I believe in Christmas magic. Seriously. Sure, I know there’s not a guy that races around the world in a flying sleigh with his red-nosed sidekick, but having been born the day before (and named after) Christmas, can you blame me for believing?
I have early memories of my parents hanging up a sheet to block our living room from view so that we wouldn’t see the candlelit tree until Christmas Eve. And, I have even earlier memories of Christmas in Vienna with my Oma and Opa and a terrifying visit from Krampus. As a child I flipped through the Sears catalog to make my Christmas list—hand-written in careful cursive—and I did extra chores because Santa was watching. But it wasn’t until I became a parent myself that I came to know the Christmas magic I believe in today.
In preparation for my daughter’s first Christmas, I stayed up late after work to hand-stitch her stocking and took Fridays off between Thanksgiving and Christmas to bake the dozens upon dozens of cookies. As I labored to create my own family Christmas, I was inspired by the traditions I learned from my Oma, who baked the most scrumptious kipfels, and my grandmother who handmade stockings for all of her grandchildren. I started hosting a family Christmas Eve complete with a feast of cold dishes, real candles on the tree, and a family reading of the Christmas story punctuated with seasonal carols. I came to understand how traditions are instilled through a steady repetition year after year, their predictable presence building a deeply rooted comfort.
When my daughter was little, I explained to her what I believe about Christmas—that this season, at its best, is about the magic we discover in the world and create for others. Love, joy, and generosity are the true gifts we exchange. In kitchens throughout our community, we fight off winter’s chill with grandma’s soup, mom’s applesauce, our ancestors’ latkes, and all the love and pride that comes from sharing our heritage with a new generation who will carry it on.
May your holidays be joyous and your winter feasts wholesome and delicious. And may we all take a moment to find a way to bring a little magic to the lives of others.