dreams came true with a spread that was both beautiful and delicious!
We tried a few new things this year. First, we successfully pulled off a white elephant gift exchange for a group of 17 people ranging in ages from 4 – 64. We decided that any kids under 7 would be immune from stealing, but I don’t think anyone would have put up much of a fight for the megaphone and dancing panda the two little ones selected! We set a $15 price limit, but thanks to REI connections and Costco coupons everyone went home with some sweet swag!
A highlight of the evening was the Saran Wrap ball. I saw this idea online and had no idea what a hit it would become! I picked up a travel Jenga set for the grand prize in the center, but other than that we wrapped a bunch of random stuff in a giant ball of Saran Wrap. Candy, coins, gift cards, and other miscellaneous items from around the house! On Christmas Eve the kids all sat in a circle and tried their best to unravel it. They each got to try until the person to their left rolled doubles, and then the ball had to pass. Whatever spilled out during their turn was theirs to keep.
Gotta brag on my kids here: Maggie for being the best helper on the planet and making the ball (she even YouTubed the instructions for herself) and Sam for being so sweet during the game. He was to the left of Ocoee, but rolled super slow so she always had a chance of unraveling a prize. Here’s a clip of her joyous victory – soooo cute!! (The game was a lot more raucous than this clip shows – very fun and highly recommend!!)
After everyone left the kids opened their Christmas Eve gifts (pajamas… every year!) and Maggie read us How the Grinch Stole Christmas. It’s my favorite!
They let us sleep until 7:30 the next morning. We spent Christmas day in our pajamas, sharing gifts, cooking a gourmet steak dinner, playing our new games, talking to family on FaceTime, and relaxing. The tree lights flicked on and off all day as Sam bounced around his new dodgeball, which kept activating the clapper!
Maggie got booties for Tess, but she wasn’t a big fan. We feel terrible for laughing at our poor pup!!
It’s always sad when the weeks of anticipation and secrets come to an end, but the time has come to clap off the tree lights for the last time and say goodbye to this magical holiday season. My heart is full of gratitude for the laughter and love that was shared – we are so very blessed. Merry Christmas!