1. Picture Advent Calendars
Initially developed in Germany, these 24 little cardboard doors opened by chubby little fingers revealed magical pictures each day to help build a child's excitement for Christmas morning. The last image is always of the nativity to remind us of the reason for celebration at this time of year.
Because my mother spent some of her childhood in Germany, several of our family traditions are connected to those she remembers from this magical time of her life. As a result, chocolate calendars were highly verboten in our home growing up although my sister recently got a tea one - each day a new tea - and that was begrudgingly permitted. (Hee hee!)
It is always fun to guess what the picture might be! One year my husband and I got a very strange advent calendar with several images of crows with bones in their beaks whose meanings we are still trying to decipher....
2. Christmas Markets
Although our hometown has hosted a Christmas market for the past few years, this year we had a most glorious one in our town square that was truly reminiscent of Europe but with a Habitant twist. We live in Quebec and so there were many folksy crafts (beautifully braided mangers) along with the requisite mulled wine and pretzel stall. I was thrilled to purchase a beautiful organic tourtiere (the traditional meat pie served in French Canadian culture) for my grandmother who recently moved into a retirement home and who no longer bakes her lovely pies.
3. Ghost Stories on Christmas Eve
For my sister, The Nutcracker sparks the ultimate Christmas magic but for me the reading or watching of "A Christmas Carol" means Christmas has arrived! I love the idea that families used to gather before the fire and tell ghost stories on Christmas Eve. Clearly, there was a desire to work through the idea of the afterlife as part of a thoughtful Christmas tradition.
By the way, have you seen the new movie about how the story was born out of Dickens' serious case of writer's block?
And there we have it! European Christmas truly is the best! Prove me wrong! Are there North American traditions that can rival these?