Holidays are always an important part of the fabric of our tight-knit family and we have a few Rebecca Ray Christmas Traditions that I’d love to share with you, along with some of our favorite recipes.
Years ago, when my husband Derek and I were first married, we spent a Christmas holiday in Key Largo at my grandparents' beautiful but tiny cottage on the ocean side of beautiful Key Largo, with the entire extended family stuffed in this two-bedroom home. We suddenly realized we all had to shop for presents for each other, and there was one car and only two shops in town, both with selections reminiscent of the old dime stores. So, the artistic family that we are, we all decided to create a Secret Santa Stocking event.
We drew names and feverishly hid from each other who our recipient was, along with our comings and goings and shopping activities. Almost 30 years later, this tradition endures. Instead of Santa filling our stockings, at Thanksgiving we all draw a name from a hat and we never, ever tell each other who we have, although taking advantage of any weak link in the chain is fair game! Derek has been known to develop spreadsheets where he scientifically collects all the hints, secretive behavior and optimizes whom has whom, to try and guess. (Oh, Derek. You gotta love that man.)
The rules are simple - we all pick a theme (this year is Yellowstone, imagine that!) but we celebrate that the more creative you are with the theme the better. Next, you have to make the stocking and/or container and we spend no more than $50 total. We have spent hours laughing over creative, thrifty stockings, the fabulous presentations and unique gifts - some handmade, some purchased. Now, as the younger generation has gotten older they are able to shop on their own and we have included close family friends in the gifting. It’s truly a highlight of the year.
Another Rebecca Ray Christmas tradition we have is multiple trees and I’m afraid I’m the culprit on that one…guilty as charged. To me, those trees represent the magic and the hope of the season. I collect antique ornaments, animals, feather trees and holiday wreaths and trimmings. Everything we put up has an animal theme in keeping with our lifestyle on our farm, because our animals make our lives so very special. As we like to say, “Animals Aren’t Our Whole Lives But They Make Our Whole Lives Full.” So this year, I’ll go through the arduous but therapeutic process of setting up three live Fraser Fir trees and about five feather trees.
Whimsical Hemlock Lane Farm decorations and robustly decorated trees help tie our home together. What can we say? It adds a bit of magic to our traditions!
But, it’s possible I’m part Elf, as my family teases me that I work like the scene in the movie “Elf” where Will Farrell’s character stays up the whole night decorating for the arrival of Santa. I love to wait until everyone goes to bed and I’ll pull a really late night (not as easy as it used to be), just me and the dogs, eggnog and decorating in the quiet night. Sometimes, I play my favorite holiday album, Mahalia Sings Songs of Christmas (check out her version of Go Tell it on the Mountain).
Vintage Christmas farm decorations can be found throughout our abode - and the more the merrier! Everywhere you turn you’ll be treated with horses, dogs, foxes, frosted trees, garland with twinkling lights, and other farm life adornments.
And late nights leads me to our third family tradition which has been passed down through my mother’s side of the family. There is an old German legend that at midnight of Christmas Eve, the animals in the barn speak to one another. For years, as a child, my mother used to traipse out through the snow, out to the barn at midnight to try and catch the animals speaking. (Of course, we took them carrots and special treats!) The funny thing is, I still am waiting for them to talk, lured by the magical legend. If you’ve ever walked out to the barn to do a late-night check, as we do every night, you learn to believe that isn’t so far-fetched. After all, Christmas on the farm is a magical time.
Usually, the Percheron girls are snuggled up, down sleeping in their stalls and we love to go in and sit with them. They have no worry of being down on the ground with us and I always marvel at how 2000 plus pounds can curl up so neatly with the front legs tucked under them with just their dapple kneecaps showing. As we carefully kneel down beside Lilly, who has been with us since she was foaled, she wraps her enormous head around us and typically puts it in Derek’s lap and starts snoring. In a way, I believe she has just clearly communicated with us, and what she says is “All is Peaceful, All is Bright at Hemlock Lane Farm.”
Best wishes for a magical Christmas and holiday season for you and yours.