Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year, and always has been.  Some of my earliest memories are of Christmases past--the fresh smell of pine in the house, the colorful lights, tinsel, gifts on Christmas morning, and caroling with family and friends on Rizdvo (our Ukrainian Christmas).  

Christmas Past (My Past)

Even now, my holidays stretch for almost a month and a half. The weekend after Thanksgiving my brother’s family and I go out tree hunting, usually to the Gray’s farm in Dryden, Michigan.  There we have a nice outing among the spruces and firs, pick and cut our trees, drag them back to the cars and then sip hot chocolate while they are are tied onto the tops. My tree is then brought home, where it is stored until room has been cleared in the house for it.  My parents and I then spend several days decorating it, finishing just in time for my annual tree-viewing party (the Saturday before Christmas, but never on Christmas Eve). Photos are here:

My Christmas Tree

We still follow some of the old traditions, and have created some new ones. Laurie, Baba and I make Christmas cookies with the kids every year. We open gifts together on Christmas morning, and then I stop by the Stanesas for Irish coffee and Christmas cheer. And we have the annual Petrusha Christmas party on December 25th, and everyone (some 30+ of us now) comes.

Christmas Present (Digital Age)

And then there’s Rizdvo (Різдво), our traditional Ukrainian Christmas, celebrated on January 7th.  On Sviat Vechir (Cвят Вечір), January 6th, we fast all day, attend a twilight church service, and then, after sighting the first evening star,  gather as a family to eat a special Lenten supper.  The following day we attend a morning service and then, in the afternoon, gather together and have a celebratory Christmas meal (in recent years a potluck at our priest’s house).  Carolers may come by the house; when we were younger, we would go out caroling, visiting Ukrainian families throughout the Detroit area, and singing to raise money for our Ukrainian school.

Різдво (Ukrainian Christmas)

Form more years than I care to remember, І have been writing an annual Christmas letter.  In the early year, it would be a single page, handwritten (and Xeroxed) round-up of the year's news.  Then I discovered computers and the letter grew like Topsy, maxing out at some 40 pages in 2000.  In recent years I’ve tried to shorten this a bit.  I write a two page note to enclose with Christmas cards, and send my longer writings via e-mail.  I still print out a few copies for the Luddites among my acquaintances.  You can find my old letters here:

Christmas Letters

Beginning in 2006, I have begun to post “enhanced” versions of my Christmas letter on line.  They’re a bit longer, and have photos inserted.  Links are in the toolbar above.

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