Planning her children's Christmas outfits brought back many treasured childhood holiday memories to Stephanie. In this article she shares how she has carried these traditions into adulthood and now celebrates as a mother of two.
I love spending time with my family at home in California during the holidays. A few weeks before Christmas, we take advantage of some wonderful Christmas activities in our local community.
The nearby Filoli historic estate and garden are beautiful all year long but even more during Christmas. The house and grounds are decorated with twinkling lights, so we always go for a walk to get in the holiday spirit and sip mulled wine as we enjoy the view.
The Filoli gardens by night
We also adore the San Francisco Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker, which is actually unique in that it is set in San Francisco, making for beautiful decors! We can’t wait until our youngest, Cate, is old enough to attend the ballet.
When I was a little girl, one of my favorite things to do with my mother was to bake Christmas cookies. I have carried on the tradition with my children, and each year we fill the house with the aromas of spicy gingersnaps and Danish buttery Spritz cookies.
Homemade buttery Spritz cookies
On Christmas Eve, we make lasagna and celebrate at home, and the children are able to open one present. We read “On The Night Before Christmas” and “The Polar Express,” wearing our beloved Christmas pyjamas!
On Christmas Day, we celebrate with extended family. We love getting out our Spode Christmas Tree dishes, as they add such a festive touch to our holiday meals.
British Christmas Spode dishes
My grandmother and mother used to make a braided cardamon Christmas bread, and this year, I will carry on the tradition for the first time using a beloved copy of the recipe written in my grandmother’s cursive.
My young children watch me sitting on stools learning how to finish the aromatic loaves with glistening sugar. We’ll enjoy the bread on Christmas morning after we open presents together as a family.
Braided cardamon bread
A European touch, new traditions from around the world
Somehow, as a 4th generation Californian, we seem to have picked up Christmas traditions from all over the world and made them special to our family, from British Spode dishes to a Finnish bread to Italian lasagna!
But, my most favorite Christmas traditions have made their way to our home from France. When I was a little girl, we often spent Christmas in Paris and I loved peering into the beautifully decorated store windows.
Le Bon Marché Paris window displays
The smell of roasted chestnuts scooped into crinkly paper cones by street vendors to warm chilly hands, lavishly decorated Bûche de Noël temptingly on display in pâtisseries... Seeing young children in their beautiful Christmas dresses and coats playing with new toys on Christmas morning in the Tuileries or Luxembourg Gardens...
Pierre Hermé pâtisserie Paris
It seems only yesterday that I was bundled up attending midnight mass at Notre Dame, incense filling the air as tea lights twinkled and the choir sang.
Now that I am raising my own family, I have incorporated many things that I loved about my childhood Christmases in Paris to our own American holiday. Wemake sure we have a delicious Bûche de Noël and Advent calendars with chocolates for the children. We also select beautiful smocked Christmas dresses for my daughter and a special shirt or tie for my son from Charlotte Sy Dimby at L'Ile aux Fées, bringing a touch of magic from Christmas in the Left Bank to our home in California.
From our home to yours, we wish you a safe and joyous holiday season and a happy New Year!