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I grew up in Colorado at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, then lived in Denmark and traveled throughout Europe before coming back to Colorado. I have two adult sons, whom I cherish. I started my writing career as a columnist and investigative reporter and eventually became the first woman editor of two different papers. Along the way, my team and I won numerous state and several national awards, including the National Journalism Award for Public Service. In 2011, I was awarded the Keeper of the Flame Lifetime Achievement Award for Journalism. Now I write historical romance and contemporary romantic suspense.

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Seductive Musings

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Christmas traditions




So I imagine everyone is very busy with holiday shopping, baking and decorating. I haven't done a thing yet — nothing. No decorating. No shopping. No baking. Nada. Nix. Nihil.

I've been very busy with a rewrite of Naked Edge, which I'm close to finishing. I'll probably be avoiding the Internet for a few weeks until I'm caught up.

In the meantime, I'd love to hear about your favorite holiday traditions.

At my house, for example, we always have to have an evening of cookie decorating. I make a vanilla refrigerator cookie recipe, which we decorate mostly with butter creme frosting. If I do say so myself, my recipe for frosting rocks. The kids love it. Their friends love it. I learned it from my mom when I was a teenager. I once overheard Benjy telling a friend, "My mom's frosting is so good, you'll make yourself sick eating it."

We also make Christmas fudge, usually a few batches so that we can have a milk chocolate batch, a dark chocolate batch and then a white chocolate or white/milk chocolate swirled batch. Mmmm.



Before I started writing fiction, we'd spend most of a day decorating the house. Then after I started writing, I would only put up a tree on the years the kids were with me. (I alternate holidays with my ex.) And I admit there were a few busy years since 2003 where Christmas seemed an inconvenience because of deadlines. I truly felt irritated to have to set aside writing to celebrate. Deadlines can freak a person out.

But after this year with all that has happened — most particularly two serious car accidents involving my sons — I'm all for slowing down long enough to enjoy the holiday.

So we'll be putting up a real tree this year and decorating the house and doing our cookies and fudge while listening to our favorite Christmas music.

Funny thing about Christmas music... I find that everyone imprints on Christmas music like baby birds on their mama. No matter how stupid it is, the music we listened to as a child tends to be the music that makes Christmas feel like Christmas. Does anyone else find this to be true?



When I was growing up, we listened to Alvin and the Chipmunks and Andy Williams. Even though I might laugh about this and consider both the Chipmunks and Andy Williams to be pure cheese, they still sound like Christmas to me. In fact, when the entire family gets together to open gifts, Andy Williams' "White Christmas" is what's playing. Though I insist I am not an Andy Williams fan, I just downloaded his Christmas CD. Ah, tradition!

Fortunately, we were also raised with Jose Feliciano's "Feliz Navidad," which is near the top of my favorite Christmas songs. It's so full of energy and fun.



To those, I added Nat King Cole's Christmas album, Bruce Cockburn's Christmas, which is beautiful, and Loreena McKennitt's To Drive the Cold Winter Away, which is stunning. This is what my kids have been raised with — in addition to Andy Williams, of course. (If you have time to sample at iTunes, I recommend listening to and downloading Loreena's song "Snow." It's so pretty it makes me teary-eyed!)




Typically, we open gifts on Christmas morning in front of the fireplace and then have a yummy turkey dinner in the afternoon. I love to spend my spare time — not that I have any these days — reading a Christmas romance or anthology. I haven't done this for years, but I really love it when I'm able to.

It really is my favorite holiday — when I give myself permission to celebrate.

So what are your traditions? What are your favorite holiday treats? And what silly Christmas music do you listen to?

23 comments:

Jane said...

We like to open our presents at midnight, but if I'm visiting my cousin, we open them on Christmas morning. I love shortbread cookies and the sugar cookies with the holiday decorations. I like Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby, Trans Siberian Orchestra and Josh Groban.

Kristi said...

Hi baby-girl!!!! Long time, no post.. We had cheesy Christmas music too -- the album I remember the most is Johnny Mathis.. A very fond memory I have is that every Christmas eve, they would give us champagne and then take us to the Midnight Mass (I almost fainted in there once it was so crowded and hot).. That way we'd be nice and tired for when Santa came. =) )Needless, to say, I do not load my kids up with alcohol to put them to sleep.. HAHAHAHA!!! Love ya, K-Tay

Hi, Jane — Midnight! Wow! Is everyone able to stay awake that late? Mmm. Shortbread cookies are tasty. Do you make them yourself? Do you have a favorite recipe to share? I've got Bing Crosby's "White Christmas," and of course Nat King Cole. Fun stuff! I'd love to see that shortbread recipe if you have it.

K-TAY! How's my pygmy? Long time, no freakin' post! I cracked up when I read about your parents doping you with champagne. And who can forget Johnny Mathis? He was a force to be reckoned with in the ’70s (back when we were very young children, right?). Do you go to mass?

We used to go to the Christmas Eve services at our church — St. John's Episcopal — for a High Anglican mass. But now it's too far of a drive, and my kids aren't exactly interested. LOL!

Sue Z said...

I too had Andy Williams in my home. And also the Ray Conniff Singers. (you always here Ray Conniff in the stores even today).

My mom baked like a mad woman. My favorites are these little tarts that she makes in the tiny muffin pans. They are dough like cups filled with strawberry or apricot preserves and sprinkled powdered sugar.

Christmas Eve was always spent at my Grandma D's house with my sisters and my cousins. We had a huge family dinner and presents after. I treasure those memories always.

Wow! Both Pygmies in one day??? What's going on?

Hi, Sue! Those sound like very sweet, precious memories. Did you ever learn how to make those little tarts? That sounds like something worth learning from your mom.

My mom makes pies — apple, peach, cherry, pumpkin — along with cookies, Christmas fudge and chocolate chip cookies. (Ben and I have our own recipe for that, of course.)

Sue Z said...

It is funny how the traditions changed as I got older. After my sisters and cousins got older and had families of thier own, we stopped getting together.

Then Chistmas Eve moved to etiher my Mom's or my sisters when my nephews were little (sames ages as your boys, PC). We had lots of laughs and it always looked like we had a million presents to open. We alsways went to 4:00 PM Christmas eve mass and had dinner after. I see these days coming to an end soon as my nephews will soon start thier own traditions.

My Mom still makes those little tarts every year just for me. They are awesome with morning coffee or afternoon tea.

Barbara said...

Hi, Pamela :) Thank you for sharing your stories. I love hearing tales of other families traditions.

I actually just posted not too long ago about my christmas traditions.

Now that I'm older, for some reason around the holidays I really miss being a kid. I miss the smell of my mom's cooking. I even miss my dad playing those aweful christmas tunes. I hated christmas music when I was young.

But now, it doesn't seem like christmas without them. I will watch my kids open presents and I sometimes wonder if my dad felt the same as I do now. Did he miss his own childhood as he watched my sister, brother and I opening gifts?

I hope your sons are well and that you have a wonderful holiday.

~Barbara

I hear what you're saying, Sue. I wonder how much longer either of my boys will be coming home for Christmas. I was married and a mother by the time I was Alec's age (22). Ben is 19. I hope they both wait longer than I did to start a family, but I have a feeling that things will be changing.

I have to admit that the prospect of spending Christmases alone does not thrill me.

Hi, Barbara — THANKS so much for your review of Surrender. I'm glad you enjoyed the story.

I know what you mean about wishing you were a kid again. There's a magic that Christmas holds for children — it truly feels like magic when you're little. The lights, the treats, the wonderful presents under the tree. Each present was a reason to be excited.

I remember sneaking out of bed in the middle of the night — it was SO hard to sleep! — and going to look at the tree with all the gifts beneath it. I enjoyed watching my boys go through that experience, as well. But now they're grown, so I can't enjoy the magic vicariously through them any longer.

Still, it's a wonderful holiday. And I can't wait to have them both home!

Judy said...

We always opened our gifts Christmas morning. We went to Christmas Eve services and I remember the candlelight service. We thought we were "grown up" when we could hold our own candle. I have a hard time getting through Christmas Eve service now without a few tears and thinking of home.
Pamela, don't worry, your kids will always be kids. My daughter is 37 and stills asks me "whatcha getting me for Christmas?
I had to laugh when you talked about Andy Williams, I grew up listening to him and a few years ago we were in Branson and saw him. He sounded just the same just looked a lot older.
Have a joyous Christmas.

Anonymous said...

Sorry i'm late to chime in but not much time to play around on the internet these days.
When I was a kid, we had no special Christmas tradition really. We sometimes listened to a record (and yes I'm that old!lol) by Tino Rossi who is/was very famous here. Don't think the kids nowadays listen to him anymore. Anyway, no Xmas cookies (I started that myself when I settled in my own place)and my mother tended to resent the Chistmas tree that would shed its needles on the rug. But the "crèche" had a place of choice. And my brother and I would kill each other to be the one to put the infant Jesus on the straw on Christmas morning.
We opened our presents at midnight. And that's pretty much it.

I just heard from my mother that we wouldn't get a stuffed turkey this year....How sad is that???

Pamela you made me drool with your frosting! And the fudge!!!
stef

Barbara said...

Ah, but one days your boys will have kids and you can live it through them :) And sleeping on christmas eve? HA! My sister and I would sit up till all hours of the night! We just HAD to see Santa!!

Even though mom told us if Santa knows your up, he won't come, Still we just had to stay up. Well until we passed out, lol. You know, come to think of it, it seemed like 4am but in all actuality it was probably ten o'clock when we finally couldn't keep our eyes open anymore *g* Sigh...I miss those days.

RE: Surrender. Great story. I really loved your heroine. Not that I didn't love Iain, I just really enjoyed Annie alot.

Oh, and, uh...*clears throat*...It would be really awesome to see Williams story soon. Just a little hint. ;)

*fingers crossed*

Hi, Judy — I had no idea that Andy Williams was so central to so many people's Christmas. LOL! That's sweet that your daughter still turns to you. I hope my boys are that way. Your memories of the candlelight service sound really wonderful. When I was little my parents didn't go to church. The one serious service I attended was in Denmark while IW as an exchange student -- the church was more than 1,000 years old. That was amazing to sit there and think of people celebrating Christmas in its halls for more than 1,000 years!

The hard part about Christmas for me since I got divorced (12 years ago!) is that once you're not married, there's really no one who's thinking primarily of you at Christmastime. I'm not holding a pity party for myself; it's just the truth.

Hey, Stef! Good to see you! I guess I imagine French people going to midnight mass at Notre Dame. But I guess not everyone lives in Paris. Haha. No stuffed turkey? WTF? You need to come to my place. You can eat all the cookie and fudge you want, we can swap romance novels and there will be a stuffed turkey. :-) That's a nice tradition with you putting little baby Jesus in the creche in the morning.

Hi, Barbara --

I have one very distinct memory of my sister and I sitting on the kitchen floor, our heads nodding in sleepiness, at 5 AM!!! We were waiting till 6 when we could wake up our parents. I wonder if she remembers that... And parents really have the edge there... "If you don't sleep, Santa won't come!" But how can you sleep when some guy is going to magically get into your house and give you presents??? And what about those flying reindeer? Did you ever stare out the window into the night watching for them? I did. :-)

As for Lord William... He'll be making an appearance on this blog soon when I interview the MacKinnon brothers. That got kind of postponed. And I hope to write his book after Connor's. I adore him, personally. I love writing his scenes. I'm glad you like Annie. Iain was a bit overbearing for some readers, and then some readers (not naming anyone here) loooved him that way. Morgan is a bit different from his brother... And, BTW, I love your long responses, so don't rein your words in on my account.

Joan said...

Whew, wiping off flour and sugar and chocolate to say great post, Pamela.

Well, YEAH Andy's part of my Christmas traditions. I find each song has its own signature singer performing it..Bing and White Christmas....Andy and Silver Bells...Karen Carpenter and Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas...Nat King Cole and the Christmas song.

I've about OD'd on these as we have a local radio station that is playing Christmas songs 24/7.

My Christmas traditions have changed dramatically after the loss of my parents. This year I work Christmas Eve and not sure when I'll get with my brother for a gift exchange.

But right now I'm thinking one of the best presents I'll be getting is an appearance of the MacKinnon's!!!!!

Woohoo!!! Let me save back some of these turtle cookies I baked. I'm SURE Conner would like some ;-)

Heather said...

Oh man...no fair taunting us with your frosting and then not giving us the recipe!!!

We used to open presents on Christmas eve, because I got so used to opening them when it was dark out, because my mom would always wake me up in the middle of night to open presents, because SHE couldn't wait any longer. Me, I was happily sound asleep. Now that I have Leila, well, the first year, I woke her up at midnight, but she was useless and groggy and very unhappy. Last year, I woke her at around 6am...same thing. So this year...we're going to open the presents when she wakes her ass up, because I'm tired of having a grumpy kid on Christmas!!! So...I believe, traditions, must be flexible!!! :)

Gave up the stuffed turkey when I became old enough, and brave enough to say NO MORE STINKIN' TURKEY, I hate turkey!!! Now we have prime rib or lamb. Because guess what...everyone else wasn't crazy about Turkey anyhow...what's with sticking with traditions that just don't work for you anymore?!?!?! Crazy!

I don't bake cookies anymore...because nowadays...the stores make them just as good as I can, so why bother? I used to make fudge, until I discovered "Fudgy Wudgy"...now...why bother making it...their fudge is AWESOME!!!

I don't go to the malls anymore...because online is so easy and I can get all my shopping done on my lunch hour at work, and not have to put on a coat, hat and mittens. I love my life!!!

It's SO the 21st century in my life...and a lot of traditions have gone by the wayside.

BUT...I still love me my Christmas music...and every year, I change to the radio station that plays 24 hours of Christmas music. I love it all, old crooners and new pop stars...it's just so fun.

Heather said...

So Blogger won't let me edit...but I misspelled Fudgy Wudgy...incase anyone was interested...it's Fudgie Wudgie...honestly, the best fudge I've ever had...creamy, smooth, and rich, totally yummy.

Hi, Judy — You're so right! I, too, find that each song has a version that I prefer. For "Silver Bells" it's definitely Andy Williams. And for "Here Comes Santa Claus" it's Alvin and The Chipmunks. LOL! Oh, how I loved that album when I was a kid. I probably asked my parents to play it 10,000 times each Christmas season.

I bet Connor would be blown away by your turtle cookies, given the, um, less than refined nature of their baking back in those days. I started wondering how the MacKinnons were going to make this appearance to which you referred, and then I realized I said I was going to post their interview. D'uh! Yeah, it's a blonde thing...

Heather, Fudgie Wudgie sounds scrumptious, no matter how you spell it. Good for you for making traditions work for you. My poor parents were the ones we four kids were waking up. The same was true with my kids. One year I remember staying awake until 3 AM so that I could put gifts under the tree because the stinkers wouldn't sleep. Then, of course, they were up at 6 and I was a corpse. "Merry Christmas, now shut up so I can sleep!" No, I don't think I actually said that. I probably thought it, though. LOL!

Let's see... MacKinnon brothers...

Tena said...

I love buying a new ornament for the kids we fix a fruit salad, and visit all the homes of our family I love being with my kids and family I need to make a new thing for me bc of being single I need a new tradition for myself Merry Christmas to you and everyone who gets on

JennJ said...

Hi Pamela I hope the writing is going good and that you are staying warm out there now! So sorry I have been MIA I have been crazy busy as you say with the holidays and all it's nuts here.

Let's see we have always done things a bit different here as to the presents and opening them we always opened ours on Christmas Eve night not Christmas morning. Stephen and I had a ball decorating the tree and surprisingly our kitty's haven't knocked it down yet! LOL tho they have knocked some of the ornaments off.
MISS you girl and hope you got my email about Untamed!!! HUGS and MERRY CHRISTMAS to everyone!!!!!!

shirley said...

hi let me say first Merry Christmas Pamela and everyone this will be my first Christmas as a mother and wife and I hope to start my own things I want to do as my mom did which is buy a new ornament every year and I want to make different kids of food fudge cookies whip topping fruit desert

Amanda said...

Hi Pamela,

Happy Christmas, we don't really have any traditions, we always open the presents Christmas morning, and then tidy up, have breakfast light the fire and pitch in with the coking then its sitting in front of the fire for some christmas TV.

This will be my first year without exams just after christmas so I can't wait!!

Just came across your blog today because I'm reading one of your books.
The goodies look so delish. Fudge is one of the things my mom would make only at Christmas time. One of our traditions was my sisters and I had to sing Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer for our mom. She passed away before last Christmas so even though we would feel embarrassed because we were adults now it's something I think fondly of. It's my 3 year olds turn now.

Hi, Tena — Merry Christmas to you, too. A new ornament every year sounds fun.

Hi, Jenn — I bet you've been super busy! Yes, I've gotten your emails. Sorry, I'm just behind. I've been working hard and writing (or re-writing) very hard. Benjy flies in tonight, so I'm looking forward to that. Kitties usually love Christmas trees, but not in the way most of us wish they would. LOL! I had to hang glass ornaments up high when I still had cats. I'm glad you had fun decorating your tree. :)

Hi, Shirley — congrats on this first special Christmas! I hope you have a wonderful time building your own traditions.

Hi, Amanda — You live in IRELAND and have no rustic, lovely traditions to share with us??? What you described sounds pretty nice to me, though. Hurry on having no exams! That will feel liberating, won't it?

Hi, Eugenia — And welcome! I'm happy to see you here. I'm so sorry, though, about the loss of your mother. That must have made last Christmas very hard. I bet you and your 3-year-old can sing "Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer" together. Which book are you reading?

I have read Untamed and Ride the Fire so far. I bought one and liked it then had to try to find more. The French and Indian war is such a forgotten war, I don't think my high school history teacher spent more than one day on it. It's like there was a big blank between 1492 and the Rev. War. I can't wait to read the rest, thank you so much for your wonderful stories and have a Merry Christmas.

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